Limbaugh and the death panel lies and so on are just an aside in this piece -- as, for that matter, are most of the Republicans. Taibbi focuses on Democratic incompetence and succumbing to bribery have gotten them in the position of most likely doing the worst possible thing -- pushing a bad series of harmful proposals that will be called reform (so they can say they did something) which actually make the situation worse. And since facts on the ground do matter, Republicans will be able to run against it and win. As Taibbi says near his conclusion:
All that's left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful — and that set of proposals, meanwhile, is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And it's virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.... "It's going to give universal health care a bad name."-- which, for the insurance industry executives who have done so much to get us where we are now, may have been a big part of the point.
John Nichols has a nice little piece of wishful thinking up about how it's not too late, but it's about as convincing as, well, the idea that any piece of reform strongly supported by insurance companies will do any good.
My guess (and I'll try to write this up in fuller form if I can find time (don't hold your breath)) is that Obama's chance of being a great president was blown in the first few months of his administration, when he spectacularly failed at seizing a unique cultural moment in which a host of coincidental factors (the utter collapse of the Bush presidency and the consequent exposure of conservatism's consequences, Obama's own political talents and inspired campaign, and the terrible shape of the country on the day he took office which cried out for real reform) gave the opening to make a strong case for liberalism of a type not seen since the heyday of the Great Society. If he had seized that moment -- and I think use of the bully pulpit would have been the key move here (which he frittered away on bipartisanship with the minions of Rush Limbaugh (!)) -- he could have done something deep and transformational for this country -- and been a great president.
He blew that. Maybe he'll get another chance -- some crisis or issue which he could handle well -- but I think the odds are he let the great president train leave the station without boarding.
Perhaps we'll find out tonight whether or not Obama is going to piss away his chance at being a good president. At the moment, I'm guessing the odds are high.
But who knows. Say what you will about him, the man can give a speech. Maybe he'll pull it off.
Still, as Taibbi says, the health care reform effort has "amounted to a referendum on whether or not we actually have a functioning government." He ain't optimistic -- but I fear he's right.
So read Matt Taibbi and weep -- but do read it.