The talking points few noticed

THE TALKING POINTS FEW NOTICED…. Dave Weigel tweeted this morning, “Oh, ‘Morning Joe’ cast, do you seriously think Obama didn’t sell HCR as ‘cost control’ from the beginning? Were you in a coma?”

The cast of the MSNBC morning show aren’t the only ones confused. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told the far-right Washington Times, “I wish the president would have started the debate by explaining to the American people that our current health care system is not financially sustainable, for even another decade. Driving down health care costs should have been the focus of the debate.”

It was apparently quite a widespread coma.

Marc Ambinder valiantly tries to explain that this is “unreality.”

The FIRST argument that the White House turned to about health care was about the cost of doing nothing. (It was Tom Daschle’s formulation, actually, that Obama adopted during the campaign and the transition and the early part of this year.)

From December 22: “”Some may ask how at this moment of economic challenge we can afford to invest in reforming our health-care system. And I ask a different question. I ask how can we afford not to.”

Progressive activists didn’t like the obsessive focus on cost. And they believe that the president hemmed himself in by imposing a seemingly arbitrary $900 billion cap on costs over ten years.

The argument THEY wanted him to make–the liberal argument, if you will — is a moral argument. People are getting sick and dying because they can’t afford health care in a country of plenty. But Obama subordinated that argument to focus on cost.

This isn’t a subjective question. Mark Warner and the “Morning Joe” cast may think the White House didn’t emphasize the cost argument, but their collective memories aren’t quite as reliable as transcripts.

In his first weekly address devoted exclusively to talking about health care, President Obama referenced the word “cost” 10 times, including the unambiguous line: “[T]he soaring costs of health care make our current course unsustainable.” A week later, he delivered another weekly address, focused on nothing but health care costs: “The President has long noted that skyrocketing health care costs will be disastrous in terms of our long term national debt unless we pass real reform.”

He went on to emphasize this argument in interviews, speeches, addresses, and statements. It was hard to miss.

This was a fundamental part of the pitch from the very beginning. Obama talked about costs on the campaign trail, as president-elect, and throughout the process. Maybe that was the right strategy, maybe not. But for relevant political players to pretend this reality never happened is absurd.