You’ll be glad to know the little bilge-spewing tantrum Chuck Grassley threw on Wednesday isn’t going to come between him and President Obama.
Questioned about the incident yesterday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs allowed himself a mild dig at Grassley but made it very clear that Grassley’s comments didn’t jeopardize what the White House is still pleased to call the bipartisanship being exhibited over healthcare reform:
Q Speaking of the Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley was at a town hall yesterday and brought up the issue of living wills. Has the White House reached out to him and –
MR. GIBBS: Not that — I don’t –
Q — asked him why he chose to do this? Is this — does his comments at all jeopardize — in your mind jeopardize the bipartisanship that is — you’re trying to –
MR. GIBBS: No, again, I — well –
Q Did you see his comments?
MR. GIBBS: I watched your newscast.
Q And what is your reaction to those comments?
MR. GIBBS: I would have him talk to Senator Murkowski, who said, just in case you didn’t — I didn’t see it; it wasn’t on your newscast — but “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there is these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t in the bill. There’s no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.” That I think would be my — I’d paraphrase that response.
Q And that’s what you’d want to say to Senator Grassley?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I mean, I think, again, that’s what Senator Murkowski said –
Q But in your mind this doesn’t jeopardize the bipartisanship right now?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think we’re continuing to — obviously the President is continuing to talk to lawmakers and hope that the Finance Committee can come to some agreement.
Q Robert, I want to follow up on what Chuck was asking about Senator Grassley, because — so he’s the top senator on the Senate Finance Committee. The President has talked to him. The President wants a bipartisan bill. And yet, Senator Grassley came out and said no public plan option, no way, no how. He won’t vote for a bill on it. And yesterday, he had a chance to clarify this death penalty thing, and instead he jumped on it and said people have a right –
MR. GIBBS: Death panel.
Q Death panel, sorry. That people have a right to be — the right to be afraid of it? So I mean, do you really — can you still count seriously Chuck Grassley as an ally in getting your health care bill passed?
MR. GIBBS: I still think there is the possibility of getting bipartisan agreement through the Finance Committee in order to make progress on a piece of legislation that can pass the Senate, yes.
Q With Senator Grassley’s support in particular?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Senator Grassley, Senator Enzi, Senator Snowe are obviously the three Republican senators that are involved in this. We again will hope to quell the misconceptions that are apparently held even by some in the Senate about what the bill is and what the bill isn’t. But we’ll continue to hope that they can make progress. Now, whether or not it happens, you know, I don’t know.
Q He just seems to be playing “rope a dope” with the White House, leading you along and then slamming you down.
MR. GIBBS: Well, we’ll — I guess we’ll see about that.
What exactly does Grassley need to do before the White House reluctantly accepts that he isn’t actually trying to come to any meaningful agreement, that he isn’t actually negotiating, and that he has no intention of actually voting for the bill that Baucus is bending over backwards to water down to his taste?
I don’t know about you, but I get the distinct impression that the White House will be professing undying love for and undying faith in Grassley right up to the point where he’s taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies for holding up a sign reading “Death To Obama, Death to Michelle and and her two stupid kids!”