And, no, I don't mean that in a complementary way.
I essentially agree with the column on his blog today which says that even without the public option, progressives would have to be nuts to oppose health care reform. But he can't resist getting off a swipe at President Obama: "A lot of people seem shocked to find that [Obama’s] not the transformative figure of their imaginations. Can I say I told you so?"
Nobody like a guy who says "I told you so," Paul...
And, besides that, no. I disagree. You're completely wrong about Obama.
Krugman faults Obama for not being bold enough with his proposals, starting with the stimulus plan. But, as I alluded to a week or two ago, Obama always had an uphill climb. Because of a united GOP minority, moronic parliamentary procedure, and an idiotic band of blue dog Democrats, a minority of senators have the power to do serious damage to the Obama agenda. And Obama has been very mindful of that fact -- much to his credit.
A lot of my fellow Democrats can't understand why the GOP was allowed to get away with so much under George Bush, and the Democrats get away with so little. I think the answer essentially lies in what Van Jones said: It's because the Republicans are assholes. (Not you, my dear GOP readers, whoever you are. I'm speaking purely of the party bosses and the elected leaders.)
Say what you will about the GOP, when it comes to votes, there is not much room allowed for dissent. They rigidly enforced party loyalty and cracked the whip when a senator or two had an attack of conscience. But most Republicans didn't need the crack of the whip. They are inherently a lot more loyal to their party than Democrats. And they are always thinking of the party's interests.
The GOP would never allow Joe Lieberman to fuck around with them like the Democrats have. And, yes, Democrats can learn something from them. After healthcare is passed do I think Lieberman should be punished? Without question. Given the fact that Lieberman was basically a Republican on foreign policy, it makes little sense to keep him in the caucus if he's turning against the party on domestic affairs as well. Lieberman's last few years in the senate should be made as unpleasant and as humiliating as possible for him. A message should be sent that there are limits to the amount of dissent the party will tolerate. (Allowing dissent is one thing; turning the Democratic party into Joe Lieberman's personal doormat is something else.)
But the question is: where, Mr. Krugman, does Mr. Obama's fault lie in all this?
Obama had two choices when he came into office:
1) Take as conciliatory a tone as possible, try to pick off Republicans, and keep the Democratic coalition as cohesive as he could.
2) Declare war on Republicans and ram as much Progressive legislation through as he can.
Obviously, Obama picked option (1) -- but let's briefly try to imagine what would have happened if Obama picked option (2).
Let's say he said: "The stimulus cannot be less than $1 trillion. Any lesser number will not do."
When the $787 billion plan actually passed the vote was 61 to 38. Does Krugman really think Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter would have all voted for it if the figure was higher? Please. And Obama might have lost a few blue dog Democrats in the process. If he had lost two votes on the stimulus, it could have been filibustered.
So, instead of a $1 trillion stimulus, we would have gotten nothing.
This is Paul Krugman's solution?
As for healthcare, let's say Obama pulled a Bill Clinton. Let's say in his speech before Congress back in September he held up a pen and said that he would veto any legislation that did not include a public option.
I don't see how that would change anything as it currently stands now -- except it would have been highly embarrassing for Obama when the public option was rejected. There are at least four Democrats who are refusing to vote for anything that smacks of a public option. Nothing would delight Joe Lieberman more than sticking the knife into Barack Obama. (He might do it anyway -- even if he gets all he says he wants.)
I don't see how Obama taking a more aggressive stand would do anything. Let's say instead of appeasing Lieberman, Harry Ried started threatening him: If you don't vote for it you're out of the caucus. You lose your seniority. You're getting the shittiest committee assignments out there. We are declaring war on you.
I doubt very much that this would change Lieberman's vote. It might. But it might also prevent him from voting for a healthcare bill that doesn't have a public option in it. Which is much better than nothing. And (unfortunately) the Democrats have to keep their powder dry until after this vote.
Sorry Paul. Obama isn't the problem. Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson are the problem. If you wrote a column about what assholes they were, then you can tell me you told me so.