Howard Dean made a brief appearance on Morning Joe today and left the hapless bunch literally enthralled with his analysis of Obama's health care reform strategy.
The lead-up to the Dean interview was a public option funeral dirge. Chuck Todd explained that the public option was never really important and co-ops were on the way. Joe and the others sagely agreed.
Then Dr. Dean came on, smiling and confident. He explained that there will be a public option. And his explanation of how it would happen left the gang almost stunned. It was obvious Howard Dean knew what he was talking about and that the conventional wisdom on health care reform is as superficial as ever. Joe, Mika, and the rest of the clueless crew looked like they had actually learned something for once.
Joe was eager to hear how upset Howard would be about the public option being dead. Chuck Todd had said it would be interesting to see if Dean would push back at all.
Thing was, Howard didn't seem upset at all. But he was eager to explain Obama's legislative strategy:
JOE: If you were Senator Dean from Vermont and the president tried to pass a health care bill that didn't have a public option in it, like this one that's going to be on the floor of the senate at some point, would you vote for a health care bill without a public option?
DEAN: I wouldn't vote for a final bill without a public option under any circumstances. Because I don't think we ought to dump $60 billion into the health insurance industry, which is what this bill would do. On the other hand, I think what is going on here is nothing more than politics. The president knows very well that you aren't really going to have health care reform without a public option. But he also knows he has to get this out of the senate. And he's got a very important member of the Finance Committee, Kent Conrad, who doesn't want to vote for this bill if it has a public option in it. And he knows he's not going to get any Republicans votes of any kind. So at the end of the day this bill's going to be written by Democrats, it's got to get out of the senate and you only need a few Democrats to take out the public option.
At this point in Howard's explanation, Joe seemed to understand and started looking very interested:
JOE: Let me explain to people what you're saying. The House is going to pass a version with a public option. The senate will pass a version without a public option. You get past the 60 votes. You go to reconciliation, you put the public option back in. And then you vote it on it and you only need 50 votes. And you get a public option.
RON BROWNSTEIN: Wow.
JOE: Is that what you're saying?
DEAN: Basically, yes.
RON BROWNSTEIN: Governor, that's a complicated political strategy...
DEAN: It's very complicated. It's why we're getting all this talk. It's why the message has to be so simple in August...what's most likely to happen, honestly, is the Republicans are going to continue, as they've made very clear, to obstruct the bill. October 16th is going to come along and that's when reconciliation kicks in. They're going to have to write this bill in the budget. There's no question in my mind about this.
After the interview, Joe looked around the table and mused:
JOE: Isn't that something? That's fascinating.
RON BROWNSTEIN: It's political gamesmanship, right?
JOE: The president sells it without the public option. Nancy Pelosi puts it back in and he ends up signing the bill. So they get what they want. We'll see if it works.
So then they do a segment on Michael Vick and it's twenty minutes later. They come back from commercial and Scarborough is seen wandering around the studio looking a little spaced out, "like John McCain at the debate" says Mika.
MIKA: Um, is your mind wandering or...?
JOE: Yeah. I'm just, I'm going back to thinking about what Howard Dean said...
MIKA: Well, I know! I can't wait to ask Dr. Nancy Snyderman what she thinks about that.
And it turned out Dr. Nancy was also in awe of Dr. Dean's analysis of the congressional "chess game." She also agreed with Dean that it's not health care reform without the public option. Very nice.
I'll finish by re-posting a comment I made over at Hullabaloo this weekend:
Obama's simply not stupid enough to believe there will be a bipartisan health care bill. It's the last thing in the world the Republicans want -- no matter what's in the bill. It will never happen and Obama knows it.
The bipartisan talk is simply cover -- a PR offensive against Broder and the Village idiots to make sure the GOP is blamed for the lack of bipartisanship. The Senate Finance Committee will produce a Democratic bill by September 15th. (Remember Baucus has publicly pledged to meet that deadline with or without Republicans.) It might not have a public option but it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the eventual conference report. The conservadems will fold when faced with the prospect of voting against a public option and killing reform. Unlike '94, they have a healthy fear of failure this time. A bill has to pass and even stooges like Kent Conrad will end up casting a vote for the public option in the end.
Perhaps I'm wrong about the conservadems folding. As Dean said, it may require reconciliation. But either way, the public option is very far from being dead.
Here's the video of the entire Dean interview from this morning:
As posted below in comments, Dean also rocked it on the Dr. Nancy show later in the morning:
The key to this strategy is for progressives in the House of Representatives to stand strong for the public option at all points in the process. It's up to them to make sure the public option is in the final bill. We can't let the progressives cave!
Please go to Firedoglake's Public Option Whip Count Tool and make some phone calls to progressive members of Congress today.