Krugman, Obama and Democratic Values
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman criticizes Barack Obama's health care plan as inferior to those proposed by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. He also writes that Obama's response to those who point out its deficiencies, particularly in its lack of a universal health care mandate which would require health insurance for everyone, is one that will come back to hurt Americans, by fortifying Republican opposition, should he become President.
[L]ately Mr. Obama has been stressing his differences with his rivals by attacking their plans from the right — which means that he has been giving credence to false talking points that will be used against any Democratic health care plan a couple of years from now.
....Mr. Obama is storing up trouble for health reformers by suggesting that there is something nasty about plans that “force every American to buy health care.”
....My main concern right now is with Mr. Obama’s rhetoric: by echoing the talking points of those who oppose any form of universal health care, he’s making the task of any future president who tries to deliver universal care considerably more difficult.
After discussing why Obama is wrong to oppose a mandate and universal health care, he concludes:
[T]he debate over mandates has reinforced the uncomfortable sense among some health reformers that Mr. Obama just isn’t that serious about achieving universal care — that he introduced a plan because he had to, but that every time there’s a hard choice to be made he comes down on the side of doing less.
Something's really gone off the rails when the Obama campaign decides to release an oppo document on Paul Krugman. It's not only the actual attacks that are weak (most of them rely on misinterpreting one comment, then misinterpreting the next, then pretending there's a contradiction), but, seriously, it's Paul Krugman. Arguably the most progressive voice in American media. When I argued that the campaign should take the gloves off, I really didn't expect their target, in this document and in the health care fight more generally, would be progressivism. What in hell is going on over there?
Obama's biggest problem is turning out to be his inability to fight for Democratic values. As Ezra says:
Well, it was one thing when Obama simply didn't have a mechanism to achieve universality. It became a whole other when he began criticizing mechanisms to achieve universality. Previously, he'd gotten some flack for buying into the conservative argument that Social Security was in crisis. Now he was constructing a conservative argument against far-reaching reform proposals. And he kept doing it. And now his campaign is misrepresenting Krugman's comments in order to imply contradiction. But Krugman hasn't contradicted himself. Where his original comments focused on Obama's plan, his newer arguments are attempting to beat back Obama's rhetoric. And Obama's rhetoric has become much, much worse than his plan. That it's ended with him having to go on the offensive against the most forthrightly progressive voice in major American media is evidence of that fact.
A commenter at Ezra's (Jim in Portland) says:
Every pol will triangulate on some issues, that's a given. But triangulating among the Dem positions just can't be done by adopting the words and themes of the GOP. That's a sellout - and my bet is most progressives won't be the buyers.
Inexperience counts and it shows! My conclusion at this time: Obama's not ready for prime time.
Big Tent Democrat, who consistently writes about Krugman's columns here, is on a much deserved traveling break for a few weeks, but he whispered in my e-mail box:
Krugman PUSHES ALL THE CANDIDATES from the progressive point of view. Including Hillary. Barack Obama has a history of attacking progressive voices. See his first strike here, in which he attacked those of us who criticized Dems who voted for Supreme Court Justice John Roberts in 2005. Obama wrote:According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.The Hillary Clinton campaign, as it has all this year -- attending Yearly Kos, fighting O'Reilly, skipping Fox Debates, etc.-- understands that Dems do not all agree on the issues but welcomes ALL Democratic voices, especially progressive voices.
I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.
Barack Obama prefers to attack Democrats instead of fighting for Democrat values against Republicans. Hillary Clinton knows who the REAL fight will be with.
Update: Taylor Marsh weighs in.
|< Dems Determined To Own Iraq Debacle | Huckabee and Dumond: Succumbing to the Anti-Clinton Zealots >|