Dear Howard Dean: You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

"You can have something imperfect or you can have perfectly nothing."

Well, if nothing else comes out of the healthcare reform debate, Howard Dean is relevant again.  Too bad it’s for the wrong reasons.  In his desire to “kill the bill” because it doesn’t have a public option, Dean has become the opposition’s favorite Democrat.  Or at least a useful idiot.

The former governor, presidential candidate and chairman of the Democratic National Committee found himself in the uncomfortable position of  winning the praise of Republicans such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) who said, “My colleagues and I picked up an unlikely ally in our quest to stop the Reid health care bill. Gov. Howard Dean pleaded for his fellow Democrats to “kill this bill” in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday morning, saying that it “will do more harm than good to the future of America.”   Rush Limbaugh chortled,   “Well, imagine that, folks, Howard Dean is actually making our case for just blowing up the health care bill.”   Sen. John McCain chimed in,  “If you live long enough, all things can happen. I now find myself in complete agreement with Dr. Howard Dean, who says that we should stop this bill in its tracks…”

It can’t be a good feeling for Dean to know he’s being back-slapped by Boss Limbaugh and McCain, two guys opposed to any kind of healthcare reform.

I’m not any more thrilled about making insurance companies richer than you or the majority of Senate Democrats are, but Howard Dean and Keith Olbermann are both out of their tiny fucking minds if they think Congress can scrap this bill, come back to it next year and a better bill will come out of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Republicans will become emboldened by a Democratic retreat, fence-sitting senators and representatives facing tough reelection battles will become even more antsy and odds are all you’ll get if you get anything at all is an even more watered down bill.

My bitch with Dean, Olbermann and the “all or nothing at all” camp is they have convinced themselves that half a loaf is worse than no bread at all. That’s not only shortsighted, it ignores the fact that millions of Americans will benefit even from a pared down bill.

The president rightly or wrongly left it up to Congress to craft a bill based upon a vague blueprint the White House provided. When 538 cooks go into the kitchen you’re not going to come up with a pitcher of Kool-Aid everyone agrees upon let alone the biggest overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system since 1965.

Not to mention, just because these folks have a “D” after their name it doesn’t mean they don’t actively dislike some of the guys supposedly on their own side and have some substantial policy and philosophical differences with them. There is a big difference between what a liberal Democratic congressman from a safe district in California wants from a healthcare bill than a moderate Democratic congressman who barely won his seat in a red state like Alabama.

If Howard Dean wants to step up and make a real contribution and he thinks he can do a better job than Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, the incumbent U.S. Senators from Vermont, he can run against them when they’re up for reelection. Either that or move to Maine and try to knock off Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins. Barring that he should sit down with a nice big cup of shut the fuck up.

Unfortunately, there is no Senator Dean or Senator Olbermann in the Democratic caucus to cast a “no,” vote. There is a Senator Nelson and Senator Lieberman who do have a vote and winning their support is more important than pleasing Dean and Olbermann.

Something John Kerry understands as he pushes back against Dean’s naive “kill the bill” rhetoric.

I can promise you, if we follow that kind of advice and give up now, just because the bill is not all we want it to be, we surrender the very reforms that people have spent their lives working for, reforms that the Democratic Party has been proposing for decades, reforms that many of us in the Senate today ran on and promised we would work together to achieve.

What we are trying to do here is not easy. It wasn’t easy for Franklin Roosevelt when he tried, it wasn’t easy for Harry Truman when he tried, it wasn’t easy for Bill Clinton when he tried. But you don’t sound the retreat, especially when you are so close to achieving many of your objectives.

Some of our liberal friends have suggested we should kill the health care reform bill because it doesn’t have a public option.
This week, for example, Howard Dean wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that real health care reform needed a public option that would ‘…give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage.’ I was surprised to read that because back in 1993, then-Governor Howard Dean called Medicare ‘…one of the worst federal programs ever and a living advertisement for why the federal government should never administer a national health care program.’

Well, I am a strong supporter of the public option and I’ve fought to see it included. But if it cannot be included, I’m not willing to walk away.

What is clueless is how insistent the Left wing of the Democratic Party is that any bill without the public option is worthless and should be scrapped because it doesn’t pass their purity test. That’s utter nonsense and demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding of how the political process works.

The Left Wing Strikes Back

If Dean, Olbermann, Arianna Huffington and The Nation feel the Senate bill is a sell-out, they’re welcome to their opinion, but it is equally countered by Kerry, Presidents Obama and Clinton, Salon.com and other more pragmatic-minded liberals and progressives who understand perfection should be sought, but the perfect is the enemy of the good.

From the Wonk Room there is an analysis of the reasons why not to kill the bill, but use it as the foundation upon which to create the reform the dissenters on the Left are demanding.
Fixing something that’s broken is better than not having anything to fix. Buying a fixer-up home is more appealing than remaining homeless for the next 10 to 20 years. In time, you’ll be able afford to change the tile in the bathroom or fix the leaky roof patch, but for the time being you’ll have a place to sleep, eat, and keep warm. A newer house would have caused less problems, but it — like the Senate health care bill — was simply out of reach.

The top 10 list isn’t reason to kill the bill, it’s reason to improve it in the years to come. After all, the choice isn’t between passing this bill or a better bill — it’s between passing this bill or nothing at all. Seen in this context, the Senate health care bill provides an adequate foundation for transforming the system in the years to come.


With the Republicans having abdicated any responsible role in the debate what we are witnessing now is an internecine battle between two very different groups of Democrats:  the ones that want things done and the ones that have to get things done.   To bring about change you need the activists and agitators that force us to see what they already know is wrong.   That is only half the process.  It still takes someone to sit down and do the dirty, tedious and unappreciated work of crafting the policy, crunching the numbers and cutting the deals to get something done.

Going back to the drawing board isn’t going to work when all the Republicans are doing is hiding the board and breaking all the chalk. One of the reasons they’re fighting this bill so hard isn’t simply because they think it won’t work. They’re deathly afraid it will.

Dean, Olbermann, Huffington and all the other Lefties trying to kill this bill should wise up.  They’re not going to get a better bill.   It’s better to take what’s flawed and try to make it better and get some more progressive Democratic senators elected than it is to pout, piss and moan and undermine the President and deny millions of Americans relief.   It’s Christmas, Dr. Dean.   Don’t you know by now you can’t always get what you want?

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