Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why I'm angry at Howard Dean

This post is going to make most of the political liberals and progressives who read this blog pissed at me. But, I'm in an angry mood tonight, so here we go. Oh yeah, those of you who wonder why I am interested in US policy mechanisms and question my radicalism will probably also be annoyed I continue to post stuff like this.

The health care bill that I have touted on this blog (see here and here) continues to have an uncertain future. There are any number of people who have dropped the ball that have brought us to this point. I should probably write a series of blog posts blasting them for their failures, but right now I am angry at one man in particular: Howard Dean.

Let me begin a bit further, a flash back to the summer and the death panel nonsense. One of the things I wondered at the time was how it was that people believed such obvious lies. Let me precise, not how could people believe the government might want to kill you, but the lie that death panels were being discussed in the health care bills. That is a matter of fact, and the facts just weren't there. But thing is, most of us aren't going to read thousands of pages of legalese, and we depend on our information from trusted sources. At the time I wondered what would happen if I was lied to by a trusted politician, amplified by trusted media personalities, with a series of lies/misinformation/and distortion spreading throughout trusted political blogs. Especially if such a lie reaffirmed my basic belief system. And this is, of course, what was happening to conservatives with Palin/Fox News/Hot Air etc. I was, I admit, a little shocked to see the same thing happen to progressives only a few short months later with the kill the bill crowd.

Progressives had become increasingly disillusioned with health care reform, many of them feeling betrayed for never having single-payer as a serious option (may I ask, single-payerists, why do you believe the system of Canada is better than Germany's? Or France's better than Japan's? or Spain's better than Sweden's?). The senate bill ended up having both a public option and a medicare buy-in option stripped out. There were lots of senators to point fingers at, but the main pointing going to Joe Lieberman. An obvious malcontent, it became clear that he was willing to put the health of millions of Americans and the financial stability of millions of families and the country as a whole in danger out of pique. Out of an obvious personal animosity toward progressives/liberals, and also a desire for attention and relevance. This included going against policies he had advocated as long ago as 2008.

At this moment the kill the bill crowd went into overdrive. Spurred on by Howard Dean, particularly in this outrageous editorial in the Washington Post. Then Keith Olbermann joined in, adding this special comment (one filled with a litany of factual errors and distortions, and weird phrase about fetishes vs. bondage), and of course Daily Kos and Fire Dog Lake got into it, and we had a wonderful version of death panels on our side. Now, maybe I believe in Howard Dean's influence too much, maybe all of this would have happened even if Howard Dean had promoted the bill. But I doubt it, Dean is a liberal hero, and considered as an health care expert. Both of those have been true for many good reasons. And the liberal turning against the bill may be the least factor in anything (it certainly isn't the only factor). Still, I can't help feeling that liberal turning against the bill have played a rather large part in our current situation, and in a Congress feeling like they can get away with passing nothing, or a stripped down version. And so, I have often pondered why Dean turned against the bill.

The most obvious answer would be to take him at his word. Except, his words have been rather incoherent to me. The bill is more radical than anything that has been done in Vermont, it is in many ways more radical than what he proposed when he was running for president in 04 (there was, obviously, no public option in that proposal). The editorial I referenced before contain several distortions, and at least one flat out factual error (as I talked about before, he claims there is no prudential purchasing power, and that Kerry is the expert on that, but there is and it is Kerry's version. And that is one of the few actual policy points brought up). So, what is going on? Is Dean lying, or wrong? Either way, his credentials as a health care expert become a bit more suspect, no?

But what if this isn't, ultimately, a policy disagreement? Or, to be more precise, what if this is only minorly a policy disagreement, and majorly a personal issue? That would certainly explain why his policy arguments are confusing, unsatisfying, and often incorrect. What personal issues are these? Not sure, but here are a few. The fact he and Rahm Emmanuel have no love lost following the 50 state strategy he decided to pursue as DNC (a strategy I agreed with). His being snubbed by not being invited to the press conference of announcing Tim Kaine as the new DNC. His obvious disappointment for not getting a cabinet position with Obama, which was intensified after Daschle dropped from HHS and Dean wasn't asked next. As a matter of fact, after Daschle dropped I thought Dean was the obvious choice. The man obviously has been treated as an outsider by the White House on the issue he feels is his. Lieberman isn't the only whose desire for attention and childish pique has hurt the chances of health care. I know that is probably a low blow. And I generally have respected and liked Dean, and maybe should go to believing he is just grossly incompetent instead. If health care fails, there will be a lot of blame to go around. A good chunk of that will fall on Obama's head. But some of it will have to fall on Dean, and to all of those who have misinformed the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic party.

Yeah, this isn't go to go over well. Going to hit publish post anyway.