Health Care Black Wednesday: Five Comments on the Situation

Ladies and gentlemen of the House Democratic caucus: the bird is in your hands.

1)  Read Jon Cohn.  Read him now.  Then read him again.

2)  Call your Member of Congress.  Tell him or her that you voted for them to pass health care reform, not to turn into jello.  Tell them this especially if your Congressmember is Barney Frank or Anthony Weiner.

3)  Any Democrat who does not vote for the Senate bill should be subject to a primary challenge.

4)  It would be really helpful if Barack Obama had decided not to have a frontal lobotomy today.  The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal kinda sorta almost suggest he has.

Here’s the NYT’s headline:

Obama Weighs Shift in Health Plan, Seeking G.O.P. Backing

That must be a joke.  As a friend of mine wrote:

Flabbergasted. What possible incentive would any Republican have to bail the Democrats out? Is it really not obvious that they intend to spend 10 months ratf**king him on every bill while whining that he won’t support deep, “bipartisan” tax cuts? He needs to beat them.  Christ, I hope there’s a game going on to throw up distractions as the House votes get wrangled.

A careful reading of the two stories does not indicate that Obama is reaching out to the GOP.  He is talking about “core elements,” which may be about passing the Senate bill.  I sure as hell hope so.

5)  To Democratic House members.  Legendary trial attorney Gerry Spence closes all of his trials with a final plea that has now become famous:

Before I leave you I want to share with you a story I tell in nearly every case. . . It’s a story of a wise old man and a smart-aleck boy who wanted to show up the wise old man as a fool.

One day this boy caught a small bird in the forest. The boy had a plan. He brought the bird, cupped between his hands, to the old man. His plan was to say, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” to which the old man would answer, “You have a bird, my son.” Then the boy would say, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?” If the old man said the bird was dead, the boy would open his hands and the bird would fly freely back to the forest. But if the old man said the bird was alive, then the boy would crush the little bird, and crush it, and crush it until it was dead.

So the smart-aleck boy sauntered up to the old man and said, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” And the old man said, “You have a bird, my son.” Then the boy said with a malevolent grin, Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?”

And the old man, with sad eyes, said, “The bird is in your hands, my son.”

And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the bird is in your hands.

Ladies and gentlemen of the House Democrats: the bird is in your hands.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

11 thoughts on “Health Care Black Wednesday: Five Comments on the Situation”

  1. It was a kitten, not a bird, and the little boy was Ernst Schrödinger, who never forgot the lesson. What actually happened to the kitten is of course not known.

  2. 1. Jon Cohn is an idiot

    2. Don't bother calling your member of congress because the phone lines are still busy from the real American majority (for those who can do math and read polls) who are making calls to their representatives to urge them not to vote for Obamacare. If you do get through, inquire about those representatives who turned to jello months ago when they dodged their constituents, made backdoor deals, and tried to ram through an unprecedented partisan bill.

    3. Any Democrat who does vote for the bill better start looking for another job after primary election night. We did it in Massachusetts. "Yes we can"

    4. Three words…"Clinton in 1994". Time to go to the center bastards.

    5. After last night, their "birds" in their hands is about all Dems are left with

  3. real American majority (for those who can do math and read polls)

    You mean old white people who don't have to worry about their health care? It's funny how when you look at these articles, the people they quote always seem to be "Joseph Slowwit, 67".

    Any Democrat who does vote for the bill better start looking for another job after primary election night. We did it in Massachusetts. “Yes we can”

    History suggests the opposite will happen. The conservative Democrats who voted against the Clintons' health care bill in 1993, and who blocked it from even getting an open vote, were merely the first to lose their jobs.

    Three words…”Clinton in 1994″. Time to go to the center bastards.

    Why don't you take a look at the actual voting spread and seats up for grabs in 2010 – you know, when you're not busy abusing meth while listening to Glenn Beck. The most vulnerable seats just happen to be those of Republicans.

    After last night, their “birds” in their hands is about all Dems are left with

    We have Massachusetts health care reform, which Brown won't touch (seeing as how he voted for it). I'll be amused when he starts drifting leftward, assuming he actually wants to keep his seat in 2012.

  4. Well Brett, Mark Kleiman has the perfect solution for meth addicts. And don't be jealous of Glenn Beck. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

  5. Astounding. When, weeks ago, there was outrage on the left for being insufficiently committed to healthcare reform, members of this blog were complaining about a circular firing squad. Now you're typing the phrase "primary challenge" apparently in earnest. I was impressed by the centered (not centrist)dispotsition you were taking. But I guess even you can be pushed to the limit.

  6. Dan —

    Actually, I see my position as being consistent: do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Senate bill is there. It's a good bill. Take it. Take the half a loaf, and come back later for the rest.

  7. Jonathan: "Any Democrat who does not vote for the Senate bill should be subject to a primary challenge."

    Jonathan, my google-fu is weak. Could you please point me to where you made the same statement about Democratic senators who opposed the public option, or who participated in gutting HCR down to its present pitiful state?


  8. Balloon Juice is asking people to report Congressmember positions, after calling their offices, here:

    Rep. Raul Grijalva has opposed passing the Senate bill. I propose we follow the When Brute Force Fails approach on this: if he doesn't change his position, quickly, I pledge $100 to a non-insane primary challenger who criticizes his role in sinking health care reform. I think Grijalva and one or two others max should be the target for funding primary opponents.

  9. You think of Gerry Spence, I think of Anton Chigurh.

    Carla Jean Moss: The coin don't have no say. It's just you.

    Chigurh: Well, I got here the same way the coin did.

    I get a sense the Democrats think they got to folding on health care the same way the coin did.

  10. I've made my call – the person who answered for the rep said that the calls were all over the place.

    Jonathan, I also repeat my question – the reason is that I've seen 'serious people' bash the liberals again for not playing nice and eating their sh*t sandwhich, but I didn't see you (nor, IIRC, anybody else blogging here) talk squat about senators who should be given a one-way ticket home, back in 2009, when it might have made a real difference:

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