"Mr. President, I can't tell if you're a Jedi... or if this health care thing is kicking your ass"

The healthcare debate has seemingly gotten out of control, with public debate being focused on absurdities like non-existent “death panels” and comparisons of Obama to Hitler.

The key word above — I hope and pray — is “seemingly” because some hold out hope Obama is slyly working the political system to achieve the best healthcare reform possible. As genius — and top U.S. newsman — Jon Stewart put it, “Mr. President, I can’t tell if you’re a Jedi, 10 steps ahead of everything, or if this health care thing is kicking your ass.”

I don’t know whether Obama’s a Jedi or not, but Dr/Governor Howard Dean presented — on Morning Joe — a cogent explanation of how Obama might be hedging on the public option as part of a crafty plan to circumvent the power of some key Senate Blue Dog Democrats (i.e., Republicans in Democratic clothing) who oppose a public option:

JOE: If you were Senator Dean from Vermont and the president tried to pass a health care bill that didn’t have a public option in it, like this one that’s going to be on the floor of the senate at some point, would you vote for a health care bill without a public option?

DEAN: I wouldn’t vote for a final bill without a public option under any circumstances. Because I don’t think we ought to dump $60 billion into the health insurance industry, which is what this bill would do. On the other hand, I think what is going on here is nothing more than politics. The president knows very well that you aren’t really going to have health care reform without a public option. But he also knows he has to get this out of the senate. And he’s got a very important member of the Finance Committee, Kent Conrad, who doesn’t want to vote for this bill if it has a public option in it. And he knows he’s not going to get any Republicans votes of any kind. So at the end of the day this bill’s going to be written by Democrats, it’s got to get out of the senate and you only need a few Democrats to take out the public option.

JOE: Let me explain to people what you’re saying. The House is going to pass a version with a public option. The senate will pass a version without a public option. You get past the 60 votes. You go to reconciliation, you put the public option back in. And then you vote it on it and you only need 50 votes. And you get a public option.

RON BROWNSTEIN: Wow.

JOE: Is that what you’re saying?

DEAN: Basically, yes.

If these powerful Senators figure out what Obama’s doing (or even suspect it), they might well refuse to pass an initial bill that could lead to a different bill being sent back to the Senate for final passage. But it’s possible they care only about APPEARING to put up a fight for their financial backers. And I’m not sure how the House and Senate would reconcile their conflicting bills. But it’s an intriguing possibility, especially since the recent letter from 60 progressive House Democrats to the White House specifically says they won’t vote for a FINAL bill that lacks a public option, as if they expect the fate of the public option to be determined in conference committee.

Posted by James on Wednesday, August 19, 2009