Matt Taibbi, Bill Moyers and Robert Kuttner: Why Can't Democrats Do Anything Right?
Continued from previous page
ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, I was making the same criticisms that you were at the time. But now we're down to a moment of final passage. And maybe my views are very ambivalent. But I would still vote for it because I think the defeat would be absolutely crushing in terms of the way the press played it, in terms of the way it would give encouragement to the far right in this country that we can block this guy if we just fight hard enough, if we just demagogue it.
MATT TAIBBI: But couldn't that defeat turn into- that crushing defeat, couldn't that be good for the Democrats? Couldn't it teach them a lesson that, you know, maybe they have to pursue a different course in the future?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, you're younger than I am.
BILL MOYERS: Matt, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a very progressive member of Congress who's been at this table wanted a public option. He says this health care bill appears to be the legislation that the president wanted in the first place.
MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, I mean, I think that makes sense. Yeah, it's quite obvious that at the outset of this process, the White House didn't want, for instance, single payer even on the table, you know, when Max Baucus had his initial discussions in committee on this bill, he invited something like 43 people to give their ideas about, you know, how the bill might look in the future. And he didn't invite a single person from- who was an advocate of single payer health care. So that was never on the table. And it's quite clear that the public option was looked at more as a political obstacle for the White House as opposed to something that they really wanted. They kind of used it as something to scare the Republicans and the moderates with. And that's really all it ended up turning out to be.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, if he had wanted a public option, if he'd wanted a Medicare buy-in, he could have tried to persuade the public and the Congress.
ROBERT KUTTNER: That's what's so galling. Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Galling?
ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, if you if you roll back the tape he could've played it so differently and he could've gotten a better bill. But we are where we are.
MATT TAIBBI: I mean, that's what George Bush did when he wanted to get something unpopular passed or something that was iffy. I mean, he just took, you know, if there were any recalcitrant members, he just took him in the back room and beat him with a rubber hose until they changed their minds. I mean, he could've taken Joe Lieberman back there and said, look, if Connecticut ever wants a dime of highway money again, you're going to have to play ball on this thing. That's what the president does. I mean, the president has an enormous amount of power. The leaders, the majority leaders have an enormous amount of power. And if they want to pass something, they can do it. And especially when there's a tremendous public mandate to get something like this passed. I just- the idea that they couldn't do this was- is a fallacy.
BILL MOYERS: But members of Congress, they take the same contributions from the same insurance and real estate and drug industry. You look at the list of contributions to members of Congress- they are as saddled by obligations as the President, right?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, some are and some aren't. I mean, the House, at least, just passed a bill that's over $100 billion to extend unemployment, extend insurance benefits in the interim prevent lay-offs at the level of state and local government. Now, you have a group of Democrats, and this is the real pity of it. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of the average person. You have the so-called New Democrats who are really the party of Wall Street. And then you have the Blue Dogs who are fiscal conservatives. And if you look at what happened in Barney Frank's committee to the financial reform bill, he's a pretty good liberal, he ended up looking like a complete stooge for industry because in order to get a bill out of his own committee, he had to appease the 15 New Democrats, so-called, who were put on that committee mostly by Rahm Emanuel when he was the-