I recently wrote to Claire McCaskill to ask her to support a strong public option in the pending health care reform legislation; I was not too surprised when she responded with a one size fits all form letter which was clearly intended to reassure everyone from teapartier to progressive that good old Mom has their best interests at heart. I didn’t even hold it against her at the time – I have learned that she is nothing if not cautious.
McCaskill was remarkably careful to avoid specifics in her response – particularly in regard to anything controversial like the public option. How, for example, would you interpret this declaration which was the most substantive part of her letter?
There are still many tough issues to resolve in the health care debate, including insurance coverage mandates, whether a public program will compete with private insurers, and how to pay for it. I welcomed the President’s speech to Congress which outlined his view of how Congress should resolve the health care reform debate and offered room for compromise and pragmatism. … the highest priorities for Congress and health industry leaders remain protecting patient choice of care, curbing skyrocketing health costs, and expanding coverage for the uninsured. [Italics added]
If you can figure out what this boilerplate says about where Cagey McCaskill comes down on the important details, you are better than I at interpreting subtext. Of course, the fact that she now speaks for “health industry leaders” might be a clue.
The most ominous note, however, was the closing which summoned up what I had assumed to be the entirely discredited spectre of bipartisanship:
I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to find a fiscally responsible solution for the health of Americans and our nation’s economy …
Not a good sign. McCaskill always bangs the fiscally responsible drum, which is not necessarily a bad schtick, but, bipartisanship? How many times can the Republicans kick these fools in the behind anyway?
Turns out as many times as they want. And this is what makes me so retroactively angry about the pablum in McCaskill’s form letter: Today I learn that she has become a charter member of a brand spanking new bipartisan “gang,” as if it weren’t bad enough that Max Baucus and his gangsters wasted weeks trying to give the shop away to Republicans – who never once stopped turning up their noses at all this socialism run amok.
Really all you need to know about this new group is that many of the other members are prominent among the regular cast of Democratic quislings, e.g., Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson. And lest you think I am condemning their efforts prematurely, it seems that one of the reasons it was formed is that the members are really worried that Harry Reid and other congressional Democrats might show some backbone:
Group members have grown more alarmed at the prospect of Democratic leaders using a procedural maneuver [i.e. reconciliation] to push healthcare reform through the Senate with a simple majority.
Somebody ought to tell McCaskill that bipartisan in this day and age and in the context of health care is code for stupid or industry shill – just in case she doesn’t already know.