During the 2008 election season, "11th-dimensional chess" became a convenient, at times lazy phrase useful for making sense of the machinations of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. It was pure exaggeration, of course -- but as a shorthand, it said as much about the few-steps-ahead savvy of Obama's strategy as it did about his opponents being checkmated in ways they'd figure out later.
In last night's TRMS, Rachel took a look at the latest political opponent that the President has put in check. On Monday, he touted the essence of the bipartisan Empowering States to Innovate Act, which would allow states to come up with their own health reform solutions a full three years earlier than the Affordable Care Act. He did so before an audience of America's governors, many of them Republicans who oppose the federal health reforms he fought to make law. If they want to opt out, the President did everything but literally say "go for it":
If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does — without increasing the deficit — you can implement that plan. And we’ll work with you to do it. I’ve said before, I don’t believe that any single party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from.
This is like the scene in "The Social Network" in which Mark Zuckerberg tells the three guys claiming he stole the idea for Facebook away from them: "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook...you'd have invented Facebook." The same framework applies here. If Republican governors think they can do better, great. But why didn't they "do better" before now, or before health reform was passed?
As Rachel pointed out with guest Ezra Klein, if any of these Republican governors run for president in 2012, this essentially removes their ability to use health reform as a wedge issue. In the end, they have to offer some policy. If their initial reaction to the President's remarks is any indication, I wouldn't suggest holding your breath.
ONE MORE THING:
The President's challenge wasn't open only to Republican governors. The left is seizing upon this as a chance to advance more progressive health reforms in states like Vermont, where the new governor, Democrat Peter Shumlin, is putting forth an option many liberals favored during the national health care debate:
Vermont’s third option would be a single-payer system with a twist. The state would create an independent public board to oversee the health care system, and the board would contract out the administration of claims. The claims administrator could be either a public or a private entity. Private insurers could compete for this largely clerical work, as they have done for years to administer the Medicare program...
Vermont’s entire Congressional delegation — Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — supports Shumlin’s efforts and they have already begun the process of requesting a waiver.
Considering the President’s willingness to cut states some slack and the hundreds of waivers the government already has granted to insurers and corporations from various provisions of the law, they might just get the waiver they’re seeking.