The healthcare reform is practically dead, so is the Arab-Israeli peace initiative, banking regulation is being diluted as we speak, a Republican senator has put a blanket hold on all appointees and while obstructionism is at an all-time, the country is still bitterly divided with registered Republicans questioning the legitimacy of this administration and 2010 looms ugly and large. What went wrong? How did this administration get everything so wrong?
Edward Luce of the Financial Times has an excellent article regarding things that went wrong with this White House. He quotes a bunch of unnamed sources because as he puts it "most of them given unattributably in order to protect their access to the Oval Office". The conclusion is summed up in one sentence:
The Obama White House is geared for campaigning rather than governing
The blame of course lies with the inner group of advisers who have no experience in government, but adept at campaigning. Even now, in the face of Republican extremism, we have a President who says one thing about the health care bill in public
And it may be that ... if Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," the president said. "And that's how democracy works. There will be elections coming up, and they'll be able to make a determination and register their concerns."
In private he has taken a hands-off approach at least since the MA debacle:
President Obama, hammered for taking a hands-off approach on health care to begin with, has all but disappeared from the discussions as Congressional leaders attempt to figure out a way to finalize a health care plan now that they have just 59 Senate seats.
Yet I received this very oddly worded email from the OFA saying this:"President Obama and many allies in Congress are working hard to finish the job -- but we can't rest until it's done. Your note will help break through the Washington spin and show members of Congress and the media what local voters really believe."
I would opine that Obama was hands-off since the inception of this bill leaving it to the Baucus caucus to carve a bill with back-room deals with PhRMA and concessions at first to Republican Senators Grassley, Enzi and Snowe, and later Lieberman. What did that get us? A severely diluted bill that is more of a giveaway to the insurance industry, which even according to the President, more in line with Republican ideas:
Today's Senate bill – supported by Obama – resembles a plan drafted by a moderate Republican senator in the Clinton years.
The total lack of leadership has not only worried the Progressive caucus in the House on stalling on this bill due to an inherent distrust of a corrupt Senate:
Leading Democrats in the House still insist that "all options are on the table" to move ahead on health care. But for the first time since last Tuesday's special election in Massachusetts, it's clear that they're coalescing around the most widely discussed option: moving ahead with the Senate bill once it's clear that it will be changed through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Before they can move ahead, they need the Senate to make some real headway on their end of the bargain--and they're not getting the signs they need.
In the Senate itself, progressive members have grown increasingly irate at the lack of leadership from the White House with Sen. Franken having some tough talk with bubble-insider David Axelrod:
In his public session with the senators Wednesday, Obama urged them to “finish the job” on health care but did not lay out a path for doing so. That uncertainty appeared to trigger Franken’s anger, and the sources in the room said he laid out his concerns much more directly than any senator did in the earlier public session.
The private session was set up in a panel format, with Axelrod joined at the front of the room by Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
A Democratic source said that Franken directed his criticism solely at Axelrod.
“It was all about leadership and health care and what the plan was going to be,” the source said.
So back to our major headlines from yesterday, President Obama wants to have a bipartisan summit with Republicans about health care and listen to their ideas. The question is why? We had all the Republican input we needed and they killed the reform aspects of the bill. This bill was stalled endlessly for one Republican vote, first of his good friend Chuck Grassley who went on to say that reform will "kill grandma", then of President Olympia Snowe and then Joe Lieberman. When is enough, enough? When does this President stop his campaign gimmicks of bipatisanship and healing divides and actually start governing? These are the questions addressed in Edward Luce's story. On the topic of whether this President wants to change his advisors and come out of the campaign bubble, Luce ends his story with a telling quote from David Gergen:
“There is an old joke,” says Mr Gergen. “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one. But the lightbulb must want to change. I don’t think President Obama wants to make any changes.”