Being Right is No Excuse for Being Right

by Brien Jackson

It’s nice that more people are catching on, I suppose, but I really don’t understand the need to keep denigrating accurate observers by insinuating the people making them are wildly dreaming of “secret plans:”

I’ve been resistant to “secret plan” theories of Obama administration activities, but now that we can look at this sequence of events in retrospect, the plan looks to have been pretty solid. Faced with Blue Dog pressure over the stimulus, the White House agreed to bend-not-break and make a big deal about how the deficit is terrible and we need a summit about fiscal responsibility. Then he unveiled a plan to contain the medium-term deficit that consists of tax hikes on the wealthy and fewer wars. Good ideas! But not ideas that involve liberals giving any actual ground. Similarly, he’s moved decisively to execute liberals’ long-time hope of redefining the “entitlement problem” as primarily a problem that requires systematic health care reform.

That’s all well and good, but why exactly do we need to continue the backhanded “secret plan” rhetoric? What, exactly, is surprising about this? At dozens of points in the Presidential campaign, Obama clearly stated that ending the war and rolling back the Bush tax cuts were crucial to our fiscal health. His Director of OMB is best known for arguing that Medicare is the real threat to the budget, not Social Security, and that the problem with Medicare is the cost of healthcare. And to the extent that Obama has ever talked about changes to Social Security, he’s been remarkably open to the idea of raising the cap on payroll tax eligible income. The example that most readily comes to mind is from the infamous ABC primary debate; Obama discussed the possibility of raising the cap and exempting incomes between the current cap and $250,ooo. And while I don’t really agree with that (why does income over $100,000 need to be treated more specially than working class income?) the upshot would be the closing of Social Security actuarial deficit with additional revenues derived completely from incomes over $250k/year. Hardly something that should outrage progressives.

So with all of that in mind (and with the kind of reporting people like Ezra Klein were doing leading up to the summit), it really wasn’t hard to see what was going on, keeping in mind that this is politics. Obama was using establishment language and loading the roster up with big names from Washington to draw maximum attention to the event, which he then used to…push his agenda using establishment language in such a way as to redefine that language. The goal wasn’t to screw progressives over, it was to redefine “fiscal responsibility” to include ending the Iraq war, raising taxes on the wealthy, and passing an ambitious healthcare reform package. He even got John McCain to set up the Defense budget for him.

The bottom line? Jane Hamsher doesn’t understand politics. It’s quite easy to flip out over every little thing that worries you, especially if you’re hyper paranoid, but it’s quite another thing to run down the people who accurately assesed what was going on, politically, because you think they’re making up “secret plans.” Especially when there’s a fairly long record to support their observations, and when the administration is confirming them in advance.