On bloggingheads, Bob Wright and I have a full and frank discussion of “curve-bending,” rationing, “death panels,” etc., and whether the health reform bills are objectionable on those grounds. I was in control at all times, I swear. …
Have I mentioned that the point isn’t that I’m right or Bob’s right–the point is that this is an entire debate we didn’t need to have right now. Obama could have proposed a bill that expanded coverage and raised taxes to pay for it. True, that would have pissed off voters who really don’t like tax increases. Instead, he proposed raising taxes and instituting some ominously vague, to-be-determined, ‘scientific’ and anti-democratic restraints on health care treatements. This successfully pissed off voters who really don’t like tax increases and voters–mainly older voters–worried about being denied treatments. The combination of losing the anti-government voters and losing seniors may prove fatal. …
If it does, it won’t be David Axelrod’s fault, and it won’t be Rahm Emanuel’s fault. It won’t even be Peter Orszag’s fault. It’s Obama’s fault. Obama’s the one who fell for Orszag’s Laffer-curve-like, win-win, ‘this will save money’ line, and who raised the issue at every opportunity in the middle of 2009. It’s Obama who became enfatuated with–and ordered his staff to read–Atul Gawande’s amorphous New Yorker curve-bending argument and Ron Brownstein’s even-less-convincing-than-it-seemed-at-the-time cheerleading piece. It was Obama who eagerly let himself get suckered into discussing end-of-life rationing in the pages of the New York Times.
What do presidents do when they should fire themselves? They fire their advisers and bring in a new crew. That’s what may happen here. I’d guess we’re about 36 hours away from a Beltway call for “wise men.” … If it wasn’t for his role in the Massachusetts Senate debate, I’d say we’re a week away from David Gergen’s touchdown at Reagan National. …
Heh. On the other hand, it’s only fair — Gergen (likely much to his chagrin) gave Obama Scott Brown. But if Obama’s going to double down instead of tacking back to the center (well, the center as Obama might perceive it), perhaps a more personal intervention really is needed.
Update: While Kaus is curious about where Obama goes from here, Mark Steyn’s latest op-ed is very much focused on The Last Stand of The One:
The Barack Obama who showed up last Sunday to help out Martha Coakley was a sad and diminished figure from the colossus of a year ago. He had nothing to say, but he said it anyway. As he did with his Copenhagen pitch for the Olympics, he put his personal prestige on the line, raised the stakes, and then failed to deliver. All those cool kids on his speechwriting team bogged him down in the usual leaden sludge. He went to the trouble of flying in to phone it in.The most striking aspect of his performance was how unhappy he looked, as if he doesn’t enjoy the job. You can understand why. He ran as something he’s not, and never has been: A post-partisan centrist transformative healer. That’d be a difficult trick to pull off even for somebody with any prior executive experience, someone who’d actually run something, like a state, or even a town, or even a commercial fishing operation, like that poor chillbilly boob Sarah Palin. At one point late in the 2008 campaign, when someone suggested that if Gov. Palin was “unqualified” then surely he was, too, Obama pointed to as evidence to the contrary his ability to run such an effective campaign. In other words, running for president was his main qualification for being president.
That was the story of his life: Wow! Look at this guy! Wouldn’t it be great to have him …as community organizer, as state representative, as state senator, as United States senator. He was wafted ever upwards, staying just long enough in each “job” to get another notch on the escutcheon, but never long enough to leave any trace.
The defining moment of his doomed attempt to prop up Martha Coakley was his peculiar obsession with Scott Brown’s five-year-old pickup:
How they laughed! But what was striking was the thinking behind Obama’s line: that anyone can buy a truck for a slick ad, that Brown’s pickup was a prop – like the herd of cows Al Gore rented for a pastoral backdrop when he launched his first presidential campaign. Or the “Iron Chef” TV episode featuring delicious healthy recipes made with produce direct from Michelle Obama’s “kitchen garden”: The cameras filmed the various chefs meeting the first lady and then picking choice organic delicacies from the White House crop, and then, for the actual cooking, the show sent out for stunt-double vegetables from a grocery back in New York. Viewed from Obama’s perspective, why wouldn’t you assume the truck’s just part of the set? “In his world,” wrote The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, “everything is political, and everything is about appearances.”
Howard Fineman, the increasingly loopy editor of the increasingly doomed Newsweek, took it a step further. The truck wasn’t just any old prop but a very particular kind: “In some places, there are codes, there are images,” he told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. “You know, there are pickup trucks, you could say there was a racial aspect to it one way or another.”
Ah, yes. Scott Brown has over 200,000 miles on his odometer. Man, he’s racked up a lot of coded racism on that rig. But that’s easy to do in notorious cross-burning KKK swamps like suburban Massachusetts.
Heh. Who knew the redneck pickup truck drivers that Howard Dean was looking to talk to during the Democrats’ 2003 primaries were right in Vermont’s backyard? Definitely read the rest of Steyn’s column, which concludes with some excellent advice for writers — not to mention would be “community organizers” with increasingly transparent delusions of grandiloquence.