Not backing down

NOT BACKING DOWN…. Following up on the last item, here’s the provocative line from President Obama’s multimedia address this morning:

“I don’t believe that government can or should run health care. But I also don’t think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please. That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans — including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest — and choose what’s best for your family.”

Now, for the last several weeks, administration officials have walked a careful line on this. The president and his team have said they’d like a public option, they support a public option, and they believe a public option makes sense. When asked, however, whether they’d still support a reform package even if it doesn’t have a public option, the White House tends to say, “We don’t want to draw any lines in the sand.”

This morning, we heard a different message. These weekly addresses are written pretty carefully — it’s not just the president riffing or speaking extemporaneously during a media interview — and it seems pretty clear that “any plan” that reaches the president’s desk “must include” an exchange with consumer options, and those choices need to include a public option.

The president didn’t include an explicit veto threat, but it’s my understanding that “any plan” and “must include” are phrases meant to serve as a step forward on White House policy.

Also note the larger context here. With skeptical Blue Dogs, CBO pushback, and Senate “centrists” slamming on the brakes, one might expect the administration to start abandoning key priorities and preparing to accept a watered down package that would be easier to pass.

Instead, we have OFA taking out ads targeting Senate Dems and House Dems, while the president is making it pretty clear that he expects to see the very same public option that Republicans and “centrists” have a problem with.

Obama, in other words, is pushing back. When one might expect him to start walking back expectations, he’s playing a little hardball. Good.