An Empty 'Republican Trophy Case' for Obama Care

The overexcitable reporter David Herszenhorn is still seeing Obama triumphs on health care, including a purported "Republican chorus for health care" that's actually sounding some pretty flat notes.

Prospects for Obama-care just keep getting better and better. At least they are in the rather over-excitable world of Times health reporter David Herszenhorn. After Obama's address to Congress last month he confidently proclaimed the speech to be a "clear turning-point in the health care debate."

And then nothing continued to happen.

Yet Herszenhorn remains undaunted. On Tuesday morning he posted this story on the "Prescriptions" blog, "Obama Adds Schwarzenegger to His Republican Chorus for Health Care." The original headline, judging by the title of the URL, was even more triumphant: "Obama Adds Schwarzenegger to His Republican Trophy Case."

It's a follow-up to his Tuesday print-edition story on the same theme, co-written with Carl Hulse, on supposed "support" for Obama's overhaul among Republicans outside Congress, like former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Democrat turned Republican turned Independent Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

But it doesn't add up to much. Read both stories carefully and you'll notice that none of the Republicans actually endorse a particular bill, not even the least-radical one out of Sen. Max Baucus's committee. The "support" from liberal Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger of California and Mayor Mike (not actually a Republican) Bloomberg of NYC is particularly mealy-mouthed.

From Herszenhorn's Tuesday online story:

The White House has landed another big Republican voice in support of sweeping health care legislation: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. With the health care legislation headed for debate on the floors of both chambers of Congress, the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to win support from Republicans away from Capitol Hall, where G.O.P. lawmakers are overwhelmingly opposed to the legislation. In his statement, Mr. Schwarzenegger did not endorse any specific version of the legislation. But he noted his own efforts at improving the health care system in California and urged bipartisan cooperation at the national level.

And as of Tuesday morning, former Sen. Frist was walking back his support for Obama-style health reform. From the Talking Points Memo blog:

Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seems to be gradually walking back comments he made to Time that he'd support the Baucus health care reform bill if he were still in the Senate.

On MSNBC this morning, Frist - who's a doctor with a new book out - said the "Obama bill" is "not quite there" and doesn't do enough to "reorient our system around value, around outcomes, around performance.""There's a little bit in there, but not nearly enough," Frist said.