Obama took the opportunity to mock supporters of the public option last night at a DNC event in Greenwich, Connecticut (per Mike Allen):
OBAMA: Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particularly derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.
Yeah, we know who we are. We’re the people who supported Bill Halter’s primary challenge of Blanche Lincoln, the woman Obama campaigned for. Who only included that derivatives rule in the financial reform bill because she was afraid of losing to Halter.
We’re the people who fought for a year and a half to pass Audit the Fed, which Obama, the Fed, the Treasury and the banks all lobbied against and worked hard to weaken. It passed the Senate 94-0, and Chris Hayes called it “the single greatest act of bipartisanship since Obama took office” on MSNBC. It was part of the financial reg bill, which is the “only popular Democratic act” since the 2008 election, per Gallup.
Obama himself used to be one of us, when he said that “the choice of a public insurance option” was one of his “three bedrock requirements for real health care reform” — when he wanted people to sign up for OFA:
We’re the people whose votes Obama was trying to secure on the campaign trail when he:
- – outlined his health care plan in a 2007 campaign speech, saying “Essentially . . we’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance. It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.”
- – promised in 2008 on his campaign’s website that “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan.” 
- – signed on to the HCAN principles on October 6, 2008, which includes “a public insurance plan without a private insurer middleman that guarantees affordable coverage.”
- – told the Washington Post that his health care plan “creates a new public health plan for those currently without coverage.”
So Obama promises people a public plan, they go out and campaign for him in record numbers, and then when the Senate decides to drop the public option from the health care bill, he says “I didn’t campaign on the public option.”
Glenn Greenwald, from February 2010:
As I wrote back in August, the evidence was clear that while the President was publicly claiming that he supported the public option, the White House, in private, was doing everything possible to ensure its exclusion from the final bill (in order not to alienate the health insurance industry by providing competition for it). Yesterday, Obama — while having his aides signal that they would use reconciliation if necessary — finally unveiled his first-ever health care plan as President, and guess what it did not include? The public option, which he spent all year insisting that he favored oh-so-much but sadly could not get enacted: Gosh, I really want the public option, but we just don’t have 60 votes for it; what can I do?. As I documented in my contribution to the NYT forum yesterday, now that there’s a 50-vote mechanism to pass it, his own proposed bill suddenly excludes it.
Russ Feingold says that the reason there was no public option in the final bill was because of “lack of support from the administration.”
Joe Lieberman, whose vote was used as an excuse for ditching the public option when it was assumed that the health care bill would need 60 votes to get through the Senate, said that he he “didn’t really have direct input from the White House” on the public option and was never specifically asked to support it.
When the Senate decided to go the reconciliation route and only needed 50 votes to pass the bill, and nobody needed Lieberman’s vote any more, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs threw cold water on any attempt to do so, saying it wasn’t a “consensus idea.”
So it’s awfully glib for Obama to now belittle the people who worked hard to get him elected for always seeing the glass “half empty” if they’re disappointed about the public option. Then again, he apparently doesn’t even remember the promises he made to them.
Maybe they’re not being negative, maybe they’re just smart enough to know when they’ve been conned.
One thing is for sure. Obama never would have expressed this kind of contempt for the base prior to his own election. He — and the DNC — are playing Russian roulette with the rest of the party, belittling the very people who show up and vote and do all the campaign grunt work in every race in the country. And for what? It all appears to be little more than an egotistical, thin-skinned taunt aimed at those they feel aren’t giving them the accolades the Democrats think they deserve.
Nobody in the history of electoral politics, and I mean nobody, believes that telling people to “get over it” will get them to the polls. (Well, nobody but Spiro Agnew.) And you can bet your bottom dollar that come 2012, when Obama’s own electoral future is on the line, that won’t be his message.
Note: the video that Mike Allen includes in the quote is from the Obama’s Stamford speech, but Obama’s comments in the paragraph were made at a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser in Greenwich. The DNC released a transcript, but no video. I removed the video Allen cites to reduce confusion.
Update: Glenn Greenwald tells the story in headlines.