Although the White House continues to insist that President Obama supports the public option, it's abundantly clear that he is distancing himself from it. For example, on July 17, President Obama said an insurance exchange with a public option was a "must include" element of reform; on Saturday, he said it was "just one sliver" of reform and wondered why it was getting so much attention.
July 17, 2009: Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans – including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest – and choose what’s best for your family.
August 15, 2009: All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it. And by the way, it's both the right and the left that have become so fixated on this that they forget everything else.
- Don't say something is a must have if one month later you're going to dismiss it as largely inconsequential.
- If you want to know why it's getting so much focus, it's because (a) it has been one of the central elements of President Obama's reform plan since the campaign and (b) because President Obama has previously said it must be included in the final legislation.
- If the White House does end up letting the public option disappear without a major fight, many of President Obama's most ardent supporters, inspired by his "Yes we can" attitude, will withdraw from politics, their previous cynicism once again affirmed by a broken system.
- Defeating the public option will be a tremendous victory for the right-wing, and will energize conservative Republicans for 2010 and beyond.
There's still time to get this thing right. Let's hope they figure out a way to get back on track.