I think it was Ann Coulter who once noted that during presidential election years, both candidates run as Republicans. One man because that’s who he is, and the other because that’s his only shot at getting elected. (See also: W. Mondale, M. Dukakis, etc.) Much like Bill Clinton before him in 1993, a huge part of Barack Obama’s frustration in attempting his hard sell of socialized medicine is that it health insurance was an issue he ran to the right of his opponent on.
Orrin Judd links to a YouTube clip from the Obama campaign last year, and writes, “it is the way that the issue contributed to his election that reveals why Democrats’ health care plans are unsellable. Here’s the sort of ad that the Obama campaign ran constantly, especially in swing states like NH, in order to get to Maverick’s Right:”
As Orrin adds:
You know what ad he never ran–and for obvious reasons–the one where he talked about providing universal health care, doing so through a government bureaucracy, and adding one or two trillion dollars to the national tax bill to do so.
And here he is on health care at his own Convention:
Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. […]Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Okay, so during campaign 2008 we have the UR as, at worst, the defender of the status quo and, at best, the foe of taxes who will reduce your health insurance premium and whose health care plans will be entirely paid for by closing a few loopholes. In effect, he ran against exactly the sort of reforms that he and his party are now stuck trying to get past an unwilling public.
Let us concede for the moment the notion that Mr. Obama is the smartest person ever to run for president. Mightn’t we suppose then that if he was on the right side of the health care debate both morally and politically he would have run on that position instead of against it?
Exactly. Which is why, as Obama searches for Hail Mary plays, the headline on this Bloomberg article isn’t a bit surprising: “Obama May Need Sense of Crisis to Revive Health-Care Overhaul.”
Or to Rahm it through, as the man who famously quipped, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” would say.
Numerous commentators, including me, have pointed to this never-waste-a-crisis mantra as evidence that Obama’s budget priorities are a great ideological bait-and-switch. He says he wants to fix the financial crisis, but he’s focusing on selling his longstanding liberal agenda on health care, energy, and education as the way to do it, even though his proposals have absolutely nothing to do with addressing the housing and toxic-debt problems that are the direct causes of our predicament. Indeed, some — particularly on Wall Street — would argue that his policies are making the crisis worse.
But those policies aren’t the real scandal, even though they’re bad enough. The real scandal is that this administration thinks crises are opportunities for governmental power grabs. (It seems writer Randolph Bourne was wrong. It is not war, but crisis, that is the health of the state.)
Michael Kinsley famously said that a gaffe in Washington is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. As they say, it’s funny because it’s true.
But the White House tactic isn’t funny at all. It’s scary. Its amorality is outweighed only by the grotesque and astoundingly naked cynicism of it all.
Recall that not long ago, the first item on the bill of indictment against the Bush administration was that it was “exploiting” 9/11 to enact its agenda. Al Gore shrieked that President Bush “played on our fears” to get his way. In response to nearly every Bush initiative, from the Patriot Act to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, critics would caterwaul that Bush was taking advantage of the country’s fear of terrorism.
The Bush administration always denied this, and rightly so. If the president had admitted that he was using a national calamity for narrow partisan or ideological advantage, it would have been outrageous. Indeed, every time Karl Rove or some other administration official said anything that could be even remotely interpreted as using the war or 9/11 for partisan or ideological gain, the editorial pages and Democratic news-release factories went into overdrive with righteous indignation.
Well, now we have the president, along with his chief aides, admitting — boasting! — that they want to exploit a national emergency to further their preexisting agenda, and there’s no scandal. No one even calls it a gaffe. No, they call it leadership.
It’s not leadership. It’s fear mongering.
Franklin Roosevelt said that all we have to fear is fear itself. Now, Barack Obama tacitly admits that all he has to fear is the loss of fear itself.
And speaking of FDR, to bring this post full circle, it’s worth noting the platforms the original New Dealer and crisis exploiter extraordinaire ran on: they were, not surprisingly, to the right of progressive Republican Hoover.
The more things change…
Related: Newsbusters notes, “After Denying Obama Would Raise Taxes During Campaign, NYT Calls for Increases.” To be fair though, this isn’t the Gray Lady’s first post-election call for him to raise taxes.