Milbank’s spin on Reid’s announcement

MILBANK’S SPIN ON REID’S ANNOUNCEMENT…. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced yesterday that the chamber is moving forward on a health care reform package that includes a public option, reform advocates were impressed. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank wasn’t.

In his column today, Milbank makes the case that Reid did little more than cave to the demands of “formidable … liberal interest groups.”

Reid, facing a difficult reelection contest next year at home in Nevada, will need such groups to bring Democrats to the polls if he is to survive. […]

Of course, everybody knew that Reid didn’t have the votes. That’s why he was standing there alone, a Gang of One. As Democratic aides described it, the moment had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics — and one vulnerable senator’s justifiable fear of liberal anger. Now, if the public option unexpectedly survives in the Senate, Reid keeps his hero status on the left. If it fails, he at least gets credit for trying. By the Nobel committee’s revised standards, his aspirations might even earn him the prizes in medicine and economics.

It just wouldn’t have been the same if Milbank couldn’t take a gratuitous shot at the president’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Obviously, Milbank is entitled to his opinion. If he thinks Reid agreed to a public option compromise — a public plan with a state opt-out — primarily to make MoveOn.org happy, Milbank is welcome to the make the case.

But it’s not exactly a persuasive pitch, and Milbank doesn’t bolster his assertions with much of anything.

Reid had to reconcile two committee bills — one with a public option, one without. To merge the two, the Majority Leader went with a compromise that enjoys the backing of most of his caucus and most of the country.

Milbank sees Reid as caving to liberal groups who don’t care that, as he sees it, the measure doesn’t have 60 votes. I see a Majority Leader going with a proposal that Reid, the White House, most congressional Democrats, and most Americans have already embraced. And incidentally, it happens to be “good public policy.”

In fairness, I believe progressive activists definitely played a role in getting the Senate’s reform bill to where it is. Indeed, I don’t think there’s anything especially wrong with Democratic leaders shaping a public policy plan in a way that meets the expectations of the voters who elected them.

But Milbank makes it sound as if the Majority Leader yelled “How high?” because “liberal interest groups” told him to jump. And that’s just not what’s happened.