Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow criticizing Obama for backtracking on a health care “public option”
Media coverage of Obama has taken a sudden sour turn over the past few days – especially from the more unapologetically leftist crowd – since the president hinted over the weekend that the so-called “public option” could be scrapped from his health care reform plans.
“How did we get here?” objected MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “How did we get to the foretold ‘death’ of the public option? … We got here through a collapse of political ambition.”
In an eight-minute advocacy piece for government-run health care, blasting Big Business and free market insurance coverage, Maddow turned her ire on the president and congressional Democrats for backing down from drafting a socialized health care system like those adopted by some European nations.
“Why is the public option dying now? It’s dying because of a collapse of political ambition,” concluded Maddow. “The Democrats are too scared of their own shadow to use the majority the American people elected them to in November to actually pass something they said they favored.”
Maddow’s commentary, titled on screen as “No We Can’t,” can be seen in the following video:
Other media outlets and pundits often accused of favoring the president have also published pieces blasting Democrats’ backtrack on health care reform – including the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post and even Comedy Central’s host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart.
After playing a clip of Obama over the weekend hedging on the public option, Stewart stopped midsentence:
“What a second! What did you just say?” Stewart asked.
Mocking the president’s sudden turnabout on the public option in the face of public pressure objecting to his health care reform plans, Stewart quipped, “Yes we can! … Unless you don’t think we should, then we’ll do something different.”
In July, Obama declared of health care reform, “Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange, including a public option.”
But at a town hall in Colorado on Saturday, the president made headlines by waffling on the issue in response to a university student:
“The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform,” Obama said. “This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”
Furthermore, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview Sunday that the option is “not the essential element.”
And according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released over the weekend, only 35 percent of American voters favor passing the health care bill working through Congress, while 54 percent would rather see nothing done at all than push through the currently proposed plan.
But by tweaking its tune on the public option, the administration has come under sudden attack from both congressional Democrats and the left-leaning media.
“To take the public option off the table would be a grave error,” wrote Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., in a letter to Sebelius yesterday, signed by 60 House Democrats. “Passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.”
“Not only are they weakening their proposal, but they are also weakening their hand,” commented Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. “This is legislative subtraction by subtraction.”
Much of the criticism from the left against Obama has dodged the issue of the protests and slipping polls, however, echoing Maddow’s claim that the administration is letting big insurance companies win:
In a piece called “This Is Reform?” New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes, “If the oldest and sickest are on Medicare, and the poorest are on Medicaid, and the young and the healthy are required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan – well, that’s reform the insurance companies can believe in. … If the drug companies and the insurance industry are smiling, it can only mean that the public interest is being left behind.”
“Even now, he won’t make clear that the private insurance industry is the problem,” writes Robert Kuttner in the Washington Post. “Recent administration statements on the ‘public’ insurance option have been classics of mixed messaging. Obama’s economic team is far too cozy with Wall Street, fanning populist suspicions.”
Others have leveled aim at the way Obama has tried to sell his health care plan:
Richard Cohen, in a piece bashing Sarah Palin in the Washington Post, nonetheless called Obama’s efforts “klutziness” that only raise suspicions about government dictates and raised taxes.
And MSNBC host Ed Schultz commented, “[T]he White House, I think, is dazed and confused … They don’t know what page they’re on. I mean, they don’t have a playbook. You can’t go over to the White House and say, ‘Can we have your plan for health care?’ and, boom, there’s a 200-pager right there. They don’t have that. … The bottom line here is that the president, I think, needs to be more direct and start doing some arm-twisting with some folks that aren’t listening to him.”
Since the eruption of bad press over the past few days, the administration has backpedaled from the backpedal, asserting again that the public option is still on the table and “nothing has changed.”
“Here’s the bottom line. Absolutely nothing has changed,” said Sebelius in a speech on Medicare today. “We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest.”