Fall Check Up
September 10, 2009
President Obama has been in office almost 9 months, so I have decided to give him a presidential check up.
He ran the closest thing to a perfect campaign that I have ever seen. The campaign was disciplined, focused, and well managed. But, since being sworn into office, neither he nor his team has displayed any of these qualities.
The administration seems to be all over the map and has done a horrible job with message control. Let me illustrate with his push for healthcare reform.
The administration has made two strategic mistakes with healthcare. The first mistake was to leave the actual writing of the bill to Congress. The Democratic Congress is far more to the left than the country, therefore the bill they produced reflects that reality. Obama should have given the Democrats his bill and allowed them to give their input. After this, he could have reached out to Republicans; then put the matter to a vote (with or without Republican support). You always want a bipartisan bill on an issue of this magnitude, but given the Democrat’s numbers in Congress, they didn’t have to have support from across the aisle.
The second mistake was that President Obama has expended an inordinate amount of political capital thus far, with nothing to show for it. By Obama taking a laissez-faire approach to this legislation, he lost control of the debate. This forced him to give yet another speech on healthcare last night before a joint session of Congress.
I thought his speech was a very effective speech, but I don’t know if it changed many minds—it may have stopped the hemorrhaging. He may have energized his base who has felt dejected as a result of the pummeling Democrats have taken during all the August town hall meetings. But, I don’t see many Republican members of Congress changing their positions as a result of this speech.
I think everyone can agree on the goal of Obama’s efforts, but the devil is in the details. For example, let’s look at the tweny-somethings. They decide they don’t need insurance because they are young and healthy. How will the government know they do not have medical insurance? If they are to be fined, who will enforce and collect the fine? How will the government know that they have not paid the fine? Will they be put in jail if they refuse to pay?
I am more concerned about the implementation of Obama’s plan than I am at the plan itself. This is a principled argument that I think Republicans can win on. Focus on the huge, new beau racy that would have to be created to implement such a bill. I have heard no discussion of this issue from Republicans.
Obama will get some form of health care passed this fall. But, will he have any political capital left for other issues ( cap and trade, immigration)? My answer is a big unequivocal no. The Democrats will be defined by whatever version of healthcare reform they get. This will be their signature issue going into the 2010 elections. Assuming the economy picks up by next year, Obama and the Democrats will be judged by this one piece of legislation during next year’s election.
If Obama really wants to be a transformational president, he must be more hands on and not be afraid to display a little LBJ in his dealings with the Democratic Congress. So, my diagnosis of the Obama presidency thus far is inconclusive. I am awaiting the results from the lab and the MRI of his final healthcare proposal. But, if he is not more hands on his bill will be DOA.
P.S. Most of this column was written prior to the president’s speech last night, but I have to comment on the despicable behavior of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson (R-2nd). The president stated that those who are in the country illegally would not be covered by his plan. Wilson shouted very audibly, “You Lie!” Wilson subsequently issued an apology and spoke to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Suffice it to say that Wilson should submit his resignation by the close of business. This outburst had nothing to do with the healthcare debate and everything to do with the race of occupant of the White House! Every American should be embarrassed by Wilson’s actions. I am curious to see the response of the Republican leadership in Congress, as well as Michael Steele as chairman of the party.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-based political consulting/government affairs firm. You can listen to his radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m. Go to www.ustalknetwork.com to register and then click on host, and then click on his photo to join his group.