Mike Lux, a veteran of the Clinton health care wars, pointed out today that Obama is using as a surrogate on health care Bush Dog Democrat Jim Cooper. Cooper spent a good amount of time in 1993-1994 working to undermine Clinton's health care plan by offering more insurance friendly proposals with former Senator and current lobbyist John Breaux. Breaux, an architect of Bush's tax cuts as a Democratic Senator, was the only Democrat on the comp list at Jack Abramoff's restaurant, Signatures. That Obama is using Cooper as a surrogate means that he is sending a signal to Capitol Hill and the business community that he will take their concerns into account when formulating his plan, and that he's not going to repeat Clinton's experience in 1993-1994. It could be a really bad sign, but it might actually be the right strategy on health care, considering the enormous amount of organizing being done outside of the Presidential contest - let health care reform come to the President, rather than driving it from the White House. The next President is going to be whacked with a series of economic and foreign policy crises, and I'm not sure where health care fits in.
So I'm left wondering and reading the tea leaves about what his priorities might be as President. If I had to guess, I'd pick global warming.
Obama said he would not wait until January 2009, when the new president takes office, to get started.
"The moment I secure the nomination, I want to bring together experts in this area to start putting together the U.S. position ... what we're going to be doing internally, what we can agree to with other countries," he said.
There's been a huge amount of youth organizing around global warming, so this problem fits into Obama's overall demographic base. It's also something of a creative class originated issue, coming first from the scientific/academic world and now being driven into the mainstream by scientists and young people. Health care as an issue, by contrast, was the one piece of the New Deal that FDR never completed.
Obama as President will probably be driven a lot more by outside organizing pressure than Clinton or McCain, so his priorities are somewhat up for grabs. If I had to guess, I'd say he's probably going to move quickly on climate change, media reform, corruption, energy, and transparency in government.
On economics and foreign policy, I'm less sure, since there's been less organizing around those two topics.
And on health care, Obama is giving signal that it is not an issue of much personal interest, but SEIU, the AMA, and the AFL-CIO are putting enormous resources into organizing around it, so it might just be unavoidable.