Friday, August 21, 2009

The Public Option Marches To The Front, Town Howlers In The Wilderness And Rove’s On The Ropes.

The Public Option Marches To The Front, Town Howlers In The Wilderness And Rove’s On The Ropes.

Common Sense With Jim Alger:

Special Comment On Health Care Reform

Pelosi Says She Can't Pass Bill Without Public Option

20 (Bloomberg) -- US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she won't be able to pass health-care legislation in her chamber if the measure doesn't include a ...
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Pelosi: House Health Bill Needs Public Plan

... health overhaul bill that doesn't include a new public insurance plan won't pass the House, SpeakerNancy Pelosi said at a Thursday press conference. ...
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Public Option On The March

Turns out that the polls still show the same robust support for a public option, as long as the question is asked consistently.

More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a “choice” between a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.

A new study by Survey USA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June [...]

Earlier in the week, after pollsters for NBC dropped the word “choice” from their question on a public option, they found that only 43 percent of the public were in favor of “creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies.”

Opponents of the president’s agenda jumped on the findings as evidence that backing for the public option was dropping. Proponents responded by arguing that NBC’s tinkering with the language of the question (which it had also done in its July survey) had contributed to the drop in favorability for a public plan.

SurveyUSA’s poll, which was commissioned by the progressive group, a proponent of the public plan, gives credence to those critiques. While arguments about what type of language best describe the public option persist –”choice” is considered a trigger word that everyone naturally supports — it seems clear that the framing of the provision goes a long way toward determining its popularity.

“Choice” may be a trigger word, but it also accurately describes the policy – under the plan individuals seeking insurance would have a choice of a range of options in the insurance exchange, including a public plan. And people like that. A lot. Because they don’t like being forced into giving their money to a private insurer who then tries to deny them coverage when they try to use it.

Jacob Hacker, the progenitor of the structure of the public plan, is out today with a study showing that the types of plans in the initial House bill, the ones that progressives are fighting for, are the only ones likely to work (I’d personally like to see the firewall removed and allow individuals the same choice as well, but baby steps).

Progressives have raised $264,000 and counting for the 64 lawmakers who have said they will vote for nothing unless it contains a public plan. Nancy Pelosi is saying no plan will pass the House without that element included.

“There is no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option,” she said to a crowd in California, noting that regional health care co-ops won’t get the job done. “If they want to have [co-ops] for their state, perhaps that could be included in the legislation. But it is not a substitute for a public option.”

And we’re up to 45 Senators willing to support it as well, with the final five directly in the sights of activists. If 50 go definitively for a public option in the Senate, given the option of reconciliation for the more contentious bits there’s absolutely no reason to leave it on the table.

Heck, when you have Terry McAuliffe vowing to hold a fundraiser in Virginia for the first lawmaker to pledge to support a public option (yes you read that right, Terry McAuliffe), something has shifted.

Terry McAuliffe thinks it is time to “insist” on the public option. We couldn’t agree more. Terry’s agreed to host a fundraiser with Virginia and national bloggers who are insisting on a public option for the first Virginia Congressman who will take our pledge! This will be an awesome event to highlight and honor any Virginia Congressman who shows leadership on this issue [...]

Will the fundraiser be for Bobby Scott? Jim Moran? Gerry Connolly? Tom Perriello? Any of them can get a night with national and local bloggers honoring them featuring T-Mac… but first they have to do the right thing.

All the energy and excitement on the Democratic side is around this element of reform. If it’s bargained away, all the energy goes away. And so does any chance at a health care bill.

Figure it out, Rahm.

Left Flexes Muscles On Healthcare Reform

By Mike Soraghan

Posted: 08/20/09 09:23 AM [ET]

The fury from the left about President Barack Obama’s shift on a public option has raised the prospect of House liberals joining together to defeat a healthcare bill that doesn't meet their standards.

Heading into the August recess, having just quelled a rebellion by centrist Blue Dog Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was clearly banking that liberals wouldn’t dare take down a healthcare bill.

“Are progressives going to vote against universal, quality affordable healthcare for all Americans? No way,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters.

But when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that a public option is not “essential” and Obama called it a "sliver" of the effort, the backlash surprised skeptics who'd long figured they wouldn't dare to defeat healthcare and embarrass their president.

“Before, I would have laughed at you,” said a Democratic lobbyist with ties to House leadership. “But they seem to be pretty far out there. This may be the issue where they draw a line in the sand.”

The liberals' vehemence seems to have assured that there will be a public option in whatever the House votes on next month. The question is whether it will meet liberals’ demands that it be “robust,” and whether they would defeat the bill if it came back from the Senate without a public option.

On paper, liberals have the votes.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus gathered the signatures of 60 members threatening to vote against a public plan they considered watered down in negotiations with centrist Blue Dog Democrats. If Republicans unite against the bill, 60 votes is more than enough to kill the bill.

“The real question is whether leadership would risk healthcare reform by not including a public option,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.). “That letter was very clear.”

Also, former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has predicted Democrats who don't back the public option could face primary opposition. And labor leaders have told the Huffington Post that they might pull support from Democrats who don't support it.

The public option has been the keystone of healthcare reform for House liberals for months. The Progressive Caucus formally demanded its inclusion in the bill in an April 2 letter to Pelosi.

It would be a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Democrats say it's needed to drive down costs and broaden coverage. Liberals say they want a “robust” public option, which generally means it should resemble Medicare.

But it didn't draw much attention until the negotiations with Blue Dogs in the Energy and Commerce Committee detached its workings from Medicare.

That's when House liberals protested, and started gathering signatures.

That Blue Dog provision survived in the Energy and Commerce Committee, but the bill has to be melded together with bills from two other committees, and Pelosi has not committed to including the Blue Dog language word-for-word.

How much the Blue Dog language gets changed will be a key measure of how credible leadership finds the liberal threat.

Removing the public plan entirely, presumably, would inspire even more anger.

The Obama and Sebelius comments during the weekend reignited liberal fears. In a joint letter, the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus scolded Sebelius for her comments. And they attached the 60-signature letter.

Members say the letter underestimates the strength of liberals, that the more than 60 members would oppose a health bill with no public option. Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-N.Y.) has said deleting a public option from the House bill would cost 100 Democratic votes.

“I take my colleagues' word when they say they have the votes. And so does the Speaker,” Wiener said, noting that Pelosi quickly responded to the administration's shifting with a strong statement of support for the public option.

But the 60 signatures might be soft. The signers include lawmakers who have said they can accept health cooperatives and others who say they wouldn't vote against the House bill in the end.

The liberal record is mixed. House liberals have a history of getting rolled, such as the 2007 vote on withdrawal from Iraq. Leaders of the Progressive Caucus organized votes against the bill, saying it didn't go far enough in ending the war. But after a personal appeal from Pelosi, they stopped whipping the bill and released members from their commitments. That allowed the bill to pass.

But aides to liberal lawmakers argue that this issue is different. Liberals see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul healthcare that won't come around again for a long time. Healthcare is atop the agenda and Democrats have as much power as they're likely to have for years. The Democrats are expected to lose congressional seats next year, so their majority, and their ability to force change, will be diminished.

Liberals also argue that they have already given up a great deal by not insisting on a fully government-run "single-payer system" that most of them prefer.

"We've compromised a great deal," Edwards said.

Pelosi has committed to a floor vote on such a single-payer option, which some lawmakers expect to placate some liberal opposition.

But the 60 signatures on the letter specifically apply to the House bill. The Senate is expected to draft a significantly more conservative bill, and many have long seen the bipartisan efforts of the Senate Finance Committee as the most likely source of a bill that can pass into law.

But even if Democrats decide to “go it alone” and write a bill without Republican support in the Senate, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has said there aren’t enough votes to pass a public option in the Senate. He called the push for a public option a "wasted effort."

So a bill could come back from the conference committee without a public option. And a conference bill would be Obama's bill. Stopping it would no longer be an effort to shape the legislation. It would kill the top item on the president's agenda.

“If the president comes into your caucus and says we need you to vote for this, are you going to flip him the bird?” the lobbyist said.

Edwards, who signed the letter, declined to speculate on whether she would vote against a conference bill without a strong public option.

“That's a long way down the line,” Edwards said. “I am talking about the House vote.”

Morning Fix: The Mystique of Misinformation

As the White House seeks to regroup on health care before Congress returns next month, the president and his senior officials face a problem as old as politics: how to effectively combat misinformation about the bill.

Polling done earlier this week by NBC shows the extent of the challenge before the Obama administration. Fifty five percent of those tested said illegal immigrants would get health care under the legislation while 54 percent said they believed passage of the bill would lead to a government takeover of the system. Nearly half (45 percent) said that the legislation would allow the government to make decision about the medical care of the elderly -- hello death panels!

According to the Associated Press and the NBC Political Unit, each of those claims have -- at best -- a thread of truth to them.

No matter. Perception matters greatly in politics, a point that has been proven time and time again in the history of campaigns.

The challenge for the Obama administration is that to find ways to rebut the misinformation about the plan, is to, in essence, try to disprove a negative.

Two factors complicate those efforts.

First, because the health care bill is so complicated it is easy for those who seek to capsize the legislation to cherry-pick elements to make their case against it.

Second, the fact that the president has not come out in favor of specific elements of a bill he favors -- preferring instead to speak in terms of general principles he supports and leaving it up to Congress to hash out the specifics -- means that there is nothing hard and fast for Obama supporters around which to rally.

"The reality is that in order to sell a plan there has to be a plan, and when that day comes Obama is still the most effective spokesperson for saying what it is and what it is not," said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.

The White House's first attempt to catalog and push back against the various charges being made against the plan was scuttled earlier this week amid claims that it amounted to a "monitoring" system of the American public.

Unbowed, the Democratic National Committee has unveiled "Setting the Record Straight" -- a Web site designed to equip Obama supporters with the information needed to combat the misinformation floating in the political ether about health care. The site is modeled on "Fight the Smears", a site set up during the campaign to respond in real-time to allegations being made against Obama and his policies.

Can a Web site turn around the perception problem the Obama Administration faces? Probably not.

And, like it or not, it's hard to look at the NBC/WSJ numbers and conclude anything other than that the opponents of reform have run a more effective campaign against the bill than its supporters have run in its favor.

How can the Obama administration ultimately win the perception battle?

Get behind a specific plan, according to Garin. "The NBC poll shows there is majority support for the basic outlines of what is likely to be the plan -- so when the public is dealing with something tangible rather than the Republicans' straw men, the debate moves to better terrain for the White House."

And, once that plan is laid out, make sure it passes, said Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster. "A deal is the only way to rebut the criticism," said Schoen. "Bipartisan ideally, but that is increasingly unlikely to happen."

The truth is that, as the campaign showed, there is no way to totally rebut pervasive rumors. By election day 2008 there were still those voters who believed Obama was a Muslim despite scads of evidence to the contrary. What the Obama campaign had done effectively by that point, however, was marginalize those rumors -- making sure the election turned on the broader themes of hope and change.

Can they pull off that same sort of broadening when it comes to the ongoing misinformation campaign health care?

Thursday's Must Reads:

1. Ted Kennedy asks for a change in Massachusetts law in how to replace him
A Q&A with Jim DeMint.
Battleground Dallas.
4. Bobby Etheridge
reconsiders a Senate bid.
5. Michael Jackson
to be buried Aug. 29.

Club On Air Against Grassley, Snowe and Enzi. . .: The Club for Growth, a third-party group that has shown a willingness to hit Republicans who are not sufficiently loyal to their fiscally conservative positioning, is at it again. The Club's new ads aim to pressure Sens.Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Mike Enzi(Wyo.) -- the three Republican negotiators on the health care reform bill -- not to give in to Democratic demands on the legislation. "There's no harm in talking," says the ad's narrator before detailing a laundry list of alleged problems with the legislation including "government-run insurance that pushes you out of your current plan," "job killing regulations on small businesses," and "massive tax hikes." The ads, which will run in each senator's home state and are part of a $1.2 million advertising effort on health care from the Club, end by urging the trio "not to cave into the liberals on health care."

. . .Patriot Majority On Liberal Talk Radio: Patriot Majority, an issue-advocacy group that spent heavily on behalf of Democratic candidates during the 2008 election, is sponsoring radio ads on liberal talk radio shows urging supporters of the president's health care plan to stand up and be counted. The ads, which are running on the shows of Bill Press, Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller, Mike Malloy, Ed Schultz, Alan Combs, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, urge support for a plan that, among other things, includes the so-called "public option." The ad's narrator urges listeners to call their members of Congress and tell them "it's their patriotic duty to support health care reform." Craig Varoga, a Democratic consultant who runs Patriot Majority, said that "there's a lot of noise and disinformation out there" and the goal of the group's ads are to "get the word to Members of Congress from those who support real reform." The funding for the ads is coming from organized labor led by the Sheet Metal Workers, according to Varoga.

Lamontagne's Next Step: Businessman Ovide Lamontagne (R) will launch a Web site today to allow him to interact with New Hampshire voters, the next step in his exploration of a Senate race in the Granite State. Lamontagne has been actively considering primary bid against former New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte for weeks and, according to those close to him, is moving toward such a candidacy. Lamontagne, who was the party's 1996 nominee for governor, would almost certainly run to Ayotte's ideological right -- a potentially strong position given the makeup of the New Hampshire Republican primary. Democrats have cleared their field for Rep. Paul Hodes.

McCollum Leads in Florida: State Attorney General Bill McCollum(R) holds a 38 percent to 34 percent edge over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink(D) in the 2010 governor's race in the Sunshine State, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Before Republicans rejoice, however, it's worth noting that Florida voters have only the vaguest idea about the two candidates. Nearly seven in ten voters (68 percent) said they didn't know enough about Sink to offer an opinion while 43 percent said the same of McCollum. Given the relatively low name ID scores for both candidates, money will be absolutely critical to determining a winner. Whichever candidate is able to raise more cash will be able to fund more ads to not only define themselves positively but also cast their opponent in a negative light. In a state as large and cost-prohibitive as Florida, money isn't everything, it's the only thing.

Republican Prospects Look Up in Kentucky: A new Survey USA pollin Kentucky shows that Sen. Jim Bunning's (R) decision to retire has drastically increased his party's chances of holding his seat next November. Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the Republican frontrunner, led state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) 44 percent to 37 percent and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D) 46 percent to 40 percent in the survey, a significant improvement over Bunning's dismal poll numbers. In the battle for the Republican nomination, Grayson leads Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul 37 percent to 26 percent; Mongiardo holds a 39 percent to 31 percent edge over Conway in the Democratic primary. Those numbers, particularly on the Democratic side, may be slightly deceiving, however, as Conway has drastically outraised Mongiardo to date and sits in a far stronger position to make his case to primary voters at the moment.

Strand to DSCC: Kathleen Strand, who served as communications director for Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign and for the New York senator's political action committee, has returned to her native Chicago to work as a senior adviser to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with a special focus on the Illinois race. Strand will be tasked with keeping the open seat caused by the retirement of Sen.Roland Burris in Democratic hands in 2010. That won't be an easy task given the candidacy of Rep. Mark Kirk (R) who is widely regarded as the strongest candidate Republicans could have fielded. State Treasurer Lexi -- yes we know his full name is Alexi -- Giannoulias is the frontrunner for the Democratic nod although Cheryle Jackson, the head of the Chicago Urban League, is also running. Although Strand is working under contract with the DSCC, she will remain a partner in Dover Strategy Group, a Democratic consulting firm.

Say What?: "I haven't done anything legally wrong." -- Nevada Sen.John Ensign (R) comes clean (not) in an interview with the Associated Press.

Raw Story » Rove Op-Ed Reveals He Had Inside Information About Probe
By Larisa Alexandrovna

In even more explosive testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Simpson further described a conference call during which Riley campaign advisor Bill Canary said that “Rove had spoken with the Department of Justice” about “pursuing” .... It's very interesting that “Bush's Brain” keeps saying things that should get him in more trouble. Is he that stupid, or does he believe he still has some immunity from real prosecution? And is anyone else not surprised that the FBI ...
Raw Story -

Karl Rove's Non-denials About the Siegelman Case Segue Into Lies ...
Huffington Post - New York,NY,USA

Rove is not a lawyer, but he's not stupid either. He, like any lawyer, ... After Simpson gave her sworn testimony for the House Judiciary Committee in ...

About Karl Rove

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster.

Email the author at or visit him on the web at

Or, you can send him a Tweet @karlrove.

'Closing in on Rove'

Why John Conyers, The New York Times And The Washington Post Owe Me An Apology.


For more than two years, House Judiciary Committee Democrats and the New York Times editorial board have argued that I personally arranged for Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman to be prosecuted in 2004 for corruption and ordered the removal of eight U.S. attorneys in 2006 for failing to investigate Democrats. The Washington Post editorial board also echoed this last charge.

The Times and the Post have published a combined 18 editorials on these issues, which were also catnip to House Judiciary Committee Democrats. Politico's Ryan Grimm reported last year overhearing the Committee's chairman, John Conyers of Michigan, tell two others, "We're closing in on Rove. Someone's got to kick his ass."

To get to the bottom of these issues, the Obama administration brokered a deal with former President George W. Bush's lawyers and the House Judiciary Committee to provide the committee with the information it wanted while protecting executive privilege. This resulted in me sitting down for a 12-hour, two-day interview last month. More than 500 pages of material, including interview transcripts (available at, were released last week, tidbits of which made the front pages.

Judiciary Democrats had California Rep. Adam Schiff doggedly ask me about four-year-old phone logs, emails, meetings and conversations. What did the committee discover?

Judging from the evidence released, it uncovered facts that show that my role in the U.S. attorneys issue was minimal and entirely proper. I did not conceive of the idea of removing certain U.S. attorneys, did not select those to be removed, and did not see the lists of U.S. attorneys Justice was considering to replace. I had no idea who was on the final list until Justice sent it to the White House in November 2006. No fair-minded person can review the thousands of pages of documents and testimony and conclude that I drove the process.

nstead, the committee seems to have found only evidence that discredits the idea that I orchestrated the firings to protect Republicans or punish Democrats. The committee found nothing to indicate that I ordered U.S. attorneys in Arizona, California or Wisconsin to be removed to sabotage investigations of Republicans, as some Judiciary Democrats have alleged.

I told the committee—just as the White House acknowledged publicly in March 2007—that I had told the White House Counsel of complaints about David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney for New Mexico. Those complaints included the allegation that he failed to do anything about voter fraud in the 2004 election, even though that fraud appeared to be so egregious that the Bernalillo County clerk (a Democrat) and sheriff (a Republican) as well as the Albuquerque Journal all called for a federal investigation.

I also told the White House Counsel about complaints that Mr. Iglesias bungled a high-profile corruption case by interfering with career prosecutors, and that he shelved an indictment involving corruption in the construction of the Bernalillo County Courthouse for months. The accusation was that he refused to file the indictments until after the 2006 election out of fear that he might offend Democrats he would need if he ran for office himself.

These were serious allegations. I didn't know if they were true, but I had a responsibility to pass them to the appropriate officials. The Justice Department needed to determine if they were accurate and, if so, weigh them appropriately. The allegations about Mr. Iglesias were similar to those Judiciary Democrats and their media allies raised against me—that the judicial process had been manipulated for political reasons.

Committee Democrats also found evidence that I recommended Tim Griffin, a bright and capable lawyer, for a U.S. attorney position in Arkansas after I learned that the then-U.S. attorney was likely to leave his post. Mr. Griffin was well-qualified. He graduated from Tulane Law, practiced with an outstanding New Orleans firm, worked as an aide to Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, was a special assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, and served as an Army reserve officer in the Judge Advocate General corps in Iraq. Mr. Griffin had earlier been considered for a different U.S. attorney post and was the first choice of a Justice Department panel of career and noncareer officials.

Democrats have seized on an October 2006 email sent to me by White House staffer Scott Jennings that said Mr. Iglesias shouldn't "be shy about doing his job" on state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who was then running to unseat Republican Rep. Heather Wilson. Despite all their digging, Judiciary Democrats produced not a shred of evidence that I encouraged Mr. Iglesias to undertake a prosecution. And they found nothing that showed that I responded to Mr. Jennings' email or understood what he meant by it.

Judiciary Democrats asked little about Don Siegelman's bribery conviction, despite overheated assertions by the Times, Scott Pelley of CBS's "60 Minutes," and various MSNBC talking heads that I was behind the prosecution of the former governor. Judiciary Democrats didn't get testimony from either Mr. Siegelman or Dana Jill Simpson, the eccentric Alabama lawyer who drew attention by publicly supporting the allegations. Committee staff confided to me that they considered her an unreliable witness. I also understand that Mr. Siegelman and Ms. Simpson refused to cooperate with the Justice Department's review of his claim of political persecution, while I willingly gave sworn testimony.

Unfazed by facts and left with nothing to support their suspicions, the Times and Post editorial boards and Judiciary Democrats now seem to hope that special prosecutor Nora Dannehy, who is looking into the U.S. attorneys removals, will dig up something that implicates me. I am confident her findings will confirm that my actions were limited and proper. Perhaps then Judiciary Democrats will focus on more important issues and the Times and Post will admit their mistakes. It would be the responsible thing to do.

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