There's an old Ziggy cartoon that is one of my all-time favorites. It depicts two stones, one labeled "Rock" and the other labeled "Hard Place." In between the stones, of course, is the ubiquitous "You are Here" sign, replete with the directional arrow.
Wedging oneself firmly between the rock and the hard place is usually not the more difficult end of the transaction. It's the extraction that generally proves tricky. So it will likely be for President Obama, thanks to the squeeze applied by the progressive group Democracy for America. In an email sent to group members on Monday, chairman Jim Dean (brother of former DNC chairman, Vermont governor, and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean) said:
Let's be clear: A health care bill without a public option is D.O.A. in the House. Period. To pass any bill in the House they need at least 218 votes but 64 House Democrats have stood up and said they will not vote for a bill without a public option. That means a bill without a public option would only have 193 votes.
Call it what you want, but where I come from, that's a threat. And it comes in the wake of a comment by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during the Sunday talkers that the public option wasn't an "essential element" of the healthcare reform end product. Sebelius' comments amplified statements in the same vein made by President Obama during his town hall event in Colorado. Needless to say, dissing the public option is not a sentiment shared by the far left.
The pressure coming from the far Left to hold fast to the public option pins Obama against the swell of popular sentiment that has arisen in opposition to any of the plans currently making their way through Congress, as evidenced by the protesters at town hall meeting after town hall meeting. Most of us who oppose the existing healthcare reform plans are also opposed to the public option, and would remain opposed even if the public option was removed.
Polls continue to show that Americans do not support the president's plan. Yet, inexplicably, Obama fights on. By continuing to push for some sort of action on healthcare reform, it would appear that he has placed himself in the position of having to anger one of two groups: the far-Left fringe that thinks he's not gone far enough, or the moderates who ultimately elected him. Depending on how far down this dangerous path Obama is willing to tread, he may yet discover that his best alternative for saving (his own) face is to throw former dance partners like Big Pharma under the bus. (Who knows? Maybe they can hang out down there with his "typical white person" grandmother.)
In the end, extricating himself from between the rock and the hard place will cause damage. The only questions are, to whom, and how much?