Thursday, August 20, 2009

America Overwhelmingly Wants A Public Option

As HuffPo's Sam Stein reports, semantics matters:
A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

But the numbers tell another story, as well.

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.

I've seen this 43% number thrown around in the comments as well, which makes sense: if you eliminate the option part from the public option, people get annoyed with it.
In asking its question SurveyUSA used the same exact words that NBC/Wall Street Journal had used when conducting its June 2009 survey. That one that found 76 percent approval for the public option: "In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance--extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?"

To ensure that its respondent pool was composed of people from similar demographics and political mindsets, SurveyUSA asked respondents a question pulled directly from NBC's August survey. The results were nearly identical.

Read a description of the president's health care plan, 51 percent of Survey USA respondents said they "favored" the approach, while 43 percent opposed it. In the NBC poll, 53 percent of respondents said they favored the president's plan, 43 percent said they opposed it.
In other words, the Town Hall Blitz mess hasn't really changed public opinion on the public option much at all, the majority of the country still overwhelmingly approves of the public option.

Explains why the Republicans are making mistakes all of a sudden.

[UPDATE 5:32 PM] Keep that 77% number in mind when you read Village centrist idiocy like this.

Cash For Clunkers Gets Traded In

The $2 billion put in the tank was enough to get the auto industry to Monday apparently, when the program closes for good.
The Obama administration plans to end the popular $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program on Monday at 8 p.m EDT, the Department of Transportation announced Thursday.

Two congressional officials familiar with the plan say the Transportation Department will wind down the program that offers car buyers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plan.

The Obama administration was set to announce details on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the financial arms of several automakers have begun offering help to cash-strapped dealerships, in some cases by floating loans to help cover clunker-related shortfalls.

Department officials met with car dealer trade groups on Wednesday to discuss how the program will eventually end and respond to complaints over a backlog of rebate payments to dealers.

Through early Wednesday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.81 billion and are on pace to exhaust the program's $3 billion in funds in early September.

The incentives have generated more than 435,000 vehicle sales but dealers want a clear plan on when the rebates will no longer be available so they don't end up on the hook for any of the incentives.

And that's actually a valid argument and always has been, and it's a fair compromise to end the program Monday. There had to be an exit strategy for the plan, and after all, Congress isn't in session to approve more money anyway.

Take the victory and go. Works for me.

Purple Alert!

Turns out former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's new book will reveal how he was pressured to raise terror threat levels to scare America into re-electing Bush.
This revelation from former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge’s new book, nabbed by Paul Bedard, might shed some light on why Ridge passed on a 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

[He] was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

That’s a charge Ridge avoided every time it came up. On Aug. 3, 2004, he denied any such political pressure or politicization with a quote DHS recycled for every question on this.

We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.

If Ridge really quit DHS because it became so politically rotten, good for him; his successor Michael Chertoff, however, somehow managed to hold the job for four years without issuing a conveniently timed alert.
And yes, this was denied vehemently by Ridge and the Bush White House on a number of occasions, despite the fact that after Bush was re-elected, terror alerts dropped to almost nil.

Is there anything that the Bushies did that wasn't corrupt, incompetent, or both?

Taibbi Versus Bartiromo

Via Balloon Juice, it's some Taibbi lovin' for CNBC's Maria Bartiromo on Morning Joe. The carnage is exquisite.

Hint to NBC/Universal: in the future, don't throw your talking heads at competent people like Matt Taibbi, whose job is basically to rip the crap out of your collection of Village Idiots.

Eighty Is The New Sixty

The GOP has brought up a new angle of attack this week to oppose the "Democrats might go it alone on health care" play, and that's changing the entire rules of how reality is supposed to work.
It started about a month ago when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he thinks reform ought to get 80 votes in the Senate.

Apparently, this is starting to catch on.

Speaking on Fox News last night, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed that health care reform should not happen because it doesn't enjoy "bipartisan" support, adding that a bill cannot be bipartisan unless it garners "somewhere between 75 and 80 votes." [...]

Hatch is hardly the only conservative senator to float a 75-80 vote supermajority requirement for health reform. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is currently blocking attempts to fix the health care system, told the Washington Post that "[w]e ought to be focusing on getting 80 votes." Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) demanded "a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support."

There are a few angles to keep in mind here. First, it's fascinating to hear partisan Republicans suggest it's incumbent on Democrats to aim for 80-vote majorities on major pieces of legislation. Funny, Hatch, Grassley, and Enzi didn't feel this way when they were in charge.

This to me says that Republicans are now honestly scared that the Democrats are going to actually be able to pass this legislation, and with the help of at least a few Republicans who aren't going to slit their own throats by voting against this landmark legislation.

I've said time and time again that Republicans will never help the Democrats pass health care reform. But this may possibly be an indication that at least in the Senate, that's not 100% true for all 40 Republican senators.

Still Problems With The Truth

Even CNN is surprised by the lies.
A woman asked Rep. Allen Boyd at a town hall meeting the other day if health care reform proposals would force people to let the government access their bank accounts.

"That's not true," the Florida Democrat responded. "When someone sends you something on the Internet that sounds crazy, how about just checking it a little bit?"

The CNN Truth Squad, which fact-checks political claims, has debunked the bank-access rumor as false. Yet that claim, and others that have been disproved, keep coming up in the national debate on health care reform, inflaming an already emotional issue.

Heated protests have disrupted town hall meetings nationwide, with people shouting at legislators and venting anger at President Obama.

While the anger is genuine, some of it is based on misunderstandings of the actual proposals, said Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy expert at Emory University.

"People are freaked out because there's a lot of bad information and misinformation being ... put out there by opponents of health care reform," Thorpe told CNN.

Obama and the Democrats say misleading information sows fear and anger, particularly among senior citizens who are worried about how changes in health care could affect Medicare. The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have set up Web campaigns to refute what they describe as provably false information.

"It is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue," Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote in a recent commentary.

Republican opponents respond that the emotional reaction is due to Democratic efforts to rush through legislation that amounts to a government takeover of the health care system. They say the proposals eventually will lead to a system that rations treatment based on an individual's ability to contribute to society.

So...if I'm reading this right, the Republicans are justifying the many smaller lies about Obamacare because of other, much larger lies.

Got it.

Good Housekeeping

Not going to be near a computer as much in the next couple of days, so blogging will be less than usual, but feel free to make comments on what's here, or if you have any story suggestions that I miss today and tomorrow, email them to me.

Open thread, then.

The Pieces Start To Fall Into Place

This morning's big story in the NY Times is a big one, that the CIA's hit squad to assassinate terrorists consisted not of military troops but our old friends from Blackwater.
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.
And considering the very serious legal allegations against Eric Prince and Blackwater earlier this month involving murder, illegal weapons smuggling, extortion, intimidation and a host of other crimes, this story now takes on a whole new dimension of nefariousness.

Needless to say, the GOP wants any and all investigations into this unfinished Bush business dropped immediately.
Nine Republican Senators are urging Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-era torture practices, news reports indicated Wednesday.

The appointment of a special prosecutor would “have serious consequences, not just for the honorable members of the intelligence community, but also for the security of all Americans,” nine GOP senators told Holder in a letter, as reported at the Hill.

Among the nine are Kit Bond (R-MO), who is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The others are Christopher Bond (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Kyl (R-AZ), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

Newsweek first reported that Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to look at the torture practices carried out during the Bush administration. That news came shortly after congressional Democrats revealed the existence of a secret CIA hit squad that the agency kept from Congress, perhaps in contravention of the law.

And of course we've seen the results of Obama's refusal to rein in Eric Holder's investigation after the warning delivered in that Newsweek piece: a full-out war against the President's domestic agenda by both the GOP and most of the Village.

The pieces are falling into place now. The CIA/Blackwater/Cheney/Iraq/Torture threads of the Bush-era narrative are all coming together now. The price of going down this road is going to be very steep for the President.

That is, if Eric Holder's investigation is able to put the threads together. The jury is still out on this one, but the warnings have been loud and clear for Obama to kill the entire inquiry. Every time those warnings are ignored, the crusade against the President's agenda grows stronger and more intense.

Another warning has now been delivered, this time by the GOP itself. We'll see what Obama does.


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