January 20, 2010

EXCEPT THAT IF HE'D RUN ON THE PUBLIC OPTION HE'D HAVE LOST HANDILY:

After Massachusetts: His Hopes Did Him In (Garry Wills, 1/20/10, NY Review of Books Blog)

He was hopeful, optimistic, patriotic—all necessary qualities in the mold-breaker; he was soothing, not threatening. He promised to unite red and blue states, to end a period of bitter divisiveness in Washington. To many it mattered more that he was the anti-Bush than that he was the anti-Sharpton.A policy of omnidirectional placation had served him well as the editor of the Harvard Law Review, as a community organizer, as a state senator. But the mild manner works only if it removes the threat from a serious purpose. In the presidency, Obama has let the mild manner become the purpose. And with the loss of the Massachusetts Senate race, that purpose—and his ability to act on it—has been put in deep doubt.

In a sense, he swallowed his own Kool-Aid. He worked on the unrealistic assumption that his really was a post-racial, post-partisan, post-red-state-blue-state America. He spent a year and endless energy in trying to please and recruit the Olympia Snowes and Charles Grassleys and Max Baucuses and Big Pharmacies. He let them dictate the pace and the terms of the health care debate, making it hostage to the virulent town hall meetings of the summer of 2009. They were never going to be his allies. He should have identified them as his foes early on, and attacked them as such.

Instead of saying he would let others give him a health plan, any health plan, he should have said that the health plan he needed and wanted was the public option, and then sold it unceasingly as the only means of bringing down costs—which proved to be the central issue in rejecting less effective compromises.


And merely playing footsie with it during the legislative process caused Democrats to crater. How would identifying himself more closely with such an unpopular idea have been helpful?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2010 7:07 PM
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