There Was Never a Deal to Kill the Public Option

Back in 2009, I recall fighting with fellow progressives when they accused the president of cutting a back-room deal to kill the public option. Their sources were unnamed and augmented by a lot of self-fulfilling prophecies that President Obama was out to screw progressives.

Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Greg Sargent's Plum Line blog, calls this conspiracy theory "a myth."

But some liberals believed that the White House was also out to get the public option from the beginning. This first arose when problem comes when one HuffPo blogger decided that a David Kirkpatrick story in the New York Times and a later Kirkpatrick interview on MSNBC proved it. It’s those two items that the links trail lead back to.

However, Kirkpatrick, as I read it, only confirmed that there was a deal (on costs) with the hospitals, not that it included the public option. He wrote in the original story that there was a belief that a public option would not wind up in the bill.

There were a lot of bloggers, including a former podcast partner of mine, who really wanted to believe that President Obama was killing the public option through a cloak and dagger deal with corporate healthcare boogie men. So they jumped to conclusions based on poorly sourced stories and conflated various aspects of a very, very complicated process until they came up with their ridiculous theory.

I also believe that many liberals wanted desperately to believe that President Obama was going to be a disappointment, and they still do. For whatever reason, be it leftover resentment from the primaries or a calculation to oppose the president no matter what, they were preparing themselves for disappointment, so they sought out reasons to feel let down.

Bernstein concludes:

There simply was no reported deal to kill the public option. If you want to blame someone for killing the public option, blame marginal Democrats, who opposed it, and marginal Republicans (especially Olympia Snowe), who initially backed a version of the bill with the public option before deciding that pretty much all of Obamacare was unconstitutional. There’s no reason to believe that Barack Obama sold out liberals on this one.

If liberals like Jane Hamsher, who struck her own deal with right-wing demagogue Grover Norquist in order to "kill the bill," are intellectually honest, they'll concede to Bernstein's reporting and admit their theories were misguided. But I doubt they will.