by Max Brantley
Frank Rich excoriates the Obama administration and the new day of Democratic lobbying might. It all looks a lot like the bad old Republican days. So much for hope.
Obama’s promise to make Americans trust the government again was not just another campaign bullet point; it’s the foundation of his brand of governance and essential to his success in office. At the first anniversary of the TARP bailout of the banks, we can see how far he has to go. Americans’ continued suspicion that Washington is in cahoots with powerful interests in joints like Tosca is contributing to their confusion and skepticism about what’s happening out of view in the battle over health care reform.
The public is not wrong. The administration’s legislative deals with the pharmaceutical companies were made in back rooms. Business Week reported in early August that the UnitedHealth Group and its fellow insurance giants had already quietly rounded up moderate Democrats in the House to block any public health care option that would compete with them for business. UnitedHealth’s hired Beltway gunslingers include both Elmendorf Strategies and Daschle, a public supporter of the public option who nonetheless does some of his “wink, wink” counseling for UnitedHealth. The company’s in-house lobbyist is a former chief of staff to Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader. Gephardt consults there too.
But it’s not as if the Republicans now have the public’s back. DeLay may be reduced these days to violating public taste rather than the public trust on “Dancing With the Stars,” but back on Capitol Hill, his successors keep the K Street faith. In their campaign to kill the public option, G.O.P. leaders often cite data from the Lewin Group, a research company, which has projected that 88 million Americans might quit their private insurance plans if given a government alternative. (The Congressional Budget Office puts the figure at the far less earthshaking 10 to 11 million.) Lewin, which repeatedly insists it’s still a nonpartisan outfit, was actually bought by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth in 2007. The Huffington Post reported in August that John Boehner and Eric Cantor — who use Lewin’s findings to scare voters about a “government takeover” of health care — are big recipients of UnitedHealth campaign cash.
["Moderate" House Democrat is a euphemism for right-wing conservative demagogue and lobbyist tool. Example: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.]