In their front page story “Debate’s Path Caught Obama by Surprise: Public Option Wasn’t Intended as Major Focus”, The Washington Post reports that the White House was “unprepared for the intraparty rift” that occurred after the Obama administration seemed to back away from the public option this past weekend. The Post goes on to quote a senior White House adviser: “We’ve gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don’t understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform. It’s a mystifying thing.” If this “senior White House adviser” is speaking the truth, and the Obama administration had no idea that the public option was the whole point of Obamacare for the base of the Democratic party, then “unprepared” is too kind a description for the White House’s recent failings on health reform.

As executive editor of the liberal American Prospect Mark Schmitt details, from the very beginning “the public option was part of a carefully thought out and deliberately funded effort to put all the pieces in place for health reform before the 2008 election.” Schmitt then quotes a November 2007 speech from Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future:

The hard reality, from the point of view of all of us who understand the efficiency and simplicity of a single-payer system, is that our pollsters unanimously tell us that large numbers of Americans are not willing to give up the good private insurance they now have in order to be put into one big health plan run by the government.

Pollster Celinda Lake looked at public backing for a single-payer plan – and then compared it with an approach that offers a choice between highly regulated private insurance and a public plan like Medicare. This alternative, called “guaranteed choice” wins 64 percent support to 22 percent for single-payer. … Starting in January, we began to take Jacob Hacker to see the presidential candidates. We started with John Edwards and his advisers — who quickly understood the value of Hacker’s public plan, and when he announced his health proposal on “Meet The Press,” he was very clear that his public plan could become the dominant part of his new health care program, if enough people choose it.

Schmitt then recounts:

The rest is history. Following Edwards’ lead, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton picked up on the public option compromise. … It was a real high-wire act — to convince the single-payer advocates, who were the only engaged health care constituency on the left, that they could live with the public option as a kind of stealth single-payer, thus transferring their energy and enthusiasm to this alternative.

For those of you that have been following the health care debate through this blog, the fact that a well respected liberal like Schmitt is ready to admit that the public option was always “a kind of stealth single-payer” should be no surprise. We have already extensively detailed how Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, and Noble Prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have all been caught on video explaining to single-payer advocates that the public option is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for single payer health care. And just to add another to the list, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) also admitted as much on MSNBC yesterday.

The White House still seems to be clinging to the idea that they can fool the American people into believing that the public option is about “choice and competition” and not the road to government-run health care that it really is. Witness Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius using the phrase “choice and competition” once every 16.7 seconds in this CNN interview, or White House spokesman Robert Gibbs uttering the same phrase once every 8.7 seconds on CBS. Fortunately, the American people are not falling for this deception. A new poll out today by NBC News shows that 47% of Americans — a plurality — oppose the public plan, versus 43% who support it. A shift from last month’s NBC poll when 46% said they backed it and 44% were opposed. The truth about President Obama’s public option is slowly sinking in with the American people, and they don’t like what they are learning.

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