Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Quick Note

Today's NYT has a nice series of short pieces from former presidential aides about their experiences one year into a new administration. Karen Hughes takes a little jab at the sitting president by recalling her own boss's words at his first SOTU:
President Obama often seems to suggest that his administration is facing challenges more difficult than others did. He might look back on the first words of President Bush’s first State of the Union address: “As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our Union has never been stronger.”
It's a nice sentiment, but we now know he was wrong, don't we?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Tensions of Obama-ism

E.J. Dionne's column today is a perfect explanation of how Obama's style and promises conflict with his agenda. The whole thing is a must-read, but this particular paragraph (which singles out the Senate's unconscionably slow deliberation on health care) strikes me as dead-on:

Brown's victory is also a rebuke to a United States Senate that acted as if it had unlimited time to pass health care legislation and ignored how foolish its listless ways appear to normal human beings. Like a bottle of milk kept out of the refrigerator too long, the health bill came to look curdled and sour to a public that felt it never heard an adequate explanation of what was in it.

In the short term, Democrats have to make a quick decision on health care. The obvious path is for the House to pass the Senate's bill and send it to Obama's desk, while reaching agreement on certain changes that, under existing practices, can get through the Senate with fewer than 60 votes. It would be the equivalent of a political crime for Democrats to have invested so much in health reform only to let it die because of one election in one state.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Re-Set Button?

That's what a lot of people are calling for in the wake of the Brown victory. Ross Douthat, for example, writes:
There’s a scenario, believe it or not, in which Scott Brown’s stunning win last night could actually end up forestalling a massive G.O.P. sweep next November. It involves Barack Obama swallowing his pride, behaving like a President who’s just been thumped, and making a very public show of internalizing the lessons of last night in Massachusetts. And it involves dismissing, immediately and with prejudice, the liberal fantasy that Rahm Emanuel should spend the next few weeks “knocking heads together” in the House, in the hopes of pushing the Senate bill through Congress.

Obama ought to closet himself with every potential swing-vote Senator and congressman, hat in hand, to figure out if there’s some kind of Plan B on health care that could get passed in the next six months. There are plenty of ideas that the White House could draw on in this quest (risk pools, Medicaid expansions, anything from this Tyler Cowen list, etc.), and the final result could be sold, accurately, as an incremental alternative to the bloat of the current legislation. Then Obama could spend next year saying “message received, America” on health care, even as he picks fights with the G.O.P. on financial reform and a few other issues and waits for the economy to start adding jobs again. The goal would be to reassure a public that still likes him and still distrusts Republicans, but that clearly wants the Democrats to slow down, spend less, and face a few more curbs on their authority.
No. No. No. No. No.

The voters elected Barack Obama to pass comprehensive health care reform. One freak upset GOP victory in Massachusetts doesn't change that. The point of this reform process was not to waste a year of the nation's time only to give up when things get tough. Congress spent a whole damn year on healthcare. The Senate has a bill. It's done. The House can swallow that bill - it's not as good as the House's own bill, but it's a good bill nonetheless and it can get passed.

This is not the time to start listening to hand-wringers - either the gutless ones on the left or the opportunistic ones on the right, who want to scare Democrats into abandoning real reform efforts. It's time to finish this job.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Does It Ever End?

From Jonathan Chait (whose new TNR blog is excellent, by the way) comes this video of Scott Brown chortling while suggesting President Obama was born out of wedlock:

This is, Chait argues, a much more potent weapon against the Brown campaign than anything else the pathetic Coakley campaign has yet managed to produce:
By showing Brown endorsing a fringe right-wing pet theory (explanation here), it's more evidence of the fact that Brown is anything but the good government, uniter-not-a-divider moderate he pretends to be. That's the fundamental lie of his campaign that Coakley has been seeking (unsuccessfully, thus far) to expose. And on a visceral level, to watch him chortling as he calls Obama illegitimate is just gross and offensive.
I'm inclined to agree. There's nothing about Coakley I find particularly exciting (and there are certain aspects of her record that are concerning), but she's clearly the right choice to succeed the late Senator Kennedy - especially since health care reform could be hanging in the balance.

That's why her meandering, incoherent, almost unbelievably inept performance has been so infuriating. At this moment, the stakes are just too high for her to screw up. And the last thing the Senate needs is another classless idiotic right-winger. There's a bastard in that video, all right - but it's not the president. Hopefully the good people of the Bay State will keep him out of the U.S. Senate.