There could not be a finer line between the words compromise and compromised and tonight, with the greatest possible reluctance, I believe I have to go on the air and state my opinion that the Senate bill in its current form has clearly crossed that line and, as currently constituted, cannot be passed.
We have all watched this bill shrink from limited but encouraging reform, to its current status as - in Dr. Dean's frank assessment from last night - "a bailout for the insurance industry." Surely the ratio of benefits to us, and benefits to our insurance overlords has shrunk to less than 1:1.
At the risk of sounding as if I've just stepped out of "Blazing Saddles," Howard Dean is right, and the White House's reaction to him has been incendiary, short-sighted, and inaccurate. He argued not just to kill the bill but to salvage its societally useful components through reconciliation.
That this is a turning point in the Obama Presidency is so obvious to be almost mundane.
The "men" of the current moment, have lost to the "mice" of history. They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony. This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers. The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it. Nor even to satiate it.
It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar instead of the current 20.
With great sadness - and with full acknowledgment that this is hardly all his doing - I must also address this president directly, about his lack of leadership.
There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir.
There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.
Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.
Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.
Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.
There are many who can act here but the leadership must come from the White House, or we will see enacted into statute the equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money, the forced purchase of a product, by the citizens of this country, which is significantly regulated only in the establishment of a law requiring us to buy it.
And in that event, I feel - and will express tonight - the necessity of violating any such law, as obviously, frequently, and loudly as possible.