WaPo columnist Marc Thiessen: still a Bush speechwriter at heart

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen could hardly have written a more dishonest attack on President Obama if that had been his primary goal.

Thiessen writes that "Obama is the real obstructionist at his health-care summit" because Obama has no interest in "bipartisan compromise." Thiessen bases his assertion that Obama is uninterested in compromise on the fact that no Republicans have supported Democratic health care proposals. That's a questionable claim on its face; it's downright absurd if you know that Obama's health care proposal -- like the bills passed in both the House and the Senate -- already contain significant concessions to the GOP. Not just concessions like "not being single-payer" and "not including a public option" -- though those are significant concessions Democrats have made. But the bills also include ideas Republicans have long supported. As Politico recently put it:

the pillars of the Senate bill resemble proposals that have been embraced by the GOP, most notably in a proposal offered last year by former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) and by Republicans during the 1993-94 health care reform debate. Major elements are also remarkably similar to a plan put forward by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).


the Senate bill allows families and businesses to purchase insurance across state lines, a favorite policy proposal of the right. ... Republicans say states should decide how they want to do reform. But the Senate bill already goes a step in that direction.

So, Democrats have included Republican ideas, but Republicans refuse to support the bill anyway, leading Marc Thiessen to write that Democrats are uninterested in bipartisan compromise.

Next, Thiessen writes: "The president's real objective is to paint GOP leaders as obstructionists -- so that Democrats have an excuse to ram through their health-care legislation using extraordinary parliamentary procedures."

By "extraordinary parliamentary procedures," Thiessen presumably means "reconciliation." And he presumably knows reconciliation isn't all that "extraordinary" -- it was used to pass significant portions of President Bush's agenda. Thiessen presumably knows that because Thiessen worked as a speechwriter in the Bush White House.

Then Thiessen calls Obama "dishonest" and points to the fact that Senate Democrats worked with President Bush as evidence that Barack Obama hasn't reached out to Republicans. But, again, the simple fact is that Obama and Democrats did reach out. They did so with last year's stimulus package, which, in an effort to win GOP votes, was smaller and heavier on tax cuts than liberals wanted. They did so with the health care legislation. When Side A makes significant concessions to win the support of Side B, but Side B withholds their support anyway, Side A can hardly be blamed for a refusal to compromise.

I'm sure Thiessen and his boss Fred Hiatt would say Thiessen is simply expressing an opinion, which is the whole point of being an opinion columnist. But Thiessen isn't doing so honestly -- not even remotely. Thiessen could make the case that the concessions Democrats have made are insufficient, or that the inclusion of Republican ideas in the various health care bills do not do enough to outweigh the ideas they think are bad. But he doesn't do that. He simply pretends there were no such concessions, that there are no Republican ideas in the bill. That isn't honest.

But it's what we have come to expect from Fred Hiatt's Washington Post.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
The Washington Post
Fred Hiatt, Marc Thiessen
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