What We Are Learning About Obama From the Health Care Debacle
I think one of the facts about Obama that will puzzle future historians is how a man so little known to the American public managed to win the White House. The ObamaCare debacle has given us a grand opportunity to fill in the blanks regarding this man who came to the White House after just four years in the national spot light. Much of what we have learned merely confirms what observant Obama watchers have already suspected, although confirmation is always useful. Here is some of what I think we have learned about our President.
1. He is always out for number one.-Now, needless to say, this is not an unusual characteristic for a politician, but I think, even more so than most, Obama is concerned above all to preserve his personal popularity. Anything or anyone that threatens this popularity will quickly be thrown under the fabled Obama bus. Last year we saw him do this to the Reverend Wright, the man he described as having led him to Christ, who baptized his children, and who seems to have been in many ways a spiritual mentor if not a father figure. In regard to ObamaCare he is in the process of jettisoning the public option, the heart and soul of ObamaCare, to the dismay of his core supporters on the Left. If he has to choose between fighting, and thereby causing his poll numbers to decline, or switching his position, rely upon it that this man will switch every time.
2. The limits of oratory.-Truth to tell, I have never understood the appeal of Obama as an orator. His addresses have usually struck me as fairly pedestrian stolid set-pieces. However, I understand that most Americans disagree with me. Like a boxer with a good right hook, Obama has relied upon his ability to give a good speech constantly since he has become President to get him out of tough situations. I think he has been overexposed, and the declining ratings for his television appearances seem to support that conclusion. Obama has been unable to move the numbers in his favor on the healthcare debate, in spite of numerous speeches and townhalls.
3. He has no control over Congress.-When Reagan won in 1980 the Republicans, with conservative Democrats, obtained de facto control over the House. (The Republicans controlled the Senate outright after the 1980 election.) The Freshman Republicans were so loyal to Reagan that they were mocked as “The Reagan Robots”. Reagan used their votes to ram much of his agenda through the House, and many of those House members in the Freshman class paid for their loyalty by losing their seats in the ’82 election, as did many Republican senators in 82 and 86. With far larger majorities, Obama has no such control over the Democrats in Congress, as is clear from the squabbling between the Democrats in the House and the Senate over health care, and the coming revolt of the Blue Dog Democrats in the House. Even the Lying Worthless Political Hack a/k/a Nancy Pelosi , Speaker of the House, feels free to thumb her nose at Obama.
4. Demonizing opponents only works so long.-When the townhall eruptions began to occur it was a major tactical error for the administration to attempt to paint these citizens as the enemy. They were merely the symptom rather than the cause of the Administration’s difficulties in passing a Health Care Bill. It is always tempting for politicians to go on the attack against their adversaries and to rally the base. However it is normally a poor way to get unpopular legislation through Congress. This is an indication that Obama lacks the greatest gift that any politician can possess: good political instincts.
5. He often has a tin ear to the public mood.-Obama has led most of his life in a fairly provincial Leftist bubble. His area of Chicago is dominated by Democrats of a hard left stripe. His academic career also directed him in a leftward trajectory. His immediate family members were all on the hard political Left. Obama has a very difficult time understanding a lot of his fellow countrymen, especially those “bitterly clinging” to God and guns, and who simply do not exist in his circle. The strong opposition to ObamaCare was completely predictable, but judging from his flat-footed response, it came as a major surprise to Obama.
6. Acorn is a paper tiger.-Throughout his career Obama has had a strong relationship with Acorn. He has turned to them for help in the health care debate and thus far their performance has been pathetic. They have proven unable to pack the town halls. When they have attempted to do so their efforts have been counterproductive. Whatever their skills in regard to voter fraud, Obama can look to Acorn for very little assistance in ginning up public support for unpopular legislation.
7. Leadership is not his strong point.-Some presidents have it and some presidents don’t. FDR and Reagan were able to change the course of the nation because they personified the ability of a President to convince most voters to trust and follow them. The health care debate is demonstrating that Obama is certainly not in their class.
8. He is slow to respond to changed circumstances.-The polls on health care have been declining now for over a month, and his own numbers have been slowly but steadily declining for longer than that. He has been receiving warnings from the Blue Dogs throughout this same time period that ObamaCare was in trouble. He failed to act to remedy the situation, but rather attempted to maintain his course. Now he seems to be in the process of gutting his own plan by taking the public option off the table. Acting earlier he might well have been able to salvage more of his plan.
9. He wastes time, the most precious asset in governing.- Napoleon used to tell his Marshals that they could ask him for anything except time. It was clear during the election campaign that National Health Care was the domestic initiative most near to the hearts of Obama’s most dedicated supporters. After the election he had two months to work with Democrat leaders in Congress to craft a bill. If a unified bill had been introduced in the Senate and the House in January, with Obama giving it his all out support, I believe it might well have passed in the initial euphoria that greeted Obama as he assumed office. Instead, he adopted a hands off approach, allowed the Health Care bills in the House and the Senate to go their divergent ways, and allowed Pelosi and Reid to squander time and pass up a golden opportunity. Clocks are completely unforgiving, although I doubt if Obama has learned that simple fact yet.
10. A sycophantic media is harmful to him.-A skeptical press would have given Obama early warning signals of serious problems regarding his health care bill. Instead, until very recently, most of the press could easily have been mistaken for unpaid publicity agents for Obama. Love notes are a poor substitute for the hard headed criticism which all presidents need, although few ever grow to love it. If Obama is smart he will start having summaries prepared of the best of the harshest criticism directed towards his initiatives each day. Like castor oil it would be unpleasant but beneficial.