Republicans' decision to make the public option the focus of their efforts to defeat President Obama's health care plan may look like sound political strategy from afar but it runs the risk of distracting voters from arguments against the proposal based on more GOP-friendly issues like taxes and spending.What puzzled me was that I've been following this thing pretty closely, and it didn't seem to me that Republicans have made the public option "the focus of their efforts" to beat health care reform. Liberals have put the public option front-and-center, yes, but Republicans? Well, they oppose it, but they also oppose Medicare "cuts," and death panels, and there's an anti-abortion strain, and they also oppose individual and employer mandates, and spending...well, if anything, Republican opposition, in my view, suffers from being not specific enough.
And then, as I was reading Steve Benen's account of John Boehner's attacks on the House bill, I understood it: Cillizza, and perhaps others, are mistaking GOP attacks on a "government takeover" with specific attacks on the public option. That's not what Boehner is saying! For conservatives, any national health care legislation would be a "government takeover." Individual mandates would be a "government takeover." So would employer mandates.
(Similarly, cap-and-trade, a climate policy embraced by Democrats in part to avoid charges of tax-and-spend that they thought would be the result of a carbon tax, has become tax-and-trade to Republicans. The best one along those lines, and I'm afraid I don't have a citation at hand, is that any new spending can be called a "tax increase," since by Republican logic any increase in spending must be paid for eventually with new taxes, even though, of course, Republicans did no such thing when they increased spending. And, of course, by that logic any tax cut is actually a (future) tax increase).
I'm absolutely certain that Boehner would still be talking about a "government takeover" even if there was no public option at all, not even Conrad co-ops, in the House bill.