Today in the Arena on POLITICOTuesday, August 18, 2009
Today's Arena question.
The right ticked off. The left ticked off. A muddle in the middle. How did Obama get into this mess? How does he get out of it?
The Cowboy Libertarian says, “Never let your yearnings get ahead of your earnings.”
In the case of healthcare, Obama allowed Congress to put forward a healthcare plan that will cost $1 trillion over ten years. This after all the TARP spending that straddled the Bush and Obama Administrations, the bailout of GM and Chrysler and a $787 billion economic stimulus program that doesn’t seem to be doing much stimulation as the economy continues to sputter along.
Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress had great yearnings to pass an agenda that they have been trying to pass for years and they thought they finally had the majority to do it. But with the deepest recession in memory there are simply not enough earnings, in the form of tax dollars, coming in to pay for this huge agenda. And we haven’t even factored in the cost of that other big piece of the Obama agenda, the climate bill that the House has already passed.
The lesson for the President should be never sub-contract key elements of your program to Congress. What should rightly be called Waxman-PelosiCare is now ObamaCare.
He is also starting to sound like a broken record at his “town hall” meetings and his messaging seems all over the lot. One day he is attacking doctors the next he is going after insurance companies. His answers sometimes seem flip and uninformed and he doesn’t appear to have addressed the concerns of the protestors.
Another mistake was letting Pelosi and Reid denigrate and dismiss the real anger of those attending Congressional district meetings by calling them “un-American” or “evil-mongers”. He is President of the United States and that means everyone not just those who voted for him or are Democrats. By letting those outrageous comments stand he showed that either he doesn’t have the guts to tell them to shut up or he agrees with their assessment. Neither one of those speaks well of his leadership skills and eventually he and the Democrats will pay a political price at the ballot box.
What should he do now? Well he has successfully painted himself into a corner. If drops the “government option” the liberals will scream like scalded dogs and if he keeps it the dogs that will be hollerin’ the loudest will be Blue ones.
My advice would be to give a mea culpa Oval Office address to the nation just after Labor Day and before the Congressional circus returns to town. He should look the American people in the eye and say that he has heard them and he understands their anger and frustration. He should say that he is as frustrated as they are with the slow pace of economic recovery. He should then say he has asked the Congressional leaders to craft a scaled down version of a healthcare plan and call it “Phase One of Reform” and after a few years if it is successful, to look at a Phase “Two”. That would demonstrate both wisdom and maturity.
The Obama folks love to talk about pushing the “reset” button. Now would be a good time to do so because if he doesn’t, he will be in for a very rocky 2010 and beyond.
Time to cowboy up and lead Mr. President.