Sunday, October 4, 2009

Obama on Health Care: 'Somehow I'm Not Breaking Through...'

From Elizabeth Drew, at the New York Review, "Health Care: Can Obama Swing It?" She's in the tank for Obama, but always worth a read in any case:
The circumstances in which Obama has had to govern have been daunting. The polarization between the political parties is greater than ever before in modern history—particularly as the shrinking Republican Party has come to be dominated by white conservatives, if not radicals, and it enforces discipline more harshly than in the past. Lacking any real leaders now, the Republicans' vacuum has been filled by the likes of talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, whose job it is to be outrageous, and before whom Republican politicians quaver. Those who stray from the conservative orthodoxy are more likely than ever to face a challenge from the right in their next primary. (When he announced in late April that he was switching to the Democratic Party, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania forthrightly said that he didn't think he could win the Republican primary in 2010.)

The goal of the Republicans is not just to oppose Obama's policies they disagree with but to destroy his presidency. Thus the Republican opposition to health care reform is part of a larger agenda, as some Republicans have been unwise enough to admit openly. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina said in July: "If we're able to stop Obama on this [health care], it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Even the Clintons governed in a more felicitous setting; the economy was rebounding and a number of moderate Republicans were willing to make deals with the administration. Now, moderate Republicans are nearly extinct. And back when the Clintons were targets of an effort to undermine Bill Clinton's presidency, the Internet and cable television weren't the instruments for repetitious and vile attacks that they are today.

With nearly all Republicans determined to oppose him, the President is almost totally dependent on the support of his own party, which is itself split between liberals and moderate-to-conservative members.

Moreover, any record of Barack Obama's first year in office has to take note of the fact that this summer, race broke open as an issue. The rise of the "birthers"—who claim he was born outside the US—and the uncommon incivility shown toward Obama by Republicans during his September 9 speech to Congress on health care suggest that a substantial segment on the right doesn't see Obama as a legitimate president. He was not just called a liar by South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, but also confronted with boos and rude signs; and vicious comments were made about him at the anti-big government (and anti-Obama) rally in Washington the following weekend.

In fact, a number of leading Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, are concerned about the party's getting too identified, or involved with, the movement on the far right. Vin Weber, a prominent Republican and former member of Congress (and ally of Newt Gingrich when they were backbenchers), says:

There's a fringe out there that's embarrassing. While it can gin up Republican intensity, the party can't get too associated with the nutcases out there. The Republican leadership has a keen awareness of the benefits and the risks of this movement.
It's interesting to read accounts like this because they're exclusively Beltway-centric. It's one of those examples of elite journalists condescending to average folks who just don't know WTF is going on. And I while I omitted the introduction, be sure to check it out. Drew claims that the stimulus is working and she quotes President Obama as saying, "I've got to step up my game in terms of talking to the American people about issues like health care. I've said to myself, somehow I'm not breaking through ..."

Well, actually, the president's getting through just fine. Folks just don't like what they're hearing. See Instapundit, "
Fear of Losing Private Health Insurance Trumps ‘Public Option’." Plus, the Blog Prof, "Supposedly Neutral Consumer Reports Running Pro-Obamacare Ads!"


UPDATE: Linked at Ric's Rulez, "The Nostalgia is Getting Strong."


Ric Locke said...

Kee-rimeney, the nostalgia is getting strong.

Were you around for the Carter Administration? Toward the end of it, we had stacks and stacks of this sort of apologia -- "The Presidency is just too hard, one man can't do it, there's just too much, so you have to give the guy a pass."

B*lls. He asked for the job, and he taken the money. Too bad he's not up to it.