Thursday, August 20, 2009

So Far So Good

One of my favorite movies is the "Magnificent Seven". At one point Steve McQueen

and Yul Brenner are assessing their chances (seven against fifty). McQueen tells the story of

a man falling off the roof of a building; and as he passes each floor, people hear him saying

" far so good". He then turns to Brenner and says "So far so good".

In the middle of the August congressional recess, the opponents of healthcare reform

have to be saying "So far so good". Their goal of derailing any major restructuring of the

healthcare system is paying big dividends so far. The strategy has a number of components.

The first step was to delay. When it looked like Obama and the Democrats had some

momentum, a Republican operative (and CNN pundit) wrote a memo about how to slow

them down. He advised no direct attacks on the idea of healthcare reform (who could be

against that?); but rather suggested asking "What's the rush? This is too big a subject to

tackle quickly. Why is the President in such a hurry?" Within days, GOP Chair Michael

Steele gave a speech questioning the speed that reform was moving at and calling on

Regressives to slow things down. Then Republicans began leaking any provision from

any proposal that they felt would inflame their base. In the Senate, without Ted Kennedy,

Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee, took the lead role and along with

his BFF, Chuck Grassley, made it look like there was a bi-partisan effort to craft a bill.

Baucus didn't seem to care that Grassley had already promised to oppose whatever

emerges, nor that Grassley's participation was part of the strategy to slow things down

so no bill is produced before the August recess. He has played the role of the cuckold

well so far. ("So far so good")

The second piece of the strategy was to ratchet up the rhetoric and the heat on

the idea during the August recess. Knowing that members of Congress would go home

and conduct meetings about healthcare, and knowing that August is an extremely slow

news time; their corporate allies (insurance companies, drug companies, hospital companies)

ponied up millions of dollars to organize ersatz grassroots protests and protesters to

disrupt and dispute discussions in these meetings. They understood that the corporate

media would eat these protests up. In the doldrums of August they provided combat video,

personality clashes, reality TV for the reality generation. (Even better, they made sure

to put videos up on You-Tube, so the corporate media didn't even have to spend any money

on reporters and camera crews.) The result is breathless coverage night after night of

a nation torn apart and divided by an overly ambitious President whose reach exceeds

his grasp. Contrast the corporate media coverage of the town hall meetings with their

coverage of the demonstrations before the start of the Iraq War. Millions of Americans

took to the streets along with millions throughout the world and yet, if you watched the

corporate media, you would have thought it was a small group of ex-hippies or just

disgruntled students or anti-government liberals. Of course, these demonstrations

occurred in March, not August. The opponents of healthcare reform know that video

which shows anger and conflict will play on all networks. They know that if supporters

of healthcare reform show up to confront the protesters, that video will also play on all

news programs and the corporate punditocracy will pompously declare that Obama's

attempt to change healthcare is sewing seeds of divisiveness throughout the country.

The opponents also know that no network or news program is interested in video from

town hall meetings where the dialogue and disagreements are civil. In August, civil

discourse will not play. ("So far so good")

When Congress returns in September, the House and Senate will report out

a bill. It will pass the House. In the Senate, the Republicans will try to filibuster the

healthcare bill. If all the Democrats stay united, the filibuster will fail. The two bills

will go to a Conference Committee, which is what Obama has been waiting for. The real

work will go on there. The bill reported out will pass the House; and once again the

Republicans will try to filibuster it. The Democrats will pass it, if necessary, with 51

votes; the exact same way Bush passed his huge tax cut for the rich which destroyed

the budget surplus. In the end, real healthcare reform will pass if Democrats stick together.

However, any bill, without a public option should be defeated. Without it, all they will

have accomplished is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

All the plans of the corporate opponents and the Republicans will go up in smoke

if the Democrat's feet are held to the fire. That's your job to keep them honest. You have

to call and write and e-mail and fax your Senators especially. In California, that means

Diane Feinstein. She has to feel the heat. You should also inundate Senator Harry Reid

with comments and support reminding him about the political consequences of failing

to push real reform. It's you vs. the corporate interests. So far so good. What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

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