By refusing to rule out the government option -- which its architects see as the road to a single-payer government insurance system -- Obama has prevented the emergence of a set of policies that have a chance of passing the Senate. The Senate Republicans in the "gang of six" who have been negotiating with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus are not going to agree on a bill without assurance from the White House that they won't get rolled by hard-left House Democrats in conference committee.
Yesterday, Baucus came out with his own plan, which includes a tax on high-value health insurance policies. But this is likely to be rejected by the left, by labor unions that have negotiated such benefits from employers and by members of Congress from states like New York where, because of state policies, almost all health insurance costs that much.
There is an element of convenient fantasy as well in Obama's health care statements to date. We are going to save money by spending money. We are going to solve our fiscal problems with a program that will increase the national debt by $1 trillion over a decade. We are going to guarantee you can keep your current insurance with a bill that encourages your employer to stop offering it.
The list goes on. We are going to improve health care for seniors by cutting $500 billion from Medicare. We aren't going to insure illegal aliens, except that we won't have any verification provisions to see that they can't apply and get benefits.
Most politicians like to promise voters all good things at once. Democrats got in the habit of doing this over the past 14 years when they could not pass legislation by themselves. Van Jones' moment in the White House is over. Exposure of his record in conservative media made him politically unacceptable, even though mainstream outlets like The New York Times ignored the issue entirely.
The Democrats' health insurance bills remain under consideration, and with large majorities in both houses passage of some bill cannot be ruled out. But August town hall meetings and national polls have put the Democrats on the defensive. No-enemies-to-the-left and convenient fantasies may work in Chicago. They don't work so well when your constituency is the whole United States.