Belmont Club

The Clattering Train


Sinking in quicksand.


The unthinkable is finally happening. A small revolt against President Obama has broken out in Democrat ranks over the Obamacare fiasco. In response, President Obama is “brainstorming” with the insurance companies to find a way out. It’s like Animal House, with the same frenzy but without the humor. “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Nothing is over until we decide!”

He still thinks he “decides.”

Roger Simon argues that Obama should resign, giving the most old-fashioned of reasons. Shame. “If I were Barack Obama, I would resign as president. Forget all the temporary fixes and limited hangouts, I would be too ashamed of myself for having lied so blatantly to the American people — and on matters of such great significance.”

But Obama won’t resign, precisely because he lacks the quality of “shame.” But Roger has put his finger on the essential point. Obama is ungoverned by shame, and hence has no self-limiting boundaries. He’s like a runaway train without a driver. Such trains require an external agency to stop them. Obama won’t stop himself, no matter what, no matter how.

Since Obama will never resign, the Dems may eventually try to persuade him to retire, in the manner of Nixon or Johnson. The political pressures will bear on them until the beams creak and the floor sags. Unthinkable? Bill Clinton has broken ranks already on Obamacare.

Obama is waist deep in quicksand. The first rule of quicksand is not to struggle; to swim your way out. But Obama won’t. Can’t. The deeper he gets, the harder he thrashes. No shame. No self-control. And therefore this may end in the manner of the Beast of Hollow Mountain.

After a week spent admitting he broke the healthcare system, he continues to insist that only he can fix it. The dumber he is shown to be, the higher the hand he takes. In a statement, the administration argued that those opposed to the law — a law he intends to nullify himself — intend to “sabotage” ObamaCare.

“[The bill] rolls back the progress made by allowing insurers to continue to sell new plans that deploy practices such as not offering coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men, and continuing yearly caps on the amount of care that enrollees receive,” the statement said.

Sabotage! Them’s fighting words. Them’s also Bolshevik words, but never mind that for now. The received wisdom is that the small Dem revolt we are presently witnessing  is caused by the fear of electoral loss. That is only partly true.  It is more than that.

Charles Krauthammer was correct to say that the stakes are higher than a mere loss of the Senate; that the liberal project itself is now at serious risk.

At stake, however, is more than the fate of one presidency or of the current Democratic majority in the Senate. At stake is the new, more ambitious, social-democratic brand of American liberalism introduced by Obama, of which Obamacare is both symbol and concrete embodiment.

But even Krauthammer undershoots. The threat to the liberal project is bigger than Obamacare. The Obamacare fiasco is the mere tip of the iceberg, the harbinger of more … much more. The foreign situation is in freefall, but the biggest bomb is the economy. The most illuminating piece of news is Obama’s proposal to extend unemployment benefits so that the jobless can have a little something over the holidays.

That is a tacit admission of the most pressing problem. Things really are that bad. His economic policies are merely wallpaper over widening cracks. He has presided over an enterprise built on a fantasy; a house supported on twigs teetering over a cliff. And now the floorboards gape.

Krauthammer doesn’t go far enough. The status quo is facing an extinction event and they are beginning to realize it. Take the New York Times as representative of the liberal media. There’s a good chance it will be gone in four or five years from bankruptcy. Maybe they hoped that somehow Obama would save it.  Now it’s clear he can’t and he won’t. Or take Detroit. They were hoping for “bacon” to show up somehow. But the pig is dead and gone and it is dawning on them.

The facts are hard. Very hard. And they can’t be elided any longer.

The most interesting figure in the short term is Bill Clinton because the Democrat revolt needs a leader. The delegation to Obama needs a spokesman. And he’s the natural. Bill is smart enough to know that the jig is up and canny enough to realize that if the status quo is to save itself there is only a small window of opportunity left in which to act.

The problem for Bill is he cannot lead this change since he’s used up the two terms allotted him. The crux of the drama from the Democrat perspective is that the only man capable of leading the revolt cannot. They have no real party elders left. Gore, Hillary and Kerry have beclowned themselves. Obama has seen to it that no star rose within the party to rival his brilliance.

The weakness of the Democratic Party is the single most destabilizing element in the equation. It’s the wildcard in the drama. Nobody, not even the Democrats, knows how it will play out.

Meanwhile, the conservatives, who cannot at present account for more than half the voters,  are in a strategic waiting game. At best they can consolidate the half into the nether millstone against which events may grind. The single greatest task for conservatives is to fix their own leadership problems. In so doing they must avoid the single greatest mistake Obama has made, which is to rely on fantasy. The facts, however unpalatable. The truth, no matter how bitter.

Also read: Obamacare Fiasco Has Republicans Feeling Good about the Future


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(Artwork created using multiple images.)