One more, and I think I’m done. Peggy Noonan, not a hyper-partisan to the say the least, writes a devastatingly clear-headed review of Obama’s political failings with respect to health care legislation:
In terms of policy, his essential mistake was to choose health-care expansion over health-care reform. This at the exact moment voters were growing more anxious about the cost and reach of government. The practical mistake was that he did not include or envelop congressional Republicans from the outset, but handed the bill’s creation over to a Democratic Congress that was becoming a runaway train. This at the exact moment Americans were coming to be concerned that Washington was broken, incapable of progress, frozen in partisanship.
She goes on to describe the immense stubbornness and recalcitrance that Obama has displayed, even to the many who have sought to help him moderate his approach to this issue:
If you were a young progressive who’d won the presidency against the odds, you probably wouldn’t see yourself as someone who lucked out, with the stars perfectly aligned for a liberal victory. And you might forget we are more or less and functionally a 50-50 country, and that you have to keep your finger very much on the pulse of the people if you’re to survive and prosper.
Then she unpacks two growing problems for Obama. The first is that to sell the public on the expansion of government he must continually remind us of how “bad things are”, of what a “crisis we are in” (because of George W. Bush, of course), of how greedy business leaders are, etc. But this is politically dangerous because Americans want an optimistic leader, especially after a couple years of woe. Secondly, his credibility gap is now appreciable and growing:
In his speech Wednesday, demanding an “up or down” vote, the president seemed convinced and committed—but nothing he said sounded true. His bill will “bring down the cost of health care for millions,” it is “fully paid for,” it will lower the long term deficit by a trillion dollars.
Does anyone believe this? Does anyone who knows the ways of government, the compulsions of Congress, and how history has played out in the past, believe this? Even a little? Rep. Bart Stupak said Thursday that he and several of his fellow Democrats won’t vote for the Senate version of the bill because it says right there on page 2,069 that the federal government would directly subsidize abortions. The bill’s proponents say this isn’t so. It would be a relief to have a president who could weigh in believably and make clear what his own bill says. But he seems to devote more words to obscuring than clarifying.
Read the whole thing.