Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stubborness for me, not for thee

RCP located this 2005 speech from then Senator Obama about President Bush's efforts to reform Social Security. Senator Obama was offering some kind advice for Bush to stop trying to push an unpopular reform that Congress just wasn't interested in.
"I mean, the fact of the matter is, is the president has been on his 60-day tour, and everywhere he goes the numbers just get worse. The American people have essentially voted on this proposal and really what you have is a situation now where I think that the president and the Republican Congress are going to need to figure out a way to save face and -- and step back a little bit. And if -- if they let go of their egos -- listen, I've been on the other side of this where -- particularly with my wife. (laughter) Where I've gotten in an argument and then at some point in the argument it dawns on me, you know what, I'm wrong on this one and it's -- it's -- it's irritating, it's frustrating. You don't want to admit it, and so to the extent that we can provide the president with a graceful mechanism to -- to say we're sorry, Dear, then I think that would be -- that would be helpful."
Hmmm. Words that Obama might today pay attention to as he flails away trying to push through his party's cumbersome health care reforms that the American people just don't seem to want.

Meanwhile, Megan McArdle found a very similar editorial from the New York Times giving Bush the same advice. They tell him not to blame the Democrats for the failure of his plans to reform Social Security since the American people just don't like those ideas. McArdle then contrasts that 2005 editorial with what the NYT is telling Obama today. They don't want him to lose heart due to Scott Brown's election and low poll numbers for the health care reforms that the Democrats have put forward. They want the House Democrats to pass the Senate bills as is even though they recognize problems in the bill. Since the NYT doesn't have to worry about such messy things as elections, they want the Democrats to ignore polls and just push through whatever they can.

As McArdle also points out, the Democrats followed the same playbook in 2005 basically that the Republicans are following now. They refused to negotiate with President Bush about reforming Social Security until he dropped any idea of private accounts for younger workers. And the Democrats never suffered at the polls for their obstructionism. McArdle summarizes the lesson to be learned from both the Democrats' behavior back then and what the Republicans are doing now.
The problem is, the public doesn't get mad at you for obstructing things the public doesn't like.
Somehow, all that advice that Obama and the NYT had back in 2005 for President Bush about giving up on reforms that the American people have rejected just doesn't apply when what is at stake is a reform plan that the liberals support. Now stubbornness has suddenly become a virtue and a sign of strength. Realism and respect for the wisdom of the American people should just be set aside.