Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Rolling the Presidential dice
President Barack Obama is planning a high profile prime time press conference later this evening to push his health care reform proposal. Various press reports yesterday show that the President had a bad day pushing his agenda, in that he did not know the details of the Democratic House bill he is supporting. Further, various published reports came out yesterday that Democrats in Congress are having concerns about the speed the President is pushing.
Indeed, Democrats have large majorities in the United States congress, but it is becoming apparent that elements of the Democratic Party are becoming as strong of of an opponent of the President's agenda as Republicans. There are two groups. First, there are the so called "Blue Dog" Democrats who are budget deficit hawks. After the troubling price tag of the Obama stimulus package earlier this year, they are pausing at supporting the price tag of Obama health care. Far left Democrats are frustrated with Obama for his continuance of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the Obama Administration's decision to extend Secret Service protection for former Vice President Dick Cheney. Those far left Democrats are frustrated and looking for a reason to pick a fight with President Obama.
So, with Congress dragging its feet, President Obama is rolling the Presidential dice. President Obama is putting the pressure on Democrats to pass his health care plan. Further, President Obama is using his remaining public good will, which is down to the mid fifties in approval polls, to push the health care reform.
The President is in dangerous territory other Democratic presidents have been in. In the fall of 1977, the President Jimmy Carter had large Democratic majorities and pushed his agenda too strongly. President Carter was rejected and found his Presidency weakened for the rest of the time Carter spent in office.
A better comparison can be made with President Clinton. President Clinton used his clout to push through his budget and tax increase. When President Clinton came back later in 1993 with a health care plan, it was a miserable failure. President Clinton had to all but agree with the majority of the Republican agenda in 1996 to get re-elected.
Both Carter and Clinton found themselves far too confident that there was no Republican or conservative answer to their agendas. President Obama now faces the same situation. Add to the situation President Obama's rock star status among the mainstream media. The problem is, the mainstream media does not represent well the American public.
President Obama is making a heck of a gamble. If President Obama pushes through his health care reform, the backlash will harm him. If President Obama fails, he will appear weak and ineffective. Maybe there is some way President Obama can win politically in this situation, but it is not apparent. It looks like a loser either way for the President and the Democrats.
The bright side is that those who think the Republican party is dead will get a rude awakening. When average folks find that they have to pay more for health care and when even the poor find that the government will have a committee decide they should not get certain treatments, the people will wake up to what the Obama big government health care written by lobbyists means to people's lives.
Throughout the history of the United States, one bright fact has stood constant. When a politician fills himself with hubris and overreaches in his agenda, the people punish that politician. President Obama is rolling the dice in thinking he can somehow escape that age old American truth.