Today on Daily Kos, David Sirota - the guy with the selective House fantasy on the health reform public option - wrote an article to try to drive a wedge between progressives against President Obama. More insidiously, he tars and feathers the President by claiming "This president goes out of his way to be very confrontational towards progressives." I think the reality is that David Sirota goes out of his way to be confrontational towards President, because the so-called pieces of evidence he presents are hearsay, mistruths, or bunk.
Take the idea that the White House threatened freshmen Democratic Congressman on a 2009 supplemental Afghan war funding bill, for example. Interestingly enough, the accusation came from Rep. Lynn Woolsey (whom I respect), who wasn't herself threatened and who also didn't name any specific members of Congress who were threatened so the report could be verified. In addition, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro disputed the charges on the record.
His next charge, that the President claimed that the public option wasn't important, is just false. The talking points reported by The Plum Line said that the public option was a "small part" of the whole reform, not that it was an "unimportant" part. In addition, the talking points actually made the case for getting the Senate Finance Committee's version of the bill out of committee to public option proponents:
Let's be clear about one thing: President Obama - like his progressive allies - always supported the public option. But just like every member of the progressive caucus in the House, he understood that the votes were not to be found for it in the Senate. Funny, the Democrats who voted against the final health reform bill were the corporate conservatives. I wonder why. Let's also get something straight about health reform: Presidents and Congresses tried for the better part of a century for health reform. President Obama and this Democratic Congress succeeded against long historical odds, and with the blessing of every single member of the progressive caucus.
- We’re going to be having the same debate in a couple of weeks on the Senate floor -– if we want the public option we can’t let the bill die in committee.
- The other four bills in the process include a strong public option.
- The public option is just one small part of health insurance reform.
- There is still a lot of work to do on a final plan.
- President Obama believes the final bill to come to his desk should have a public option.
Evidently, linking and pointing to screaming headlines without providing depth of the whole article is an art these days, and Sirota is the master of said art.
Next we have a charge of the White House opposing "progressive legislation to audit the Federal Reserve." It is true that the White House opposed a version of the audit legislation that they feared would interfere with the Fed's ability to regulate monetary policy. To be sure, I believe they were wrong about this. The President did not, however, oppose the idea of auditing the Fed. A mere three days after the report David Sirota linked, the White House threw its support behind a modified proposal by Sen. Sanders to audit the Fed. The proposal is law today. Why? Because this supposedly progressive-confronting President signed it into law, as part of the financial reform package.
In addition, not to nitpick, but the idea of auditing the Fed was hardly an original of "progressives." The idea was given wind on the sail by Ron Paul, whose ultimate goal is to abolish the Fed, and who made quite a stir in the Republican primaries in 2008. The audit idea was picked up by progressives, and good on us for doing so, but it enjoyed wide support from every part of the political spectrum (in the country and in Congress), and let's give credit where it is due.
Following the twisting of the truth on issues, we see Sirota turn to Democratic primaries and take Obama to task for supporting what he calls corporate-conservative Democrats. Three examples - Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Colorado. Interestingly enough, he mentions Colorado as being "the most grotesque of all." Really? I wonder if that's because the primaries in the other two states are already over. Otherwise, we are left with the impression that in Sirota's view, Bennet, a supporter of the public option and the originator of the vaunted Bennet Letter to get Senators on board on the public option in reconciliation, is a worse choice for Democrats than the one of the Democrats who actively killed the public option and bragged about it, Sen. Blanche Lincoln. I seriously doubt Sirota's got his priorities straight.
Sitting presidents back incumbent members of Congress. That's how it works. None of us have to like it, but cherry-picking examples of backing incumbents and using them as evidence that the President is doing it to "confront" progressives is intellectually dishonest. Obama supports Bennet and Boxer, Lincoln and Leahy, Specter (now defeated) and Schumer. Do you know why? They're all incumbents.
Another word about attacking Obama for supporting Bennet. Guilt by association has an interesting twist here. If supporting Bennet makes Obama anti-progressive, supporting Romanoff must make Bill Clinton a progressive's dream. You know Bill Clinton, the centrist Democratic president that signed NAFTA, signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall into law, and deregulated the airwaves, and not to mention, campaigned hard for Lincoln (I don't mean to bash Clinton, I have generally liked him. But let's be sure - he was no progressive pillar). But hey, Romanoff has his support.
Michael Bennet also has endorsements from the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action, from the Co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus Diana DeGette. I guess they're all corporate-conservative now. Either that, or in David Sirota's world, environmental issues and women's private reproductive freedom are no longer progressive issues.
President Obama does not have an obsession with confronting the Left. President Obama is a progressive, who has built an impressive list of progressive achievements in a mere year and a half in office. But there are some ideologues and Left authoritarians that are obsessed with demagoging and demonizing President. These ideologues -- whether they intend it or not -- thrive on driving wedges between progressives and the President, and these wedges are often baseless. It's only serving to hurt the progressive movement. It is that obsession that is cause for concern, in my humble judgment. This needs to stop.