Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Honey, We Shrunk the President"

After months of a bigger-than-life presidency, Barack Obama is being cut down to size--by the enormity of an economic crisis, by orchestrated fear of Change as a reality rather than an idea and by exhaustion of the hope and idealism he stirred up during two years of campaigning. But behind the falling poll numbers and raucous town halls, something else may be going on.

"Health Debate Fails to Ignite Obama’s Web," says a New York Times headline for a report from Iowa: "As the health care debate intensifies, the president is turning to his grass-roots network--the 13 million members of Organizing for America--for support.

"Mr. Obama engendered such passion last year that his allies believed they were on the verge of creating a movement that could be mobilized again. But if a week’s worth of events are any measure here in Iowa, it may not be so easy to reignite the machine that overwhelmed Republicans a year ago."

Sensing a potential Obama Waterloo, the previously overwhelmed are suddenly energized. "The Obama White House has done the near impossible," Peggy Noonan claims. "It has united the Republican Party. Social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians—they're all against the health-care schemes as presented so far. They're shoulder-to-shoulder at the barricade again."

Maybe so, but there are also signs that Obama is morphing, not into Jimmy Carter as Noonan suggests, but more of an embattled Harry Truman who found his presidential voice by taking on a "good-for-nothing" Congress in 1948.

In his less combative way, Obama is now directly confronting the proprietors of America's failed " health care system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people."

In today's weekly address, he says: "If you’re worried about rationed care, higher costs, denied coverage, or bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor, then you should know that’s what’s happening right now. In the past three years, over 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies due to a preexisting condition, or saw their coverage denied or dropped just when they got sick and needed it most.

"Americans whose jobs and health care are secure today just don’t know if they’ll be next to join the 14,000 who lose their health insurance every single day. And if we don’t act, average family premiums will keep rising to more than $22,000 within a decade."

In Montana yesterday, the President was confronted by an insurance salesman who asked him to explain why he was "vilifying" insurance companies. Obama told him and, in the coming weeks, will undoubtedly be telling Americans everywhere who the enemy is.

In what looks like the wreckage of his hopes for health care reform, Barack Obama, like John Paul Jones when asked to surrender, may be saying, "I have not yet begun to fight."


Holte Ender said...

Obama is fighting, but fighting alone, Congress has allowed the republicans to divide and conquer. Where is the democratic majority? I hope they have a plan of attack, because attack is what they must do, they are no the back foot, that means, no forward progress.

John said...

Something else is going on. The list of names on 52,000 Swiss bank accounts the Justice Department and IRS want as part of the UBS settlement: that has to have the oligarchs nervous. And, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire next year. They'll pull out all the stops to score big next November.

All this flack over health insurance reform could be an effort to make Obama "call off the dogs."