Counting Heads

Hugh Hewitt
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Posted: Mar 05, 2010 9:43 AM
Counting Heads

Greg Sargent is a lefty blogger/reporter, but at least he is doing what every Beltway reporter ought to be doing on the Obamacare story right now --counting heads.

Who among House Democrats is with the President and the Speaker, and who among them have decided their re-elections matter to their families and their futures?

Sargent's The Plum Line is relaying every scrap of news and near-news about the intentions of key House members.

Sean Hannity FREE

Democrat Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Sargent reports, was a "No," and remains a "No," disappointing enthusiasts of the federal takeover of health care.

Aargent also relays that Shelley Berkeley of Nevada and Michael Arcuri of New York, both previous "Yes" votes, are said to be wavering and are getting hammered by their constituents activated by phone calls from the National Republican Central Committee. (Berkley's and Arcuri's contact information as well as the contact information for all Blue Dog Democrats and Democrats from "swing districts" who voted "Yes" in the Fall are listed here. Please use it.)

I am checking Sargent's blog a few times a day, and I suspect many more are discovering he's doing his job and are rewarding him with visits and bookmarks.

President Obama's timetable calls for a mighty push to get the House to pass the Senate version of Obamacare by March 29, before the Easter recess. Once again Democrats are giving away the game by (1) postponing a key vote for weeks and (2) demanding it be held before Congressmen actually return to their districts to meet voters face-to-face. This strategy is the same one that has both failed to deliver a bill and enraged voters who, rightfully so, conclude that their "representatives" are doing everything they can to not represent them. As another wave of anger at being ignored gathers among voters, President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are now candidly telling their troops that sometimes the sacrifice of a job is what is required to get things done. Not their job, of course, but sympathies and salutes will follow the willing cliff-jumpers.

The numbers are with the Democrats of course, which is why the pro-Obamacare strategists want to keep the Manhattan-Beltway media elite fixed on the White House press room and the Speaker's spin and away from the telephones and iPhones which reporters might otherwise be using to ask fence-sitters which way they are leaning. The last thing the Democratic leadership wants right now is attention focused on wavering Democrats. They cannot be happy with Sargent and must fear that his example will spread. If one or two of the Democrats who voted "Yes" in the fall bolt to the safety of alignment with public opinion and announce that they won't be throwing in with the half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, the whole Obamacare front could collapse in a wild retreat from the absurd collection of massive tax hikes and pie-in-the-sky "solutions."

Sargent's work is unique among the Beltway scribblers which is astonishing. This is the domestic policy story of a generation, and neither the Washington Post or Politico is maintaining an online, constantly-updated scorecard which lists every Member's past vote on Obamacare, combined with links to their statements about the current debate. Contact information would be an enormous benefit as well to very interested public. The traffic to such a site would be enormous as every talk show host in America would draw from the data and send his or her listeners there as well.

So why doesn't it exist?

There is no MSM conspiracy to help the president pass Obamacare.

But there is an almost impossible to penetrate Beltway indifference to the genuine information demands of a newly wired world. Even a decade ago, such a table would have been useless because of the space it would have taken up and its almost instant obsolescence as votes changed.

In the vanished era, the statements of press secretaries and party leaders mattered because it was usually very difficult and sometimes impossible to run an independent check on their assertions.

"Back in the day" D.C. journalists reported on the "big picture" and were urged by editors not to get into "the tall grass," a condescending dismissal of the public's interest in, much less ability to understand, the fine print.

All of that has changed of course, but not the Beltway big foots who continue to talk to a couple of sources and relay their view of those opinions. Politico.com was the beginning of the change, but not even it has yet figured out the breadth and depth of demand for facts and for the tools of citizen activism.

Watch for the appearance of a scorecard on the unfolding Obamacare vote. The MSM outlet that posts it first will win a surge in traffic as a result, but the Democratic leadership will shudder if and when it appears. The last thing they want is for the public to know exactly who will decide the fate of Obamacare.