Capuano Campaign Politics Fail

The monumental 24-hour flip-flop of the Capuano campaign on whether the Stupak-Pitts amendment is, or is not, a health care deal-breaker has to call into question the candidate’s ability to run an effective campaign and, by extension, his ability to be an effective Senator.

A campaign press release I received yesterday by email at 3:23 p.m.:

“When Martha Coakley said she would have voted against health care reform that meant that she opposes bringing health care to 36 million more Americans, that she doesn’t want to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, and that, despite her TV commercial saying the opposite, Martha Coakley doesn’t support the bill that created a strong public option.”

And then, Matt Viser today in the Globe, with David (who helped break this story) offering color commentary and many dozens of excellent comments:

“If the bill comes back the same way as it left the House, I would vote against it,” Capuano said in an interview. “I am a prochoice person, and I do believe this is [necessary] to provide health care for everyone.”

Capuano could have argued either way on the merits — an excellent debate — but to lambaste one’s opponent for a position on a central issue that one then adopts oneself within 24 hours smacks of desperation, incompetence, or both, sad to say (because Capuano has many good qualities). Score a big political point for the Coakley campaign (or, as esteemed commenter jconway suggests in the comments, Khazei … or Pagliuca … or, just about anyone other than Capuano).

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  1. Completely disagree-score for Khazei

    And I say this as someone who has clearly been on record to preferring Capuano to Coakley and Coakley to Khazei. But out of the three democrats in the primary race*, only Khazei has the right position that he would vote for healthcare reform regardless of Stupak and that he would fight for choice in another more productive way. In coming out against health care reform with these provisions Coakley really alienated herself from labor and natural Democratic constituencies that are more concerned with health care than abortion. She really under-estimated her base.

    Where Capuano was given the opportunity, as he put it manna from heaven, to deliver a stunning blow to her numbers, he ended up defending a valid vote, but doing so in a way the media perceived as a flip-flop making him and his campaign look indecisive. With these two dominating the airwaves it is bound to help Khazei, especially because so many progressives might not be turned off by the sniping and the feuding sure to follow the events of the past two days. If Khazei is smart, this gives him a clear opening.

    *Pagliuca is not a Democrat IMO, but that said he could help him too, and he has more money to burn on ads making fun of Coakley and Capuano for this sniping and asserting his third way position as well.  

    • OK, a score for Khazei and Pagliuca too :-)

      Suit yourself.

      I'm easy that way.

      My point is that this was a big fumble by the Capuano campaign.

      • Yes but an unfair one

        I think John Kerry had every right to say he voted for it because he voted against it, because with multiple revisions and multiple votes that is possible. I expected the Globe to put the flip flopper mantle on Capuano even if it is undeserved, I am a little disappointed you and David have.

        He was saying to vote against healthcare last week, as Coakley said she would have done, would have killed health care reform for good. He is saying it is likely the Stupak amendment will fail and if it doesn't he would likely vote against the final bill, which again is a vote that is highly unlikely, and if Coakley was in the house would not have happened because she would have voted against it.

        So to me it makes sense logically. Was it politically foolish for him to articulate it this way and open himself up to these charges-sure-but Coakley was far more foolish. Bernstein thinks it might cost her union support and it certainly leaves an opening for her opponents.  

        • Maybe, but that's not my point

          I'm not talking about the details of the legislative process. Maybe your conjectures about the D.C. chess game are correct, and maybe they are not. I agree they are a plausible potential scenario, but there are other possible explanations too.

          My point is that it is idiotic to drop a bomb on your opponent for a position that you yourself adopt 24 hours later. It makes folks question the stability of one's campaign operation, and one's political judgment, to put it mildly.

          • Exactly right - and particularly

            when one is pitching one's political savvy as the principal reason that one should be promoted to Senator.  Capuano may or may not be right on the merits, but he could hardly have found a worse way to make his point.

            • As a Capuano supporter

              I am in complete agreement with you here.  

              With so much ground to cover, he had finally gained a little bit of traction.  Now -- I don't know if he will be able to recover.  

          • I don't see it...

            You're accusing Capuano of adopting the pro-choice position AFTER he blasts Coakley, when he's been pro-choice all along. I have to agree with jconway, this is entirely about procedure, not about one candidate being more or less pro-choice than the other. This whole thing demonstrates (at least to me) that Capuano understands that without the Stupak Amendment on saturday, the entire push for health care would have been defeated, and also that it can't be allowed into the final bill. He's only pointing out that Martha Coakley got it dead wrong on procedure. Unfortunately, Bob is at least part right that this hurts Capuano is a sense, seeing as so few people understand the procedural workings of Congress, so if he really wants to make his case on this point, he's going to have to take a ton of time away from the actual campaigning to give everyone a lesson in procedure.

            • It's not just about $quot;procedure.$quot; It's about politics, and it's about winning.

              Do you remember what happened to John Kerry when he "voted for the $89 billion before he voted against it"?  I sure do.  And I really don't think it's accurate to claim (after the fact) that Capuano is "only pointing out that Martha Coakley got it dead wrong on procedure."  Lehigh today on the Globe's op-ed page:

              At a packed Monday event at the Park Plaza, the man we'll call Not-So-Open Mike pounced. Noting that Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act also had flaws when first "voted in," he declared: "One of our candidates has now said publicly and reaffirmed it that they would have voted no on the bill on Saturday. Now if that is the answer then every single member of the Massachusetts delegation, every single member of the New England delegation, every single pro-choice woman in Congress, every single pro-choice member of Congress, was wrong to have voted yes to move the health care bill forward."

              Although a review of the tape reveals that he never exactly said as much, from his rousing remarks about the bill, it was easy to come away with the impression that Capuano thought that the overall goal of health care expansion justified accepting the abortion restriction. (Did he simply mean that Social Security, Medicare, and Civil Rights were important enough to move from one branch of Congress to the other?)

              He was trying to make political hay out of Coakley's position.  Then, suddenly, events overtook him, and he ended up looking silly.  This was an enormous political blunder by Capuano, because the story now is not Coakley's position, it's Capuano's.  That's a disaster for him in a race like this.

          • idiotic to drop a bomb on your opponent

            "When Martha Coakley said she would have voted against health care reform"

            This campaign conflict was initiated by Coakley's criticism of Capuano's vote on HR3962. She wanted to highlight herself as reliably pro-choice and Capuano as unreliably pro-choice. The conflict proceeded from there.  

            He responded to her attack by correctly pointing out that his NO vote on Stupak and YES vote on HR3962 allowed the legislative process to proceed and that her criticism was unfounded because she failed to understand the legislative process, that moving it forward and fixing in the senate, is the right choice in that situaton.  

            Prior to the time Cap came back with an answer on a hypothetical - how he would vote on a bill coming out of committee w/ Stupak language - which took about 24 hours on a Tuesday while Congress was in session, he was defending his vote.  

            On campaign tactics Martha gets a win.  

            On policy and legislative experience it goes to Capuano.  

            • House vote not real progress, access above reform

              "'To pretend that now the House has passed this bill is real progress - it's at the expense of women's access to reproductive rights,' Coakley said in an interview, after making similar comments yesterday morning on Boston radio station WTKK-FM.

              "Coakley, in her boldest gamble of the campaign, said that fighting for women's access to abortions was more important than passing the overall bill, despite its aim of providing coverage for 36 million people, establishing a public insurance option, and prohibiting insurers from discriminating against patients with preexisting conditions. link

              By the way, gender issues is the ground on which Martha wants this campaign fought and won.  

              Coakley advocatee the repeal of the Hyde Amendment (Hardball, Sep.)  Would she join that battle now in the Senate as part of the debate on health care reform?  Given her statements above about the relative priority of HCR and women's access, one would think she would. Let's ask her.  

              • Re: Hyde

                By opposing even the Hyde Amendment Coakley is committing herself to voting against Health Care Reform even if the Stupak amendment is removed in committee, or watered down to remove the restrictions on insurance providers. That to me is the real story and it shows that she and Capuano have completely different priorities. Both are unwilling to sacrifice the right of poor women to get abortions, but one is willing to sacrifice federal funding of that right if it means we get healthcare reform, another is unwilling to make even that compromise. Coakley is demonstrating she will be an ideologue and not someone who will be able to make deals or swallow compromises and that really leads me to question her efficacy as a Senator.  

                • it's fair to say

                  That Coakley's opposition to the Hyde amendment might compel her to vote against HCR  becuase that's the position she's taken on Stupak but I really hope someone specifically asks her.  

                  We know her opposition to Stupak would keep her from passing the bill but we don't know if her opposition to Hyde would keep her from passing the bill although that would be consistent and both issues are abortion rights and she said she opposed Hyde.  

            • The mind-reading,

              I accepted already that Coakley implicitly criticized Capuano's position- but not personally or directly.  There was no condescension and arrogance. She was answering a question on how she would have voted.  

              Now you are stepping over the line by suggesting that this conflict was initiated by Coakley.  Prove that. She was asked how she would have voted and she answered honestly and directly because that is her belief.  

          • But thats false

            He and Coakley do not have the same position.

            If Coakley had been the House health care reform would be dead today.

            Coakley favored voting no on the FIRST ROUND of the HCR bill without even giving the Senate a chance, and according to most reports a pretty decent chance, of stripping the most obscene provisions from the final legislation. Mike is making a commitment, similar to Coakley's to have voted against the final bill if Stupak was not watered down. The thing is, Stupak will be watered down, whether it will be watered down to Coakleys anti-Hyde amendment satisfaction is another question, but it will likely reflect the current status quo on federal funding and restore the right of private insurers to fund abortions through the exchange. Again under Coakley that outcome is not even possible, under Capuano it is possible.

            You and David are confusing two separate vote pledges. Coakley said on air she would have voted against the first round, Capuano voted for it. They do however share the same position on the final bill, that is not a flip flop on Mikes part unless you can show me where he said he'd vote for the final bill even with Stupak.  

        • That isn't a fact

          It isn't fair to say that if Coakley voted against the amendment and threatening not to vote for the bill it would have failed.  It is also quite possible that there would have been further negotiations to bring it back to a still onerous but acceptable Hyde amendment status quo as promise.

          I bet everyone was so tired that they just said "let's vote for something so we can go get some sleep"   No one  has explained to me why there was this emergency session?  It was way too dramatic and not at all the way such a momentous bill, one that effects a huge part of our economy and future, should have been carefully crafted.

          Both Khazei and Pags have found little niches for themselves to steer clear of the major heat on this but if you read more than BMG you know that this is a huge national debate.  It wasn't just silly Martha going rouge.  She has an army of supporters nationally who agree with her stance and her courage to plainly state it-even if it threatened her front runner status.  

  2. Campaign Aside, Still Senatorial

    I get the part about the campaign bumbeling this one, but you have lost me on how this episode:

    "call(s) into question...his ability to be an effective Senator."

    I have posted something similar on a different post but feel I need to repeat this. His "yes" vote on the House bill on Saturday gave Congress a second chance at what all most all of us want - health care for all without the Stupak Amendment.

    Voting "no" on Saturday would have killed healthcare forever. Instead, because he voted "yes' Capuano is able to continue to fight to eliminate the Stupak Amendment before it leaves conference committee for a final vote.

    He harshly criticized Coakley because she said she would have voted "no" for the Saturday house vote. Which, again, would have killed the healthcare bill.

    Campaign season politics aside, that seems like exactly what I would want my Senator to do. Work to get the result we want, and criticize those who are hindering the achievement of that goal. His votes stand alongside the votes of many (maybe all, I'm not sure?) of the members of the Pro-Choice Caucus. And his position is the same as the one President Obama has pushed for.

    Don't get me wrong, it certainly could have been handled better by the campaign. However, IMO looking at his actions as a Congressman are far more important than looking his actions as a candidate on a campaign when trying to figure out what type of Senator he would be.  

    • That would be great if true

      Capuano issued a statement the next morning.  There was no mention of the amendment and his opposition to it.  He was bragging about the passage.  It wasn' t until Martha Coakley brought up the subject that it became an issue here. And forgive me, but looking at actions on the campaign trail is exactly the only way President Obama got elected.  Pretty sure most of us here voted for him.  He had no other real record except that and he's leader of the free world.   Seems to me Capuano supported him early on and his lack of real experience was a positive?  Hmmmmm, that's odd.

    • It's a different game in the Senate

      Leadership is the principle characteristic on the Senate side. It has to be when there's only 100 senators. In the House, motion occurs through compromise and coalitions, the only way to get much done with a body of 432.

      But don't for a second think that riding the coattails of coalition success in the House will get one far in the Senate.

      Capuano came out against a house bill with Stupak language only after 40 of his peers did so. That's not leadership in the House, it leaves his ability to lead in the Senate questionable.

      • And that's only if he shows up to vote in the first place

        The Herald bomb shell on Monday seems to be missing from any discussion. How does Mike Capuano explain his 10th from bottom -out of 432  to miss important votes?  Why is no one concerned about this?  

  3. At the ADTC meeting last night, sentiments among women were

    Running hot against Stupak-Pitts and warm to Coakley for standing up and calling out what a false choice this is.  I don't believe that there isn't a better compromise out there that doesn't throw women - and mind you, this isn't just poor women, it's anyone getting insurance through the Exchange - under the bus.  I think Pelosi got caught up in the moment and went for the vote before she should have.  If a few more of our so-called progressive friends like Capuano would have held out on Saturday, she would have known she didn't have the votes and would have kept negotiating.  I hate, but could have accepted applying the Hyde amendment.  I cannot accept that members of a particular religious group have been given the ability to deny coverage for a procedure they object to on religious grounds to people who are paying for that coverage themselves.  What's next?  No coverage for glbt people through the Exchange? No contraception?    

    • Just to clarify ...

      as I understand it, private insurance purchased through the exchange would not be subject to Stupak, unless the buyer is also receiving a federal subsidy.  If the buyer is paying the full freight, no effect.  Am I wrong?

      • i think you may be wrong

        but I know the language in Stupak is making it difficult for experienced legal legislative aids to answer this question.  

      • Stupak impact

        You are correct.  

        To be fair, the argument of pro-choice advocates is that private insurers will not offer insurance policies on the exchange for persons not receiving subsidies with abortion coverage because maintaining two plans will be an administrative headache and the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries will be getting some amount of subsidy.  

        Moreover, to take this one step further, it's conceivable that as private insurers migrate their individual plan offerings onto the exchange, they could drop abortion coverage from their current benefits.  Which is to say that this violates the sacrosanct (and asinine) promise of preserving the status quo of insurance coverage for all people, in all circumstances, even when it's not the government actually making changes and even if private insurers currently have the right to make the changes anyway.

        That being said, I think Stupak actually is a reasonable interpretation of Hyde, especially when you compare it to federal employees.  All plans in FEHB are barred from providing abortion coverage.  This is the case even though all federal employees contribute some portion of the premium amount.  You could argue that insurers should be able to segregate funds and provide abortion coverage with "private money" only, but that's not the policy that has been in place.

        • Here's a decent overview of Stupak

          1. From the LA Times

          2. Link to the full text of the Stupak Amendment.

          The meta-issue, of course, is that Stupak, Pitts et. al. introduced this amendment specifically to try to derail & delay Health Care Reform, weaken President Obama, and foment dissent among Democrats.

          Looking at the (relatively) narrow focus of this amendment raises deep suspicions that the Rep's who demanded it truly did not support the larger Health Care Reform bill. Are they seriously saying they would have voted to block life-saving health care to hundreds of thousands of Americans unless the minute potential for abortion funding under the proposed accounting requirements were changed to the Stupak Ban?

          • Wrong wrong and wrong

            Stupak has consistently voted in favor of health care reform, even universal single payer plans in the past. He wanted to vote for a health care reform bill that did not fund abortions and offend his moral compass and conscience. What he did, like it or not, was an act of political courage and conscience rarely seen in public discourse these days. In no way was Stupak, an early Obama supporter in Michigan, trying to weaken his own President.  

      • I don't have the language, but I think that is incorrect also...

        The commentators I've heard (particularly Rachel Maddow) indicate that the "public option" insurance plan, which would be self funded by policy holders and not with US tax dollars, would not be allowed to cover abortion services, like many private health insurances companies currently provide.  I've heard several knowledgeable experts/talking heads say the Stupak amendment is far more restrictive than the Hyde amendment.  And this is the essence of the argument.  When Obama and Dems said last summer that fed $ would not be used to fund abortions because of health care reform.  Their intent was to reluctantly live with the Hyde amendment and many pro-choice Congresscritters went along with that.  But the Stupak amendment is a bridge to far for pro choice advocates.  

        • Yes, yes, public option would be subject to Stupak.

          I'm talking about private plans purchased through the exchange.

          • I was reacting to the statement...

            "If the buyer is paying the full freight, no effect.  Am I wrong?"

            • No, but

              I didn't think there was any controversy that the public option would be covered by Stupak.  It would.  What I'm trying to figure out is how much further it goes, i.e., how far into people who buy insurance in the private market.  My understanding is that it would affect those in the private market whose income qualifies them to receive federal subsidies in order to comply with the mandate to have insurance, but not those who pay the entire premium on their own.

              • Here's a pretty good analysis ...

                ... of the effect of Stupak.  From the LA Times.

                I wouldn't want to derail a good health care reform bill (and I have no idea if the House bill is any good) because of this provision.  From the link:

                So why is the pro-life camp so enthusiastic about the amendment? Maybe they expect it to lead insurers to stop offering any kind of coverage for elective abortions through the exchange. That's what Planned Parenthood and its allies fear. These advocates complain that insurers wouldn't offer the supplemental coverage because there wouldn't be enough demand, given that abortions result from unplanned pregnancies. I'm not so sure about that -- no one plans to get sick or break a bone either, and yet everyone who buys health insurance wants to be covered for such things.

                The problem of availability of supplemental coverage seems easily fixed by requiring any insurance company that participates in the exchange to offer it (also states could impose a similar requirement on any company seeking to offer insurance).  It's hard to imagine that the supplemental coverage would cost very much.

                The linked article also suggests that only a relatively small percentage of elective abortions are currently covered by insurance.  I didn't think most current policies covered elective procedures generally, nor do I think they should as a matter of policy (assuming cost containment is a goal).

                • $quot;Do you want cheese with that$quot;

                • Agreed

                  The number of women actually affected by this amendment is relatively small, at least compared with the number of Americans, women in particular, that go without health insurance every year. It seems to me that if your goal was the greatest good for the greatest number, then Coakley's position is not only  bad politics but its immoral.  

    • reality or wishful thinking?

      If a few more of our so-called progressive friends like Capuano would have held out on Saturday, she would have known she didn't have the votes and would have kept negotiating.

      I asked on another thread:

      Do you happen to know something that gives credence to the argument that a better deal was possible, beyond just wanting it? I'm not asking to be argumentative - if there's some information missing from the discussion that shows it was indeed possible, I'd like to know.

      Because, if there is no evidence of another realistic outcome, this defense of Coakley is like a quarterback who misses the game-winning pass at the end of the game saying, "If the rest of the team has just played as hard as I did and scored more points earlier...". The situation was what it was, and if Coakley had been in the House, she would have to have decided how to vote on Saturday. That's the issue for me. I don't think her presence would have changed the situation - she would have had to cast a "yes" or "no" vote on the bill.

      • I had heard, but don't have a link at present

        That Stupak did not expect to get as much as he did, suggesting there was negotiating room.

        • He had enough

          My understanding is that on Friday, Pelosi attempted to have a procedural vote - one that would bring the legislation to the floor as is and allow for a vote. No amendments would be allowed.  Pelosi had the 218 for this vote, but then Stupak called her. He said that he had 40 Dems ready to vote against the bill if the leadership went ahead and had the procedural vote that would bring the bill to the floor and prohibit any amendments.  

          I don't think there were many other reasonable options than what happened.  

  4. Appearance versus reality

    On the issue, of how to vote when, the positions of Coakley and Capuano are barely distinguishable. (Aren't they? Am I missing something?)

    The story, however, is that Capuano reversed himself to make his stance like that of Coakley's.

    I'd say this is unfair, but for Bob's point (the main point of his diary I think) that Capuano invited it by his over-the-top attack. You can't have that and nuance ("voted against it before he voted for it and will vote against it again if he has to" sheesh!).

    Coakley's original statement was fuzzy on several points. Had Capuano waited, and been more measured, he might have eked out a rebuke that would have reinforced the "she doesn't know how things work in Congress" meme, to his advantage.

    I still like him better than the front runner, but this is where his bid faltered.

    • My point exactly

      This is a very poor political play by Capuano and his team. It would have been much smarter not to have criticized Coakley so harshly if they were going to adopt such a similar position to her.

  5. Gut-bucket politics

    I agree that Martha Coakley effectively found and pounced on a way to embarrass Mike Capuano. I agree that Mike Capuano fumbled this. It seems increasingly clear that Mike Capuano is much better at legislating than campaigning. I agree that the positions articulated by Alan Khazei most closely match mine.

    In my view, Martha Coakley pandered to the lowest instincts of her base and Massachusetts Democrats. Is it an effective campaign strategy? Perhaps. Will it change the outcome of either the December or the January primary? I doubt it, she already had a commanding lead in both.

    Does it offer insight into what we can expect from Senator Coakley? Sadly, yes it does.

    • Revisionist history of the last 48 hours...

      First, how did Martha find and "pounced on a way to embarrass Mike Capuano"?   She answered a question on a radio interview.  The smart move for her was to dance around the question, given her huge lead.  Maybe it was calculated to draw a stark contrast with Mike, that's about as far as Martha could have done.  The embarrassing part is on Capuano, who gave a knee jerk "manna from heaven" before thinking this think through.

      In terms of Martha pandering...if she suddenly became a champion for abortion rights, you'd have a point.  But she has been very strong in her commitment, stating that loud and clear in the only televised debate so far.  

      No, my take is Martha gave Capuano and others a differential--whether by mistake or by design, I don't know--and Cap (in your words) fumbled it.  

    • Better at legislating sure needs substantiation

      The only major piece of legislaton to Cap's credit is the OCE, and that came under fire as too weak.  

      • More practice anyway

        I for one am not looking for number of bills with his name on it.  One of Tip O'Neill's quips was that you could accomplish just about anything if you let someone else take the credit.  I haven't heard that he is a bad legislator so I stand by my he's-the-one-already-there argument.

        • He's the one there already

          works for the House- He has seniority and can help Massachusetts much more by staying there.  He has his friends like Pelosi but they will not come over to the Senate.  It's a whole different club.  He will still be the most junior of all Senators.  

          • i'll take Capuano's 11 years of experience in Washington

            over Coakley's 3 years in the state house.  

            If Martha runs for Congress in my district, I'll give her a fair look as I would her competition.  

    • Sorry but I can't buy this

      Martha Coakley has a long, long record on choice and it is public.  I know it's hard to believe but some folks actually do have a conscience and vote accordingly.  This is no minor issue.  Get out of this blog and see how the rest of the progressive world feels about this disgusting amendment.  The middle of the night emergency that was trumped up left house members exhausted and ready to do anything, even though no one probably read the bill.   It's the old canard, any bill is better than no bill.  Wrong on so many levels.  Throwing half the population under the bus even in theory is unacceptable.  Bob if you truly care about choice this is no pander, this is about civil rights.

      By the way, Martha didn't do anything except answer a question on what she would have done.  It was all negative pouncing by Caps & company.  Unless you can prove it with links those are the facts about his manna.

      • I worry about some of Coakley's principles

        I agree that Coakley has been outspoken and public on choice, and I admire that.  

        Many of her supporters keep talking about how this episode is evidence of her great commitment to her principles.  That may be true, but I find it hard to see how anything Capuano did betrayed his principles.  He is pro-choice and pro-health care reform.  He did everything necessary to ensure that both things work out.  (Also, he's playing the correct Washington game by moving things along and sending the right signals to the leadership to resolve a large problem with the bill.)

        Coakley, on the other hand, it seems would have taken a rather un-pragmatic approach and undermined her principles (while proclaiming she stuck to them).  

        My bigger worry is that she may act the same way on her other principles.  Her positions on things like drugs, prisoner civil rights, and the civil rights of the accused have been decidedly non-progressive positions.  I know these issues don't drive people to the polls, but they are still concerns.  

        I think Capuano made a big tactical campaign mistake here, but he is taking exactly the right position on the legislation. And on almost all issues, I think he has taken exactly the right approach. I can't say the same about Coakley.  

      • So?

        So does Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi -- two women far more familiar with the bill than Martha Coakley.

        It's one thing to claim that Coakley's pro-choice record is superior to Mike Capuano's.  It is verging on delusion to say that it is superior to that of each of the dozens of Democratic women who voted for the Stupak-ed bill.

        It's easy to be a hero when your opinion won't count.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
      • Again

        Considering that most insurance companies, in the status quo, don't fund elective abortions, and considering that most women who seek elective abortions either pay out of pocket or receive state based subsidies (unaffected by Stupak) how many women are we really talking about who are getting 'hurt' by this legislation? It seems to me that the house liberals gambled and tried to gut Hyde through the health care reform bill, and now that they have lost an attempt to establish a new provision, they are arguing that Stupak erodes 'existing rights'. Even David, someone far to the other side of me on the abortion question, agrees with me that Stupak isn't that far reaching, won't have the impact NARAL fears it will, and basically re-codifies the Hyde Amendment, something David, Joe Biden, and a lot of pro-choice progressives support, as the law of the land. I really don't see why we should throw 36 million men and women under the bus for the sake of creating a service that a) is politically unfeasible and b) even if it was feasible would only affect a few hundred thousand people at the most.  

  6. Aye yay yay....

    Is this Blue Mass Group or Daily Kos?  

    Desperation?  Incompetence?    This is the sort of histrionic appeal one usually finds on the right-hand side of Kos's front page--with a few hundred, um, "recommends" to boot.

    Seems to me we have a boatload of people overreacting and overanalyzing.  Was Capuano inartful?  Yes.  Incompetent?  Please.  He'd make a terrible senator over this?  Are you for real?

    And this:

    ...has to call into question the candidate's ability to run an effective campaign and, by extension, his ability to be an effective Senator.

    is just plain silly.  Unless Capuano has been an ineffective congressman, there is no evidence whatsoever that he couldn't function effectively as a U.S. senator.  

    We're blessed to have four elementally fine candidates running for this seat, and as Democrats we are fairly lucky to have candidates who represent the nuance of the party.  You do no one a service with this sort of over-the-top extrapolation.  Whatever happened to a reality-based community?  Good grief.  

    Although primary seasons are always difficult around here--as they should be--this is one suitable for autopsy.    What this race lacks in overt anger and outright hostility, however, it makes up for in poor critical thinking and facile deductions.  I'll be happy when it's over as I'm hopeful the weirdness will resolve, and we can refocus on what's important:  providing health insurance access to millions of people who do not have it and preventing the deaths of thousands who might have been saved.    

    • Actually,

      I think both nouns are fair game, if strongly stated.

      Desperation: it's been obvious for days if not weeks that Capuano has been looking very, very hard for something he can use to clobber Coakley.  He knows he's behind, and he has to do something to shake up the race (hence the classic non-front-runner's cry for "weekly televised debates"), otherwise the buzzer will sound before he gets anywhere.  Then came Coakley's comment on the radio about voting "no" on the health care bill -- and Capuano pounced.  Actually, "pounced" is maybe too weak a word.  "Manna from heaven"??  Boy, was that one a mistake.  "Desperation" might be a bit strong, but only a bit.

      Incompetence: I think that is entirely fair.  The way he played this was far worse than "inartful."  Here's Lehigh on today's Globe op-ed page:

      At a packed Monday event at the Park Plaza, the man we'll call Not-So-Open Mike pounced. Noting that Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act also had flaws when first "voted in," he declared: "One of our candidates has now said publicly and reaffirmed it that they would have voted no on the bill on Saturday. Now if that is the answer then every single member of the Massachusetts delegation, every single member of the New England delegation, every single pro-choice woman in Congress, every single pro-choice member of Congress, was wrong to have voted yes to move the health care bill forward."

      Although a review of the tape reveals that he never exactly said as much, from his rousing remarks about the bill, it was easy to come away with the impression that Capuano thought that the overall goal of health care expansion justified accepting the abortion restriction. (Did he simply mean that Social Security, Medicare, and Civil Rights were important enough to move from one branch of Congress to the other?)

      I wasn't there, but it sure sounds like Capuano was pushing a position rather at odds with the one he took the following day -- a position that Lehigh pronounced himself "flabbergasted" to learn.  And so now, as I said on another thread, the story is no longer Coakley's position, it's Capuano's, and people can debate endlessly over whether he "flip-flopped."  That is absolutely the worst possible outcome for Capuano in an abbreviated race like this one.  As a legislative, inside-baseball matter, Capuano's approach may or may not be entirely correct; as a political, trying-to-win-an-election matter, I think "incompetent" is about right.

      • I agree on the campaign politics

        It was a big error.  

        Extrapolating this to imply that Capuano will be a bad Senator makes no sense, though. His experience and skills as a legislator are such clear predictors of his ability to be an effective Senator. I think he's shown those skills, even on this issue.  

        Campaigning skills and ability to perform the job are very different things.    

        Deval Patrick ran a great campaign.  Has he been a great governor?

        • They are different, but related.

          First of all, to be a good Senator, you have to win elections.  I think Capuano would probably beat Scott Brown, but what if the GOP had a real candidate running?  

          Second, to be a good Senator, you have to be able to effectively explain what you're doing and why you're doing it to your constituents.  That's not all that different from campaigning.  Your point about Deval is well taken in that he has for some reason not been able to use his considerable communicative skills to terribly good effect once in office.  But that doesn't mean he'd be better off without those skills.

          • winning elections and great communicators

            Both candidates have won multiple elections, Coakley won elections as DA and AG. Capuano won was councilmen, Mayor and 6 times Congressmen.

            To be a good Senator, you have to be able to effectively explain what you're doing and why you're doing it to your constituents.

            Coakley says that there is no progress in passing the health care reform bill out of the house with Stupak attached.

            Do you agree? I don't but I do agree how saying this has accrued to the benefit of her campaign.  She has supporters and undecideds believing she is more pro-choice than Capuano.  Is that true?  

            Regarding communications skills.  Coakley is excellent when she is on the offensive, not so good on the hot spot and average day to day becuase she's inclined to go about her business as if its her business and not ours.  

            • Thank you.

              I find this whole extrapolation bizarre given the fact that Capuano has won repeated reelection and has been an effective congressman.  What I sense on behalf of the editors is a preference for Coakley--and that's just fine--but at least be up front about it.  Anyone who's been watching politics as long as they have should know the problematic nature of conflating a singular campaign blunder in the context of a career replete with repeated electoral victories and success as a legilature with incompetence and ineffectiveness in a similar legislative roll.  Capuano may well have dealt himself a fatal blow giventhe tone-deaf manner in which he crowed, but the inability and unwillingness of the political establishment and media to tease out the nuance of the actual position doesn't help.  The reductive and simplistic commentary being applied here is lame, imho.

              • imho2

                the inability and unwillingness of the political establishment and media to tease out the nuance of the actual position doesn't help.  The reductive and simplistic commentary being applied here is lame, imho.

                Of all places, here, the allegedly most sophisticated and savvy political analysts.

                Coakley's campaign accuses Capuano of "reversal" talking about two different votes - house vote, conference vote - the press runs with the "reversal" angle and savvy political analysts at BMG go for it.    

                Credit Coakley for a campaign win. Discredit the press as usual and BMG for running with the horse race angle instead of substance.  

              • on politics

                Politics, at its best, is about conflict over ideas.  At its worst, it degenerates into a popularity contest or some proxy for cultural identity.  

                Until now, this race was utterly devoid of policy conflict.  The "debate" featured not one substantive difference between the candidates.  I think Pags prefaced every answer with "I agree with Mike...", leading me to question why he didn't drop out and endorse him.

                So I think for a lot of people -- the media (e.g., Scot Lehigh), BMG editors, political junkies figuring out who to vote for -- this initial dispute was "manna from heaven."  Finally, something substantive to look at!  If anything, I would say BMG editors and the media generally were showing a preference against Coakley at the outset of this episode, seeing her putative opposition to the House bill as grandstanding and pandering.  It was only when he reversed course that he became the subject of derision.

                • reversed course

                  "It was only when he reversed course that he became the subject of derision."

                  Voting YES on HR3962 and NO on Stupak Saturday, then saying you would vote NO on a conference bill with Stupak is not a reversal, it is a choice about moving the legislation forward with the expectation it would be fixed in the Senate or conference and committing to reject Stupak as a final condition.  

                  Show me a substantive reversal, as opposed to an apparent reversal, and I'll concede that you are right.  

                  This is a campaign trail victory for Coakley and it does matter but it is not based on a substantive change in her opponent's position.  

                  • Shrewdly ...

                    He failed to mention his intention to vote against the final bill if it contained the Stupak amendment when proclaimed his "manna from heaven".  

                    Or maybe he just hadn't thought it through yet.  

                    Either way, the 99.9% of the voting public that doesn't pay as close attention to this stuff as BMGers do will see this as a reversal.  So even though he didn't flip flop and he got it right, he's managed to turn this into a disaster for his campaign.  Brilliant maneuvering, that.

                  • oh come on

                    If she's not going to vote for any bill that's not perfect, she wouldn't vote for any bill in history, Capuano added. She would have voted against Medicare, the civil rights bill. Every advancement this country has made has been based on bills that had flaws in them ... Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.

                    So when he was talking about the Social Security Act and Medicare Act, what he was saying is that he would have voted to pass the less-than-perfect bill out of the House but opposed final passage (i.e., the conference committee report)???

      • And the fact that he's missed so many votes in the House

        That should be a real campaign issue: Michael Capuano ranks 10th in Congress for skipping votes

        Doesn't showing up for important votes matter when judging competence?

        • Don't be silly.

          Most of those votes were not on important legislation at all.  He also never skipped a vote in which he was needed.  

          Most importantly, however, is that he only skipped a significant number of votes THIS year.  In years past and over his total stint in Congress, he has been present more often than most.  

          Here's some real statistics

          He's at better than 96%.

      • did you still feel this way

        having learned Coakley did in fact say she'd vote against the house bill and knowing she blames someone else for not telling her the strategic play to move the  bill forward, and for refusing to answer the hypothetical question about a vote in the Senate with Stupak attached?  

    • I call 'em as I see 'em

      Personally, I haven't decided who to support in this election. I can see strengths and weaknesses for all four candidates.

      I used the word "desperation" because I think these are desperate times for the Capuano campaign. And I write that with enormous respect for the candidate. The Congressman is way down in the polls and the differential in his numbers compared to Coakley hasn't ever even approached the margin of error. That's a desperate situation, campaign-wise, with only a few weeks to go until the vote.

      I used the word "incompetent" because I think that's what it was to flame the Attorney General for saying she would vote No on a health care reform bill that contained the Stupak amendment and then, one day later, say that, well, the Congressman also would vote No should that be the final bill. I understand the procedural points above, and think they are very well made as a matter of theory, but as a matter of practical politics this was not well done. I think this has to raise some questions about how Rep. Capuano would perform as a Senator. Personally, I think he probably would be a good Senator, based on current evidence (we are indeed blessed in many ways, as you write), but I am less sure about that -- i.e., I have more questions -- than before the go-around on this issue.

      As to the tone of the post, note my observation "(because Capuano has many good qualities)." Nuance like that is hardly the norm for the Kos diaries you describe.

    • Huzzah!

      You and I have been at odds over the years over many issues, in fact I am sure we have different positions on the Stupak amendment itself on its merits, yet I am completely overwhelmed by the sheer lunacy of Bean in the Burbs, Menemsha, and others over Capuano's pragmatic move. To me, I am happy this fissure occurred since it vindicates Capuano supporters who have known all along that he is far more experienced and level headed than Martha Coakley and understands the nuances of the issues, and of Washington procedure, much more effectively. We just lost Ted Kennedy, frankly a Senator that had the experience and the effectiveness of five regular Senators. He is irreplaceable. But who do we want to fight for us in January? Two completely inexperienced politically neophytes who will be overwhelmed on day one? An ideologue who values ideology over compromise, litmus tests over pragmatism, and at the end of the day grandstanding over efficacy? I am sorry but there is no way John Kerry can rise to the occasion and take Ted's place and influence within our state, we need a fighter who also knows when to cut a deal. The only candidate with that experience is Capuano. Lightiris and I have had intense disagreements in the past, and we come from different spectrums of the party, but at the end of the day we both like Mike and its because we both know he will get the job done right. We can't say the same about the other candidates.

      • Huzzah indeed

        I am particularly impressed by this comment from lightiris.

        Lord knows she and I have gone toe-to-toe in this blog. In my view, she nailed it with this comment in a way that nobody else has. I particularly like this excerpt (emphasis mine):

        I'll be happy when it's over as I'm hopeful the weirdness will resolve, and we can refocus on what's important:  providing health insurance access to millions of people who do not have it and preventing the deaths of thousands who might have been saved.

        Congratulations, kudos, and thank you lightiris.

  7. Hey, WBUR

    We don't all drive to work. People have mentioned WBUR stories, and I can find them but not listen to them. Please add listen links.

    I have to at least look like I'm working. :-!

    • Agreed!

      WBUR's new website is great, but its lame practice of not posting audio (and sometimes not even posting stories) is terrible.  Where is the interview with Alan Khazei from a couple of days ago??

  8. Agreed: the optics suck

    Even though Capuano's stance makes health care reform more likely to happen, the optics suck.  The media, always eager to talk down to the electorate, will describe this as a flip-flop, the same way that Bill Belicheck flip-flops by switching between running plays and passing plays over the course of a drive.

    The Boston Globe and Herald are eagerly out of the gate in their quest to simplify the process to the American people.  The extent to which rival campaigns take a page from the Dubya playbook (Kerry: voted for it then against it) and exploit voters' misunderstandings about the legislative process remain to be seen.  Capuano either overestimated his rivals, the media, and the electorate -- or forgot who they were.

    Unless he can easily simplify things at the next debate, this may well stick it for Capuano.  You don't launch an attack in chess without knowing endgame, and that's exactly what he did here.  Down several points at the end of a campaign, you want the focus to be on the front-runner, not you.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Gotta agree

      Though I am disappointed the 'reality based community' failed at being better journalists than the MSM, Bob in particularly, for rehashing Coakley and frankly Dubya campaign talking points as facts. It is simply false to say he flip flopped to her position, that is a blatant falsehood and it is irresponsible journalism to make that statement. It might be good advocacy, and I remember that your PAC has money and influence to doll out (and possibly a kiss of death as well) but also remember that facts matter, and if you want to make the argument that blogs produce better journalistic output than papers it is hard to make that when you buy into the bad MSM talking points we turn to blogs like this one to get away from in the first place. The phrase 'flip flopper' should frankly be stricken from any serious coverage of politics.  

      • BMG Bob and Dave fail

        I asked Dave if he would present a frontpage post, a reassessment of this whole contretemps, now that all the facts are in.  He made a quip about the fairness doctrine but I think he realizes that he and Bob owe the readers at least an update or correction or reassessment since they both have been unreasonable critical of the Capuano Campaign, specifically their savvy and execution.  

        • Who's $quot;Dave$quot;?

          As for what we "realize" that we owe the readers, it surely is not based on this:

          since they both have been unreasonable critical of the Capuano Campaign, specifically their savvy and execution

          No, absolutely not.  I think Capuano voted the right way on Saturday night.  But I absolutely stand by my view that Capuano could hardly have played his hand any worse on this issue, and that he turned what could have been a big political win for him into a liability.  Because he has to repeatedly explain his position, he is on the defensive, and he therefore cannot possibly expect to cut into Coakley's lead.

          • assuming the narrative is set in stone - it is if you fail to take new facts into account

            And so now, as I said on another thread, the story is no longer Coakley's position, it's Capuano's, and people can debate endlessly over whether he "flip-flopped."  That is absolutely the worst possible outcome for Capuano in an abbreviated race like this one.
          • Gotta agree with that but

            I agree with you David thats its bad politics, but Bob claims that Coakley and Capuano have the exact same position which is a blatant falsehood. Cap explaining his consistent stance for HCR+Stupak in the first round but against HCR+Stupak in the final round makes sense. It is not a flip flop to Coakley's position who voted NO all the way through. And Bob should make a correction, if he still considers himself a journalist first and an advocate second.

            Terrible politics definitely but it should not beget terrible journalism as well.

  9. My questions in the wake of the stupendous Stupak pyrotechnics

    Why would Martha Coakley claim Mike Capuano came around to her position?

    Had he not just voted for the bill on Saturday evening that Coakley said she would NEVER support?

    Why would Mike Capuano ever think of muddying his message with statements related to the sausage-making world that is DC?

    If Capuano's message is "I am the only guy who is prepared to make bold choices we need to make in the Senate," why would he waddle into the same legislative swamp that dragged John Kerry down in 2004 (the I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it issue)?

    Why is Steve Pags the only candidate who is using Coakley's Monday misstep to his advantage? Does Pags have the best campaign discipline?

    What can Capuano do now to cut down a presumptive 20 point poll lead for Coakley  (and the subsequent media it's-all-over-rhetocic) after creating the public perception that he is a waffler despite all the evidence to the contrary?

    On an unrelated note, while I personally believe polls matter far less in this highly unusual campaign cycle than field organizations and identifying/securing super voters, how will Capuano's and Coakley's rhetorical gyrations of the past two days affect their 'base' voters?

  10. What are our current Senators going to do about the Stupak amendment?

    Has anyone asked them?  

  11. Capuano is right

    I think what this shows is the difference we already knew: Capuano is already an experienced member of Congress who knows how to work in that system, while Coakley is a cipher who has to be very very clear about her positions because she's basically asking us to just trust her - she has no record.

    Capuano is firmly with the House pro-choice caucus on what seems to be the best strategy:

    1. Vote against Stupak amendment, but for passage of the House bill 2. Threaten to sink the conference bill if it comes back with Stupak language 3. thus pressuring the Senate to send back a bill w/o Stupak language, which the Senate is already probably inclined to do, 4. and making it clear to the conference committee that keeping Stupak out of the bill would be the safer course to final passage.

    What Coakley called for - voting against the House bill this Saturday - would've likely killed the whole process for this year.  It was a very close vote, and if only three Reps had flipped from Y to N it would've failed.  That would have prevented the most favorable outcome: a health care bill with a public option and without Stupak.  That's what the House pro-choice caucus wants, it's what their strategy is designed for, and it's still a good possibility.  The Coakley strategy was too stark, and could have led to only one outcome: No decent health care reform.

    Campaign-wise, Coakley may have done better, because her stance was clearer to people who aren't necessarily paying a lot of attention.  But in terms of actually working effectively in the Congress, Capuano has shown that, as we already knew, he can do it.

    What this shows up is Coakley's current inexperience.

    • Maybe

      What this shows up is Coakley's current inexperience.

      Or maybe it shows her savvy -- she can make a claim which is good campaign fodder but suboptimal strategy, win an election, and then revert to optimal strategy.  Nobody will remember anyway.  Win-win.

      • Savvy or cynicism?

        I prefer see this as inexperienced (because that is readily solved) then intentional because for me the latter is far more cynical and therefore, in my view, negative.

        I would like to support her. I wish she she would make it easier for me.

      • I don't know

        Frankly I am so cynical at this point that I would forgive Coakley for using this as a way to insert gender into the campaign and create artificial distinctions with her opponents. Yet she said it bluntly, that she thinks protecting abortion rights is more important than health care reform. Now that might make same progressives happy, and I would even argue its her principled stance, but a wrong one all the same. Its certainly not shrewd strategy though, I can think of few other issues where Democrats are so united in their support, where frankly this is the BIG issue that determines why you are a Democrat. To me one cannot be a Democrat and oppose health care reform, I can't say the same thing about abortion or any other social issue for that matter. This is the one issue that made me a liberal in the first place, and still, allows me to call myself a liberal today. The Democratic party was founded as the party of economic populism and economic justice, it has undergone many contortions over the years but those have remained its consistent values. I am really starting to wonder that social, rather than economic polarization, is going to determine party politics this century. That would not only be destructive and lead to little legislative progress on actual issues, but it would make me sad to be a Democrat when an issue that people seriously disagree on like abortion becomes our standard to bear while real health care reform is relegated to the ash heap of history.  

    • I'm so tired of this line

      Here's Capuano,

      If she's not going to vote for any bill that's not perfect, she wouldn't vote for any bill in history, Capuano added. She would have voted against Medicare, the civil rights bill. Every advancement this country has made has been based on bills that had flaws in them ... Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.

      There's nothing in this quote, or anywhere else in the Globe article that gets to the procedural issue.  He had the opportunity to talk about reconciliation and he didn't.  The comparison to Medicare, Social Security and the Civil Rights Bill make it very clear that his criticism is of her letting a single issue hijack an important piece of legislation, not a lack of understanding of legislative strategy.

      If his strategy all along was to let the amendment die in reconciliation, which is what all the parliamentarian experts on this board insist, why did he not mention this during the interview with the Globe?  

      To read this whole mess as being solely and exclusively about the vote on Saturday night is manufacturing history, he was talking about the final bill on Monday morning, if he wasn't, he would have said the words "final bill" - he didn't.  He's a realist and understands that every advancement this country has made has been based on bills that had flaws in them...  Which is why he said,

      ...while he, too, supports abortion rights, gaining universal health care was a more far-reaching goal.

      "Am I supposed to turn to all the people who need health care and say, 'Forget it; the bill's not perfect?' '' Capuano said.

      Once again, is he being misquoted?  If Capuano was one of the architects on the strategy you outline above, how could Nikki Tsongis have signed onto the letter vowing to vote against the final bill at the time of the Globe article, before Capuano?  Why didn't he come out and say he would sign on during his interview?  

      Your implication that Coakley isn't "experienced" enough to succeed in the legislature requires that she understands how legislation works at a less than School House Rocks level.    

      • it is inexperience

        Like the rest of the pro-choice caucus, including Slaughter and DeGette, I'm pretty sure that Capuano's first reaction on Saturday was "this sucks, but we need to keep the bill alive, and we'll figure out the best strategy to kill the Stupak amendment later" and hence he voted yes.  That strategy was put together over the next few days, and it's perfectly understandable that he didn't explain it right away.  When I called his office on Monday about the Stupak amendment, what they told me was that Capuano's people were in frantic consultation with the rest of the pro-choice caucus, and they'd have word within a day or two about what he was going to do.

        That instinct: Vote yes so as not to kill the bill, knowing that there were more steps in the process, and give yourself and your allies a chance to come up with a strategy - that was the right thing to do.

        Coakley's immediate "I'd vote no" definitely showed inexperience.

        That does not mean 'that Coakley isn't "experienced" enough to succeed in the legislature' because she might learn once she gets there.

        But in the meantime, everyone was trying to make this into a big difference on a substantive issue between these two candidates, and it just wasn't, in any way.  All it was was the difference between someone who already knows who to work in the legislative process, and someone who doesn't yet know.

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