More than one observer has noticed the president’s silence though most of this process, and thought it inexplicable. I think the difficulty might center on a widespread expectation that progress is something Obama can and will do by oratory and flying dreams. (I suspect Ted Sorensen helped create this legend.) What happened, for better or worse, is that Barack Obama decided a long while ago that he was going to give up a public option as part of the deal to get right-wing votes. He probably thought he would get Republican support this way, and then had to change plans to get Democratic votes this way. In either case, there was little he could say that would further his plan, and so he kept quiet.
I hate to predict that Joe Lieberman won’t make more trouble, but it appears to me that he waited till the last minute and was the one who made the formal trade. If I remember correctly, he said no public option, no Medicare buy-in (a public option proxy), and probably no CLASS Act (long-term care). In other words, take out that public option and its proxy, and I’ll let you have the CLASS Act.
It looks to me as if this is Obama’s general way of doing things. He is the opposite of John McCain, who flails about wildly and very publicly. When it came to Afghanistan, Obama thought privately and very quietly. He comes out every once in a while and reiterates his intentions to close Guantanamo Bay, to under Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, etc., but doesn’t give rhetorical flourishes; rather, he says something to the effect of ‘I’ll do it, but need to figure out when and how, so keep cool’. Some people keep cool, others don’t; I guess we need both kinds.
Now, about the public option, for some people this was a serious thing to give up, but I think that in most cases of vociferous support the public option was little but a cudgel for beating a Strawman. Taking that into consideration, if there was something Barack Obama had to trade away to make the deal, it’s just as well that the something traded away was less important for healthcare than it was for Strawman-beating. I have been really disappointed in the reasons given for people’s support of the public option.