Speaking of health care, can someone check Obama’s backbone?

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In a piece titled “Squandered Opportunity” in The Nation this week, the incomparable William Grieder sums up in a few paragraphs the problem a consensus seeker like Barack Obama faces when trying to deal with the destructive extremists who have come to dominate the Republican Party. You can’t build bridges when the other side’s only goal is to fling dynamite, and that’s especially apparent in the issue of health care, where the right’s yahoos are working overtime to shout down attempts to derail what’s obscurely being called the “public option.”

Writes Greider:

After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president's abrupt retreat on substantive heath care reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a "public option" health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he's okay with that.

Then Grieder nails the dispiriting consequences of Obama’s waffling:

He hands the insurance industry a huge victory. He rewards the right-wing frothers who have been calling him Adolph Hitler or Dr. Death. He caves to the conservative bias of the major media who insist only bipartisan consensus is acceptable for big reform (a standard they never invoked during the Bush years). Obama is deluded if he thinks this will win him any peace or respect or Republican votes. Weakness does not lead to consensus in Washington. It leads to more weakness. The Party of No intends to bring him down and will pile on. Obama has inadvertently demonstrated their strategy of vicious invective seems to be working.

Of course, get us started on the loony turn the health care debate has taken, and we can get frothing on our own. Among the welcomed bits of sanity that have helped us this last week has been Daniel Gross’ “Health Care Hypocrisy”, drawing attention to how much health care the government is running right now.

As we've noted before, if you add the failure of employer-linked health care with Medicare, Medicaid, government employment, and the military, a huge chunk of Americans already have taxpayer-funded health care. It's a diverse lot. Rich old people and poor kids, university professors, congressmen, teachers, DMV clerks and their families. Pretty much everybody you see on CNBC yelling about socialism? Their parents and grandparents (if they're still living) get taxpayer-funded health insurance. Mine do. Charles Grassley, the septuagenarian Iowan who is doing his darnedest to torpedo meaningful health care form, has it. Arthur Laffer, the 69-year-old economist who went on television and suggested that Medicare isn't a government health care program, is eligible for Medicare. Dick Armey, who spent many years teaching at a state university and served several terms in Congress, has had taxpayer-funded health insurance for much of his adult life. Same for Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. Democratic senators like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, and Ben Nelson? Yes, yes, and yes.

Finally, in the “keeping us sane” department this week, we thank Barney Frank for confronting the otherworldly nuttiness of the “health care reform=Nazi death camp” equation:

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