Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tough times for Democrats

Jake Tapper writes that Democrats are resisting plans to try to enact a smaller, scaled-down health care reform package if they fail at getting their big, comprehensive plan passed. And right now the prognosis is bleak. The NYT reports that Pelosi is having trouble coming up with the votes within her own caucus.

And so the libs want to see Obama start flexing his political muscles. Dana Milbank wishes that Obama would be more like Gordon Brown and start bullying people instead of being so professorial. But I thought it was that professorial coolness that everyone liked so much about The One. They just can't make up their minds. I guess they want him to seem cool to hoi polloi but to knock some heads together behind the scene. Democratic adviser Kirsten Powers advises Obama to really flummox the Republicans by supporting tort reform and perhaps some other conservative ideas. Perhaps the time she has spent as a talking head on Fox has helped her to observe that conservatives actually have some good ideas and so she ridicules the Democrats' pretense that the Republicans are just the "Party of No" without any policy ideas of their own.
One key strategy for the Democrats seemed to be to pretend they were on the brink of agreement with their adversaries. One Dem after another marveled, "We are closer than we think" to reaching a deal with the GOP for health-care reform. They expressed amazement at all the agreement that magically had emerged since before the meeting started.

In reality, of course, the two sides couldn't be father apart. Did Democrats think their pretense of agreement would leave Americans puzzled when the GOP didn't make a deal? Good luck with that.

Sorry, this just isn't about the GOP as much as Democrats want it to be. It's about whether Obama can be the kind of leader who, with strong majorities in both Houses of Congress, manages to pass his top legislative priority.

Don't get me wrong: I supported the president's drive to pass health-care reform this year. But it's impossible to support the way he's tried to do it.

Why it's such a surprise to the White House that Republicans oppose Obama's approach to health-care reform, I'll never understand. Maybe somebody at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. needs to subscribe to National Review? There actually are some philosophical differences between the two parties, especially on this issue. Various people tried to make that point at yesterday's summit -- but it fell on deaf ears.
What a news flash - people join political parties because they actually have different ideologies. It's not like picking a sports team just because you happen to live in a certain town or went to a certain college. Powers thinks that, if Obama isn't going to grant concessions to the Republicans, he should get his hands dirty and push the big majorities he has in both houses of Congress to just get it done. Yeah, if it were that easy, wouldn't they have done that already? They had 60 votes in the Senate since last summer and they kept creating deadlines for themselves about when they were going to get it done. And the couldn't.

Meanwhile, the American people did everything except fly airplanes around the capital trailing banners proclaiming their dislike of the Democrats' ideas on health care reform. They showed up at townhall meetings, held tea party rallies, registered their opinions in countless polls, and voted against Democrats in states that Obama carried until they eventually put a Republican campaigning against Ted Kennedy's dying wish into a seat that Democrats had held since John Kennedy's era.

If bullying couldn't get it done before the polls started to fall, is it really going to work now in an election year when red-district Democrats have had time to stare in the abyss of a very bad environment for their reelection? The days of Lyndon Johnson being able to do whatever was necessary to get what he wanted from Congress are long gone. And Obama has never shown himself to be that sort of leader. Pelosi maybe, but not Obama.

They might still pull it off, but it's looking tougher and tougher. And having just given the Republicans an opportunity to demonstrate that they have actual ideas for addressing health care reform and that Obama's plan to increase coverage will not lower costs of health care and that Obama plans on using Medicare cuts to pay for a new entitlement, it is going to get tougher.