September 17, 2013
If you’re the kind of driver who can’t help but gawk at the wreckage when you pass an accident–and honestly, who isn’t?–you’ll enjoy today’s lengthy account in The Wall Street Journal of the runup to last week’s Putin-Assad triumph.
Right off the bat we learn, which is to say our suspicion is confirmed, that this was a case of a willful president with atrocious political instincts. When Obama consulted his cabinet and top staffers about the idea of seeking congressional approval for a strike in Syria, “senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer pegged the chances of Congress balking at 40%. . . . Mr. Obama took the gamble anyway and set aside the impending strikes to try to build domestic and international support for such action.”
In retrospect, it seems clear that while Pfeiffer was on the right track in warning that Congress might scuttle the plan, he underestimated the probability of that outcome. . . .
Which brings us to the Affordable Care Act. Three and a half years after the springtime enactment of what was touted as Obama’s signature legislative achievement, it’s autumn for ObamaCare, with many of the law’s provisions taking effect Oct. 1, two weeks from tomorrow.
ObamaCare was another case in which the president asked Congress to act. That time, lawmakers granted his request, although for a time the odds seemed very much against their doing so. Unlike in 2013, in 2009-10 Republicans did not control the House. Unlike the idea of military intervention in Syria, ObamaCare did not go against the Democrats’ ideological grain.
But like the prospective Syria strike, ObamaCare lacked broad public support. It still does, as illustrated by a pair of polls out today, from The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. . . . Quite apart from the law’s merits, what Page has described is an enormous political miscalculation. Unlike in the Syria case, Obama had the political strength to push this legislation through Congress (if barely). But while it’s easy to imagine he was and remains disdainful of public opinion on the matter, it’s almost certain that he expected it to turn around by now.
Yet it’s actually more unpopular than when it passed.