Tom Daschle has a new book saying that the White House bargained away the public option in order to gain the support of health care providers for health care reform:
I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. I mean I think that part of the whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable about whether all of these assertions and promises are accurate, but that was the calculation. I think there is probably a good deal of truth to it. You look at past efforts and the doctors and the hospitals, and the insurance companies all opposed health care reform. This time, in various degrees of enthusiasm, they supported it. And if I had to point out some of the key differences between then and now, it would be the most important examples of the difference.
Glenn Greenwald is now saying he was right, and I was wrong, about the White House and the public option. But what was Greenwald saying? He was saying the White House didn't bargain away the public option -- the White House opposed the public option, that if it could create the bill entirely on its own terms, the bill would not have a public option:
The attempt to attract GOP support was the pretext which Democrats used to compromise continuously and water down the bill. But -- given the impossibility of achieving that goal -- isn't it fairly obvious that a desire for GOP support wasn't really the reason the Democrats were constantly watering down their own bill? Given the White House's central role in negotiating a secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry, its betrayal of Obama's clear promise to conduct negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN no less), Rahm's protection of Blue Dogs and accompanying attacks on progressives, and the complete lack of any pressure exerted on allegedly obstructionists "centrists," it seems rather clear that the bill has been watered down, and the "public option" jettisoned, because that's the bill they want -- this was the plan all along.
The Obama White House isn't sitting impotently by while Democratic Senators shove a bad bill down its throat. This is the bill because this is the bill which Democratic leaders are happy to have. It's the bill they believe in.
Obviously, nothing Daschle said in any way bears out Greenwald's claim. The White House wanted a bill with a public option. It didn't think it could pass a bill like that. The White House, in Daschle's words, thought trading away the public option was "the price [they] thought they had to pay." It bargained in order to secure the support of health care providers, which in turn helped secure the support of moderate Democrats.
If Greenwald's argument were true, then it would have been possible to pass a more left-wing health care bill through Congress, but the Obama administration chose not to do so because it's corrupt, or hates liberals, or something. Try to remember the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Does it really seem like there was a lot of wiggle room in the center? That there were more liberal concessions left on the table, that the bill never came close to failing and that a bill less palatable to the center had room to pass?