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The Madman Theory Of Political Bargaining: Part 4

Matt Yglesias does not like being equated with Blue Dogs:

ó In terms of the present-day political debate, I think mandate-regulate-subsidize plus a public option would be a major improvement over the status quo.

. . . ó But if in the final standoff we get a choice between mandate-regulate-subsidize and the status quo, I would prefer to take mandate-regulate-subsidize.

I donít personally think that this set of views makes me a closet Blue Dog . . . I donít like to see my views mischaracterized.

I do not think Matt, or Ezra Klein, or Kevin Drum, or Paul Starr are closet Blue Dogs, but I DO think, in terms of political bargaining, they DO represent well why Democrats and progressives are the worst political bargainers I have ever seen. More . . .

Look, I have negotiated civil litigation settlements for 20 years. The one thing you never can do, ever, is state beforehand what you are willing to accept as a final result of a negotiation. Advising political negotiators to do so is simply stupid. It just is.

When will we know whether a firm stand on the public option will mean no health care reform bill and what exactly the best offer will be on health care reform? Well, it sure is not now. Think of Kent Conrad as the party across the table in this negotiation. Or even Barack Obama. How do you negotiate with them? You tell them, and mean it, that you will not vote for a health care reform proposal that does not include a robust public option. You protest that you have already made the biggest concession anyone has made in the entire process - single payer. You ask for their best offer.

Before you ask for anything more show me what you have on the table. Right now, NOTHING is on the table from Conrad and Baucus. NOTHING. There is no reason to be even talking about what the Progressive Block should be considering.

The only thing that should be demanded by folks like Matt is a concrete proposal from the Baucus/Conrad faction. To even discuss what the Progressive Block should do is sheer stupidity. But that is all Matt, Ezra, Kevin and others want to talk about.

As supposed allies of the progressive position, their efforts reflect the sheer incompetence of the progressive "wonks" when it comes to political bargaining. They do not know how to do it and frankly, undermine it.

It would be no thanks to them if the Progressive Block is able to negotiate a good deal.

I think Matt and others simply do not properly understand the criticism coming their way.

On political bargaining, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 5.

Speaking for me only

< Media Matters: Health Care Primer for the Media | Pelosi: No HCR Bill Can Pass The House Without A Public Option >
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    "that is all Matt, Ezra, Kevin (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:39:21 PM EST
    . . . and others want to talk about"

    I wonder if that could be because for so long "what they want" has been nothing but abstract theory.
    were any of them doing what they do now the last time the democrats actually had the power to DO anything?

    A leading Blue Dog would agree (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:39:33 PM EST
    that anyone who would prefer to mandate or do a darn thing to insure the uninsured is a Blue Dog.  That's just not the priority, says a leader (from The Hill):

    Leading Blue Dog: Covering uninsured not top priority of health reform

    Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said on Wednesday that providing healthcare to uninsured Americans is "not what this healthcare reform debate is about. . . ."  Ross, who is the centrist Blue Dogs' health reform point man, questioned one of the primary health care goals of the White House and Democratic leaders. . . .  Instead, the fifth-term congressman said the bill should focus on "cost containment."

    The Energy and Commerce Committee member reiterated that he wants to pass a health reform bill by the end of this year, a desire that may irk some Republicans who supported his effort to slow the bill before August recess. . . .  The influential fifth-term Democrat identified several provisions that would prevent him from voting for the bill. . . .  Providing government subsides for abortions, coverage for illegal immigrants, rationing of care, and deficit increases comprised Ross' deal-breakers.

    How is this guy not called a Republican?

    How is this guy not called a Republican? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:40:53 PM EST
    its an arkansas thing.

    Parent
    It's frightening (none / 0) (#8)
    by shoephone on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:55:51 PM EST
    that creeps like that hold my future in their hands.

    Parent
    Meh (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:59:45 PM EST
    barely relevant to my post.

    I do wish we could stick to the topics of my posts.

    Parent

    Sorry, but in defining Blue Dogs (none / 0) (#60)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:56:38 PM EST
    it seemed relevant.  Some of those who agree with them don't even realize it.

    Parent
    To your post: (none / 0) (#64)
    by NYShooter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 06:46:04 PM EST
    I agree, first you lay down your #1, "drop dead," non-negotiable item." Smok'em out right in the beginning. The other side then can say:

    A. "Drop dead," walk away, and that's that. You, at least save time and don't give them a chance to define and obfuscate the issue, or

    B. They say, "Fine, now here's our drop dead item."

    You've now got real negotiations going on, and you've won your major item.


    Parent

    I agree, (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:41:33 PM EST
    If you're willing to negotiate without much of a fight usually means that you aren't that committed to begin with. If you aren't committed then you really don't believe in what you are trying to sell. If you don't believe in what you are trying to sell you will have a hard time selling it. So move on to something else...

    Agreed 100% (5.00 / 5) (#9)
    by Steve M on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:59:25 PM EST
    The way you get stuff in politics is what progressives, somewhat belatedly, displayed this past weekend.  Sebelius said what she said and people absolutely hit the roof, and they got on the phones and started screaming bloody murder about how it was absolutely unacceptable to ditch the public option.  And then the walkback begins, etc.  You have to pop these trial balloons as soon as they get launched.

    I think what Matt, Ezra, et al. fail to take into account is the role they have as de facto spokesmen.  When Matt Yglesias writes a blog post saying "gee, maybe I could live without a public option," it's not the same as me chatting with BTD over a beer and saying the same thing.  It's not even the same as me writing the same thing in a blog comment section.  When these guys start making blog posts, like it or not, the folks at the White House are going to take it as indicative of "what the blogs think" or what progressives think in general - unless and until we all get on the phone directly and tell them otherwise, which we wouldn't have to do if the high-profile voices who actually believe in a public option would just SAY SO instead of saying "oh no, public option is off the table, I'd better drop it so I don't look unreasonable."  We are already being plenty reasonable, at least some of us, by talking about things that aren't single-payer in the first place!

    If you want a word of advice on political strategy, just listen to George Bernard Shaw:

    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

    Indeed.  Be loud, and be unreasonable.

    Nancy Pelosi (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:02:35 PM EST
    Looks like she is taking this advice.

    "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option"

    Parent

    Good for her (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:04:29 PM EST
    Next up (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by cawaltz on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:09:48 PM EST
    strengthening that public option so that it isn't easily dismantled if political winds shift.

    Parent
    I think (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:12:14 PM EST
    the right wing blogger was right who worried that once people got a taste of the public option they would become addicted to the idea that government can actually do things for them and not to them (as they did with social security) and they wont give it up and will want more.

    though not in exactly those words.


    Parent

    That's the plan (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by cawaltz on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:16:09 PM EST
    Once upon a time government was actually required to do more than supply the names for park benches and siphon money from taxpayers to give to private entities. It's time we got back to the "provide for the common good" thing.

    Parent
    Once in place (none / 0) (#45)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:31:45 PM EST
    I don't think it's easily dismantled, no matter where the political winds go.  That's why the Righties are so terrified by the prospect.

    Parent
    They have an easier (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by cawaltz on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:40:45 PM EST
    time the more limited in scope you make the public option. If you only open it to anyone making $66,000 a year or less than anyone who makes over $66,000 would have no skin in the game when it comes to determining payouts or limiting coverage. That's why I prefer a plan open to anyone regardless of income level.

    Parent
    Oh, so do I (none / 0) (#56)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:57:16 PM EST
    I'm just saying that even if it ends up being as limited as your outline, it isn't going to get dismantled on a political shift.  The GOPers are absolutely right on one thing, which is that it's almost impossible to get rid of this kind of thing once it's in place.

    Parent
    Hmmm (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:30:42 PM EST
    Occurs to me that Pelosi must have some thought that this is going to work, that the House standing intransigent on this issue might make it happen.  Lord knows she's rolled over often enough on stuff in the past, so why would she take this position now?  She's a little opaque to me, but it does seem to me she's pretty shrewd about not getting the House Dems into fights they can't win.

    IOW, I think I'm more encouraged by the likely reason she's taking this position than by the statement itself.

    Parent

    She may be the one person in this scenario (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by ruffian on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:44:22 PM EST
    who really understands that FDR "Make me do it" quote.

    Parent
    plus one (none / 0) (#46)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:31:46 PM EST
    for that

    Parent
    I suspect that it is less... (none / 0) (#59)
    by sj on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:35:09 PM EST
    ... that she is taking a position, and more that -- having counted votes -- she is stating a fact.

    Or maybe I just hope that.

    Parent

    the house is the easy part (none / 0) (#17)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:08:02 PM EST
    no?


    Parent
    the house (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by CST on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:10:50 PM EST
    is the only thing keeping a public option on the table.  We already knew there were enough votes to pass the public option there.  But this is saying something different.  This is saying that there is no bill at all unless it has a public option.

    It's basically a game of chicken between the pregressive dems in the house and the blue dogs in the senate.

    Parent

    maybe I am being thick (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:13:17 PM EST
    but its hard for me to see how the progressives lose this one.

    although I have great confidence in their ability to find a way.

    Parent

    Good (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by lilburro on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:13:30 PM EST
    at the beginning of the week, in frustration (at Sebelius and Obama) I said that it would be better if Obama shuts up and the House takes control of the conversation.

    But I hope Obama starts off Monday by responding positively to the pressure from the Progressives, instead of tearing them down for Grassley and Baucus.  He asked us to push him left.  We are.

    Parent

    Heh. (none / 0) (#36)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:24:51 PM EST
    I said she was the only figure out there who had so much as a 10th of LBJ's stones.  It's not much, but it's something.

    Parent
    Well (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:03:31 PM EST
    My own meager efforts have been to discredit them as "activist bloggers" and treat them as normal Beltway Wankers.

    Ezra Klein particularly, since he really did position himself as the authoritative blogger voice on the issue. I thought it was important to separate himself from progressives in terms of how people think of him.

    Parent

    I find it sad (5.00 / 4) (#33)
    by Steve M on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:24:03 PM EST
    that Ezra, who takes more time than most to truly understand the policy details of these issues, has taken such a dive.  I guess Bob Somerby had him pegged after all.

    Parent
    This is a martini discussion in a martini (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:45:26 PM EST
    crowd I'm thinkin.

    Parent
    I'm going to assume that email was involved (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:01:40 PM EST
    here too :)  I truly appreciate you helping out the creative class with negotiating 101.  That's why I have to hire lawyers, because I don't have the common sense to understand how to begin negotiating and I don't realize how bad I am at it until I have the heck beaten out of me.  So far I haven't gotten myself into anything too deep that a good lawyer couldn't fix.  Since becoming attached to my spouse, who almost never loses at anything, and negotiating a marriage with this yahoo...I think I might have developed a low level game face :)  I'll never be a pro though and if you aren't a pro that's okay....accept it, don't try to be it and defer to those who are, and if you don't want to be labeled a blue dog don't act like a blue dog cheerleader.

    Honestly, my take is that anyone (5.00 / 6) (#29)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:18:06 PM EST
    who doesn't understand the importance of the public option - or that settling for it as opposed to single payer is a huge compromise (and possibly a risk) - my take is that they don't really understand the breadth and depth of the problem.  My take is that they shouldn't probably be at the negotiating table at all regardless of the level of skill in the art of negotiations.

    Parent
    I can agree with that (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:27:08 PM EST
    If you have no idea how much suffering is going on out there or the depth of this problem you have no business at the table!  And if you have no idea how much suffering is going on out there or the depth of this problem and you spend all your time commenting on the table, you aren't seeing the table with all the cards on it that are in this deck.  Such paid for public commentary is more of a disservice than anything else it could possibly be.

    Parent
    I hate (none / 0) (#41)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:29:00 PM EST
    when that happens

    Parent
    I can agree with that (none / 0) (#38)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:27:08 PM EST
    If you have no idea how much suffering is going on out there or the depth of this problem you have no business at the table!  And if you have no idea how much suffering is going on out there or the depth of this problem and you spend all your time commenting on the table, you aren't seeing the table with all the cards on it that are in this deck.  Such paid for public commentary is more of a disservice than anything else it could possibly be.

    Parent
    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by cawaltz on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:06:55 PM EST
    It never fails to amaze me that even when Democrats appear to have a winning hand with the cards heavily favoring them how over and over they choose folding.

    I wonder if next they'd be willing to give up subsidies as long as they could keep regulation. I mean that will probably be the next logical GOP progression in regards to what they need to stomp their feet over. I can hear it now, "but we have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge deficit we can't afford to subsidize the poor's care.

    Geez.

    Negotiating tips (5.00 / 4) (#20)
    by ricosuave on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:09:50 PM EST
    It is also very important in any negotiation to show that you are willing to walk away from the table.  Drawing the line on what you will not accept (e.g. no deal without public option) says you are willing to walk away from the deal.  If the other side knows you must make a deal (for instance, if your customer knows they are your only chance for meeting your quarterly quota), they have tremendous leverage over you.

    About the only thing that Obama has demonstrated is that he is NOT willing to walk away from health care reform.  In dropping his previous insistence on single payer and then on a public option, Obama has effectively signaled that ANY deal is preferable to not having a deal.  He has given the republicans (and possibly the blue dogs) enormous leverage over him.  All they have to do is keep threatening to leave the table, and he will keep giving them whatever they want (either in this bill, or in exchange for passing it).

    Yes, You have to be willing to walk away (5.00 / 1) (#62)
    by Romberry on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 06:40:52 PM EST
    When the negotiation has started off this badly with the "buyer" (Obama) coming in to the seller (Republicans and Blue Dogs) and having compromise as his opening position, walking away and threatening to start from scratch with another seller (Democrats only) may be the only way to get anything done. But it can't be an empty threat. You really have to be willing to walk out the door and have the seller come chasing after you. It shifts the dynamic. Unfortunately, I don't expect to see it from the Barack and Rahm team.

    Parent
    What changed? (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:17:24 PM EST
    I might have been able to cut them a little slack if it wasn't for the fact that HCR was such a vocal topic across the progressive blogs for at least a year during the election cycle. I didn't read any progressive blog that would have accepted this proposal.

    If Obama, Edwards or Hilary had campaigned for the type of HCR that they're willing to accept now, they would have jumped all over them.

    if they really are the "worst" (5.00 / 4) (#28)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:17:56 PM EST
    negotiators you have ever seen that the American public ought to be able to sue for incompetent representation.

    for our punitive damages we will accept a single payer public option with free rides to and from our doctor visits, repayment for time missed from work when sick and a pony.

    I am sure we might have consensus on what we are willing to forego in the negotiations for damages....

    Are Matt, Ezra, et al. suppose to (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:24:51 PM EST
    be speaking for us or they just speaking to us to influence our behavior?

    Somehow, I get the feeling that the articles the last week or so are more directed to the community to convince them to accept the crumbs on the table.

    If they are speaking for us, they are doing a terrible job. If their goal is to persuade their audience that contrary to what they currently think, even a bad bill is better than no bill, they are probably more successful than I would like.

    Matt and Ezra... (none / 0) (#63)
    by Romberry on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 06:42:19 PM EST
    ...now effectively live within the belly of the beast. That's their vantage point now.

    Parent
    Freaked Out (5.00 / 3) (#54)
    by ruffian on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:50:18 PM EST
    Matt and Ezra and their like got freaked out when the Republicans said health care reform was their chance to beat Obama and set back his whole agenda.  At that point the object of the game for them became to get any bill passed at all. They stopped caring about the policy itself and went right into campaign mode. Really showed their true colors there.

    This is an excellent post ... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:45:58 PM EST
    especially this bit:

    The only thing that should be demanded by folks like Matt is a concrete proposal from the Baucus/Conrad faction. To even discuss what the Progressive block should do is sheer stupidity. but that is all Matt, Ezra, Kevin and others want to talk about.

    The problem with much of the pro-HRC side is they've been too defensive. The quote above shows how easy it is to revert to the offensive.


    I meant HCR ... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:47:52 PM EST
    Freudian slip.

    Parent
    and scared of their shadow (none / 0) (#7)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 03:48:55 PM EST
    and of stuff like this from hot air:

    The Democrats will "go it alone," the headline reads, although the actual report makes the how of that rather ambiguous.  And well it should, since the Democrats know -- or should know -- that to try reconciliation would be an invitation to a war that would bring Congress to a screeching halt:

    ---

    Democrats might think that this will gain them sympathy with the public, but not if they're breaking rules to pass an increasingly unpopular and intrusive piece of legislation.  It will create a firestorm of anger even worse than what we've seen in the townhalls thus far.  They would be signing their way to minority status, especially in the House.  They can kiss the rest of their agenda goodbye for the rest of this session, too, including cap-and-trade.  Even budgeting will prove very difficult.

    There's a reason the Times didn't mention reconciliation.  It's a bluff.  Not even Harry Reid is this foolish.

    they never have to stones to call a bluff I would say.

    Parent

    Capt., have you see the AVATAR ... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:07:51 PM EST
    trailer yet?  Went online a couple of hours ago.

    Parent
    wow (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:08:34 PM EST
    wow
    wow
    wow

    Parent
    Some are whining ... (none / 0) (#23)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:12:28 PM EST
    that it isn't photoreal ENOUGH.  What's their problem?  It looks amazing.

    Parent
    at the risk of provoking ire (none / 0) (#30)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:20:40 PM EST
    for being OT.  let them whine.  I think if I could have seen that trailer in 3D I would have had to change my shorts.


    Parent
    What? Link please? (none / 0) (#32)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:23:21 PM EST
    Or at least a hint of what you're talking about?

    Parent
    James Cameron's ... (none / 0) (#57)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:04:51 PM EST
    new movie AVATAR.

    You can see the trailer here.

    The movie is being hyped as revolutionary leap in CGI and 3D.

    Parent

    Link? (none / 0) (#31)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:22:40 PM EST
    Couldn't find a link in your post here.  Who uttered/typed this bilge?

    Parent
    who else (none / 0) (#37)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:25:03 PM EST
    but Captain Ed.  

    Parent
    Have to get your ducks in a row first though (none / 0) (#34)
    by vicndabx on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 04:24:17 PM EST
    You tell them, and mean it, that you will not vote for a health care reform proposal that does not include a robust public option

    What is that?  Some insurance companies or no insurance companies? Fully tax-payer funded or tax on existing benefits?  Offered to everyone or offered only poor people?  

    Our core ideology on too many items is all over the place - that IMO is the problem.  We need to agree on the minimum before we come to the table.  The goal here was get folks covered.  From what I've seen it's morphed into a rallying cry against "insurance sc@mbags" who plot and scheme on how to cheat people.  Either we believe in intrinsic goodness of people and thus the system w/in which we live work or not.

    Which is purest kabuki (none / 0) (#70)
    by lambert on Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 12:03:57 PM EST
    On the one hand, the HCAN't crowd stages some rallies for the cameras in DC against price gouging by the insurance companies.

    On the other hand, the HCAN't crowd bakes the insurance companies into the health care system for the forseeable future.

    How does that make any sense?

    Parent

    An advantage of being a trial lawyer (none / 0) (#58)
    by McKinless on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 05:29:29 PM EST
    You know how to negotiate. Thanks, BTD. You are so very, very right.

    Surrender Monkeys (none / 0) (#61)
    by john horse on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 06:14:38 PM EST
    Great post BTD.  I would also add Jonathan Alter to your list of surrender monkeys.  

    I just wonder how some of them are able to move on their own two feet without the existence of a backbone.

    You're really tripping the site's filters (none / 0) (#66)
    by shoephone on Thu Aug 20, 2009 at 11:43:34 PM EST
    Got to clean up the language.

    BTD (none / 0) (#67)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 05:09:03 AM EST
    you're really being too nice to Matt et al. Yes, tehy are bad at bargaining but it's ever more than that. They're wimps.

    Great post (none / 0) (#68)
    by BobTinKY on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 07:54:00 AM EST
    but I do think it is not unfair to characterize what Baucus has on the table as a flat out giveaway of taxpayer monies, in the form of subsidies for the 46 million currently uninsured to buy mandated insurance, to private health insurance companies.  

    Why shouldn't that be demonized in the same way the Right is demonizing the public option?  I'd start calling the Baucus plan the "public giveaway."  We've had so many over the past 9 years I guess the thinking is, Hell what's one more?

    The public option is the only thing that will provide fiscal discipline and common sense to any plan containing mandates.

    Which "public option"? (none / 0) (#69)
    by lambert on Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 12:01:31 PM EST
    The original Hacker Medicare-style proposal, with 130 million enrollees, or the House bill, with 9 or 10 million -- clearly insufficient to bring market pressures to bear, it's ostensible purpose.

    I agree on the need for introspection, but since introspection would require a look at the bait and switch that the Versailles public option advocates preferred, I doubt very much it will happen.

    Parent