Plouffe Joins White House

I am happy to see that David Plouffe will soon be back working for Obama. Plouffe ran Obama’s 2008 campaign, and perhaps his departure is one of the reasons that the Obama campaign did a better job of controlling their message than the Obama White House. This won’t do anything to stop the misinformation from the right, but perhaps he will get the White House better organized to get its message out to thinking people.

Joe Barton Retracts Apology: Being A Republican Congressman In The Pocket Of The Oil Industry Means Never Having To Stick To Having Said You’re Sorry

We know that the primary function of the Republican Party is to protect the interests of the ultra-wealthy and they know this, but they are not supposed to be blatant in demonstrating this. Joe Barton forgot this when he defended BP against what he called a “shakedown” by the Obama administration.

Barton apologized to BP for this “shakedown” to pay those who were harmed by the negligence of BP. This led to negative responses even even one Republican who realized that in such matters they should not really say what they are thinking. David Plouffe didn’t waste any time using this in a fund raising letter from Organizing for America:

When BP CEO Tony Hayward testified before Congress this morning, many expected to hear him apologize for the disaster his company has caused. Instead, GOP Congressman Joe Barton was the one saying he was sorry — to BP.

In his opening statement, Barton, the top Republican on the committee overseeing the oil spill and its aftermath, delivered a personal apology to the oil giant. He said the $20 billion fund that President Obama directed BP to establish to provide relief to the victims of the oil disaster was a “tragedy in the first proportion.”

Other Republicans are echoing his call. Sen. John Cornyn said he “shares” Barton’s concern. Rep. Michele Bachmann said that BP shouldn’t agree to be “fleeced.” Rush Limbaugh called it a “bailout.” The Republican Study Committee, with its 114 members in the House, called it a “shakedown.”

Let’s be clear. This fund is a major victory for the people of the Gulf. It’s a key step toward making them whole again. BP has a responsibility to those whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by the disaster. And BP oil executives don’t deserve an apology — the people of the Gulf do.

Stand with us to show that the American people support holding BP accountable — and we won’t apologize for doing so.

Barton wound up retracting his apology today. I guess being a Republican Congressman in the pocket of the oil industry means never having to stick to having said you’re sorry. (Joe Barton meet Erich Segal.)

Pre-Existing Conditons Must Not Be Forgotten

In recent posts I’ve seen it as a favorable sign that David Plouffe is now advising Barack Obama. I’ve also supported reintroducing health care reform and winning back the support of the American people before feeding into hypocritical Republican complaints regarding abuse of power by ramming through the flawed Senate plan. I’ve supported making some changes in the current legislation, and might even accept a scaled back program if this turned out to be the best way to incrementally improve health care.

One thing I would not like to see is abandoned is the elimination of restrictions on pre-existing conditions. As Jon Avarosis points out, Plouffe writes that “Parents won’t have to worry their children will be denied coverage just because they have a preexisting condition.” In addition to being limited to children in Plouffe’s op-ed, some recent news coverage also suggests this might be the current plan.

Plouffe also does write, “Workers won’t have to worry that their coverage will be dropped because they get sick.” However this leaves open the question of people who do not currently have coverage.

This might be motivated by the opposition to the individual mandate which is coming from many on both the left and the right. The danger is that if insurance companies have to cover everyone  many healthy people will not purchase insurance until they become sick, knowing they cannot be denied. There are other solutions to this free rider solution other than the individual mandate. It could be handled comparable to how Medicare handles the voluntary prescription drug program where there are open enrollment periods but otherwise those who fail to purchase coverage cannot buy it at any time they choose.

We could have such an open enrollment period in which everyone could purchase insurance despite pre-existing conditions after passage of the bill and upon reaching an age where they are no longer covered by their parents, but if they fail to take advantage of this they remain subject to insurance company rules on coverage for pre-existing conditions. Other incentives could also be granted to those who decide to purchase insurance, such as vouchers or subsidies for coverage which are limited to those who sign up after passage of the bill.

People over forty have the hardest time obtaining insurance coverage on the individual market due to pre-existing conditions. Another consideration might be to allow such people to buy into Medicare. The one drawback to this is that it might lead to sicker people buying into Medicare while healthier ones continue under private insurance, making it more expensive to care for Medicare patients. Perhaps it would be simpler and fairer to lower the age of Medicare for everyone, with premiums paid into the Medicare system instead of paying for private coverage.

There is also one very simple measure which at very least should be considered. At present if someone is covered by a group plan and changes to another group plan exclusions on pre-existing conditions do not apply. However people purchasing insurance on the individual market have to start all over with exclusions for pre-existing conditions should they desire to change insurance companies. We should make the rules for individual policies the same as for group policies so that there cannot be exclusions for pre-existing conditions for going from one policy to another.

Obama Remains Cool And Looks To Solve Problems Which Led To Massachusetts Loss

I’ve suggested here previously, and plan to do so further in another post I am working on, that one key problem which the Democrats must address is not how to use parliamentary procedure to ram through health care reform but how to restore the support of the voters. Obama also showed he realized this problem on his recent interview with ABC News when he said, “If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are.”

Unfortunately winning the support of the voters in an election year and then governing is not enough. The memories of far too many voters are too short, and there are lots of people such as the tea baggers who are ignorant of the real details of policy and are easily be mislead by conservative demagoguery.  While some have derided campaigning based upon “hope and change,” it is unfortunately necessary to continue to appeal to the masses on such a level while also working on the nuts and bolts of governing.

Some Democrats were thrown into a state of panic after the Massachusetts loss. Obama remained cool but I am confident he is working at trying to fix what went wrong. One sign that Obama is now considering the politics of passing legislation along with the wonky attention to policy matters is that he is bringing in campaign manager David Plouffe as an outside adviser. Plouffe has an op-ed running in tomorrow’s Washington Post which argues that Democrats do not have to lose in November “if Democrats do what the American people sent them to Washington to do.” This includes creating jobs, making sure that Americans understand how Obama’s policies led to economic recovery, avoid bed-wetting by fearing what will happen, and pass health care reform:

Pass a meaningful health insurance reform package without delay. Americans’ health and our nation’s long-term fiscal health depend on it. I know that the short-term politics are bad. It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature. But politically speaking, if we do not pass it, the GOP will continue attacking the plan as if we did anyway, and voters will have no ability to measure its upside. If we do pass it, dozens of protections and benefits take effect this year. Parents won’t have to worry their children will be denied coverage just because they have a preexisting condition. Workers won’t have to worry that their coverage will be dropped because they get sick. Seniors will feel relief from prescription costs. Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless. We own the bill and the health-care votes. We need to get some of the upside. (P.S.: Health care is a jobs creator.)

More Stories From “Game Change” Including Clinton Sleaze and Conflict Between Obama and Biden

More items from Game Change have come out since my run down yesterday. These include more examples of sleaze from the Clinton campaign and conflict between Obama and Biden.

While Hillary Clinton tried to disassociate herself from the smears against Obama based upon drug use when young, Mark Penn boasted to his staff how many times he managed to say “cocaine” on Hardball. Hillary was pleased by this:

“Hillary’s reaction to Shaheen’s remarks was, ‘Good for him!’ Followed by ‘Let’s push it out.’  Her aides violently disagreed, seeing what Shaheen had said as a PR disaster. Grudgingly, Clinton acquiesced to disowning Shaheen’s comments. But she wasn’t going to cut him loose. Why should Billy have to fall on his sword for invoking something that had been fair game in every recent election?”

While yesterday’s post dealt with John Edwards’ affair, there is also a section with McCain’s aides confronting Cindy McCain about her affair:

“The man was said to be her long-term boyfriend; the pair had been sighted all over town in the last few years. Members of McCain’s senior staff discussed the unsettling news, and their growing concerns that Cindy’s behavior had been increasingly erratic of late. [John] Weaver and others suspected that the Cindy rumor was rooted in truth. It was upsetting, Weaver believed, but not a threat.”

The Obamas flew to Nashville to get Al Gore’s assurance that he would not run before Obama decided to run. While the McCain campaign had problems with Sarah Palin’s ignorance, the Obama campaign had problems of their own with Biden’s mouth. From Politico:

The tensions began in September of 2008 word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Following his campaign plane braggadocio about being more qualified than the man who put him on the ticket, Biden’s access to the press was limited and he grilled new staffers that were assigned to him to try and determine if they were part of his team or loyal to Chicago…

When the ticketmates talked a few days after Biden’s prediction that Obama would be tested, Obama lit into his running mate. But Biden didn’t apologize – or even indicate he understood why his comments in Seattle were problematic, though McCain’s campaign had already cut an ad featuring the dark warning.

I noted both the low opinion of John Edwards by Democratic Party leaders as well as the conflict between John and Edwards over John’s affair in the previous post. These two narratives also came  together here:

There were apparently “two Americas” within the marriage between John and Elizabeth Edwards. The former North Carolina senator’s wife viewed herself as a worldly intellectual and publicly called her husband “a hick” and his parents “rednecks,” according to the authors.

“She was forever letting John know she regarded him as her intellectual inferior,” they write, mocking her husband, the presidential hopeful, as somebody who “doesn’t read books.”

Steve Schmidt’s Straight Talk On John McCain

Now that the election is over Steve Schmidt can admit to what he was really thinking during the 2008 campaign. Schmidt and David Plouffe spoke at the University of Delaware. Neither could admit it, but both knew that the election was over well before election day.

“When Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall, I knew pretty much straight away the campaign was finished,” Schmidt confessed to an auditorium full of college students. When the number of people who thought the country was on the right track “dropped to 5 percent and the economy collapsed, I knew that was not going to be survivable for us.”

If McCain ever had a chance, it could have been destroyed the first night of the convention. The one lucky break McCain got was an excuse to cancel the first night.

On the Bush-Cheney drag: “The first night of our convention was President Bush and Vice President Cheney. I literally thought by the second night of our convention we could be down 25 points.”

I continue to get comments and email from Palin supporters who deny the fact that Palin’s interviews were a disaster. Schmidt realized how bad they were:

“That is one of the two most consequential interviews that a candidate for national office has given, in a negative way, the other being Roger Mudd’s interview of Ted Kennedy . . . when he couldn’t answer the question of why he wanted to be president.”

Not only did McCain lose, but the entire Republican Party is in serious trouble:

“It is near-extinct in many ways in the Northeast, it is extinct in many ways on the West Coast, and it is endangered in the Mountain West, increasingly endangered in the Southwest . . . and if you look at the state of the party, it is a shrinking entity.”

Setting Expectations For Tuesday

Tuesday’s primaries may or may not settle the race. Mark Ambinder reports on a conference call which does not make it sound likely Clinton will leave the race if there is any way she can argue it is a win. He says the bottom line:

Is that if Clinton wins the popular vote in Ohio and Texas, she’s staying in the race.

Even if she loses the delegate race in Texas.

He also demonstrates how difficult it will be for Clinton to win the nomination. In theory she can win:

But lots of things have to break her way. If, say, voting ends and the press discovers that Obama has a secret second family in Idaho and all his superdelegates abandon him; if, for some reason, she wins 75% of the popular vote in the states after Ohio and Texas and half the remaining superdelegates; if, by slow attrition, he closes the delegate gap to about 70 and picks off two thirds of the remaining superdelegates; if the pledged (Obama) delegates concur with the credentials committee and seat the (Clintonian) Florida and Michigan delegations) — then, yes, it’s possible.

It looks like the reality of the race is that it will be very difficult for Clinton to win the nomination, but she might remain in the race as long as there she sees any chance at all.

Obama’s campaign Manager David Plouffe argues that the math does not work out well for Clinton:

It is clear that narrow popular vote wins in Texas and Ohio will do very little to improve their nearly impossible path to the nomination. If they do not win Texas and Ohio by healthy double digit margins – and they led by healthy double digit margins as recently as two weeks ago – they will be facing almost impossible odds to reverse the delegate math.

So if we have narrow wins in the popular vote for Clinton in both Texas and Ohio, both camps will be declaring victory Tuesday night.

More Controversy On Edwards Fund Raising

John Edwards has often claimed to be more pure than his opponents with regards to fund raising but I’ve previously noted many of the contradictions in his claims. He obtains a tremendous percentage of his funds from a single source–trial lawyers. A candidate who receives such a large percentage of his contributions from a single source is in no position to take such a high moral ground or claim independence. Edwards also didn’t come out too well when The Washington Post looked at how pure the candidates were on campaign finance issues. Edwards was the most secretive with regards to revealing the identities of his big fund raisers. Today The Trail presents further questions regarding Edwards’ fund raising:

Funding for Edwards Sparks Controversy
John Edwards’s populist message has, without a doubt, helped distinguish him from the other Democratic candidates in Iowa.

But a central tenet of that message — that he is campaigning free from the influence of the powerful forces that control Washington — is being challenged in light of the most recent federal election filings by one of the outside groups advocating on his behalf, and has sparked a round of dueling memos by the managers of the Barack Obama and the Edwards campaigns.

As The Washington Post reported Friday, the independent expenditure group Alliance for a New America recently received nearly $500,000 from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 97-year-old socialite who is the widow of Paul Mellon and daughter-in-law of industrialist Andrew Mellon. It is at least the second check that Mellon has written to an Edwards-affiliated entity. The first, for $250,000, came in 2006, to the One America independent group, which helped support Edwards’s political efforts between his presidential bids.

“These latest revelations make it clear why Edwards was able to announce that he could accept public funds while still spending all he needed to spend in Iowa,” wrote Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in memo released Saturday morning. “His campaign simply exploited the biggest loophole in the campaign finance system in order to get public matching funds while arranging through allies to benefit from a 527. That’s how they avoided the spending limits that are a condition of the public matching funds.”

Edwards invoked the Mellon family name a month ago, and for very different reasons, when a New Hampshire voter at a town-hall meeting in Bow asked about the last time a president stood up to powerful, wealthy forces in America.

“The ones who are best known are not recent,” Edwards said. “I mean Teddy Roosevelt did it, he did it very clearly, and he did it, I might add, in a time where there was a huge concentration of wealth and power, because he was back in the days when — you know, some people refer to it as the Gilded Age — back in the period where, you know, the Rockefellers and the Mellons and the Carnegies, all these people, owned most of America or a big chunk of America, and they used their money and power to dominate what was happening in the government and to dominate what was happening in the economy.

“If we continue in the cycle — which is what’s happening now — if we continue in the cycle where what we do is we try to see, you know, who can raise the most money from whomever they can get it from to win this election and then be beholden to the people who helped them, nothing will change. That’s my whole point. Nothing will change.”

I’ve also noted another recent report suggesting that the Edwards campaign might have been coordinating efforts with a 527 group supporting him.