Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank celebrated the anniversary of the passage of President Obama’s controversial health care law with a piece extolling the virtues of one its most ardent defenders: Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner has a well-earned reputation of being one of the most obnoxious members of the House of Representatives but since Milbank likes Weiner’s politics, he describes him as a “Brooklyn-born streetfighter” rather than a lout and a bully as he would be called if he were a Tea Party favorite (though its likely that the only fisticuffs the politician has ever engaged in were while playing hockey and not on the mean streets of the borough of Brooklyn).
But Milbank’s point is that he thinks more Democrats should be like the liberal Weiner: unapologetic defenders of Obamacare. The columnist thinks too many Democrats are playing by “Marquess of Queensberry rules” when it comes to fighting the attempts by the Republican majority to roll bank the unpopular measure. Though he claims that Weiner has been admirable in answering the bill’s critics head on, all he can muster is what even Milbank admits is “the sort of rhetoric used to wage an argument in a schoolyard.” Which is to say, they are merely rants in which all opposition is dismissed and delegitimized. Weiner’s speeches on the subject are exactly the sort of uncivil speech that liberals have spoken of as the sole preserve of the political right.
The Post writer admits that it is easy for Weiner to get away with his extremist positions since he represents an area in which Republicans barely exist rather than a competitive district where such behavior would mean certain defeat. But Weiner’s unapolegetic liberalism has to be comforting to those on the left who have seen the tide turn in the last year and understand that theirs is a position that most Americans do not support.
Yet Milbank’s bouquet for Weiner’s adamant support for Obamacare turned out to be ill-timed. The same day the Post ran his column, Weiner was quoted in an interview published in Politico as saying that he believes his home town should join the long line of states and municipalities begging for a waiver that would exempt them from the law. Weiner, who hopes to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, said, “maybe New York City can come up with a better plan.”
While Weiner spent the anniversary of Obamacare trying to “debunk Republican myths” about the bill, his call for a waiver for New York reinforces the notion that no one really likes the result of the messy negotiations that led to its passage. Though Weiner lamely claimed that the waiver process shows how flexible Obamacare is, the public who must pay for this boondoggle has a right to ask: if it isn’t good enough for even hyper-liberal New York, then who does Weiner think it is good for? If even its greatest defender is running for the exit, then perhaps it really is doomed.