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Jane Hamsher is not the story. She is a distraction. That she has made herself the distraction is beside the point. Jane Hamsher is not the story.

The story is that we spent a summer debating health care reform, with the president saying he was for a public option, some liberal critics saying he wasn't working hard enough to push for one, and some of his defenders saying we didn't know what was going on behind the scenes. All summer long, we argued over the public option. Right through the autumn, we argued over the public option. And then we didn't get a public option. Not even with opt-out. Not even with triggers. We didn't get a public option. Which was, to begin with, a compromised proposal. But we didn't get even that.

We didn't get expanded Medicare. We didn't get mechanisms to ensure that insurers forced to cover people with pre-existing conditions will have to pay for the expensive treatments those conditions require. We didn't get reimportation of medicines and we didn't get the ability of HHS to negotiate cheaper prices for medicines. We didn't get a repeal of ERISA Section 514. We got a corporate-friendly health insurance bill but we did not get a health care bill. The difference between the terms health insurance and health care has been a continual source of confusion.

We did get mandates. We did get an anti-trust exemption for insurers, which will enable them to collude to ensure that the choices on the exchange are limited. We got protections for the pharmaceutical industry but not for the people who can't afford their needed medicines. We did get an excise tax which will force more and more people to buy lower and lower quality plans. We got the Democratic Party imploding the Overton Window on reproductive choice.

We got the president telling us we have to pass this bill, because we may never get another chance. We got the bill's backers telling us we can fix it later, without explaining how we'll ever get that chance.  We got the president denying he had run on a public option, which ignited a firestorm of parsing over what the meaning of option is. We got the even more important part of that story, which was the president making clear that a public option hadn't been that important to him, anyway.

There are some good things in the bill, community health centers among them. But no one should be fooled that increasing the number of insured will mean anything close to an equal increase in the number that get adequate health care. For some, that will be the case. For many, it won't be. Will we ever get back to them? The president's words are not cause for optimism.

The story isn't Jane Hamsher. The story is that for much of the summer the argument was over the public option, and then the president finally admitted that the public option hadn't been that important to him, after all. Some honestly made a similar claim, all along. Many didn't, but now do. But we now know why there was so little pressure brought to bear. We now know why there were no lines in the sand. We now know why people like Baucus and Snowe were allowed to drive the debate, and why people like Lieberman and Nelson were allowed to draw their own lines in the sand.

President Obama didn't fight for a public option. It wasn't that important to him. His party's Congressional "leadership" took its cues from him. The public option wasn't that important. They didn't have to fight for it. They didn't have to care. And too many Democratic voters went along with whatever came along, which told both the White House and the Congressional "leadership" that the public option wasn't that important to them, either. There was no need to fight. There was no need to care. And too many Democrats took their opposition to the level of political scorched earth, which told both the White House and the Congressional "leadership" that they didn't have to listen to the opposition, anyway.

The story isn't Jane Hamsher. The story is that the months of debate and argument over the public option were but smoke on the breeze and but dust in the wind. A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And we were the idiots obsessively telling the tale. The story is that in the first year since the advent of political blogs, we had our president and our Congress and we didn't do a good enough job of making them do a good enough job.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 12:21 PM PST.

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