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David Plouffe, the former campaign manager of Obama for America, has one of the lowest drama-to-power ratios in American politics. As the Senate wrangling over health care hits solipsistic theatrics, even by Lieberman standards, the President’s confidante remains decidedly calm. During an extensive interview in The Nation‘s Washington office this week, Plouffe was typically even-keeled and sternly even-handed. He methodically criticized Republicans for playing politics with health care, and crisply parried liberal leaders who worry the Senate is in a compromising free-fall, headed towards a plan that might be worse than the status quo.
“We’re going to reduce costs for government, for families, for businesses,” Plouffe declared. “I have a great deal of confidence,” he continued, that “the principles the president laid out in the campaign” will be in the final package. A mounting number of progressives disagree, of course, upending the coalition for healthcare reform that had held together for months.
From Howard Dean to Sen. Russ Feingold, progressives now openly criticize Obama’s health care leadership, since each week’s concession for centrists seems to undo last week’s liberal fig leaf. Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas recently drew a line against the Senate compromises, arguing that “corporatist Democrats” watered down the bill so much it was “potentially worse than the status quo.” Then, pointing to a fresh fundraising email from President Obama keyed off healthcare, Moulitsas suggested that the DNC’s grassroots antennae are broken. Trying to fundraise off the compromise, he wrote, reveals “a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform.” Plouffe, who advises and consults for the DNC, has very little tolerance for that argument.
“I couldn’t disagree more strongly on the analysis of health care,” Plouffe said when asked about Moulitsas’s post. “We’re going to provide the ability for everyone in this country to get coverage and we’re going to end insurance company abuses,” he continued. “I have very little tolerance for this, because we’re trying to solve something that is a systemic problem that’s afflicted us for decades. It’s very hard. You’ve got the insurance companies, an entire opposition party arrayed against you.”
Rank and file Obama supporters still have faith in the health care strategy, Plouffe insists, a conclusion he reached by listening to the “base” supporters who donated time and money to Obama.
“I’ve been out on a book tour, I’ve seen a lot of people–the base I view are the people who gave money and volunteered in the campaign. Now, there are plenty of people who are commentators who did that too, and I thank them for that, but the heartbeat of the campaign and the Obama organization are the people out there I’ve seen the past few weeks in St Louis, in Kansas City, in Philadelphia,” he said. (The Nation interview was part of Plouffe’s tour for “The Audacity to Win.” Plouffe also highlighted that literally two million people have taken some volunteer action for health care since Obama’s inauguration.