It was entirely predictable that John McCain would use Barack Obama's comments about small town America to rebrand Obama as a liberal elitist. But who knew McCain would also use the opportunity to rebrand himself as a modern-day Bobby Kennedy? During some remarks this morning, McCain announced that he will spend next week touring communities coping with job losses and hard economic times. His goal, according to the prepared text sent to media, is "to tell people living there that there must not be any forgotten parts of America; any forgotten Americans.
Forget the the drug companies, the insurers, and the small business lobby. Forget Bill Kristol, Fox News, and the Republican Party, too. The largest obstacle to creating universal health care is you. OK, maybe not you personally. But you collectively--i.e., the American people--are a huge political problem. Yes, polls show people support universal health care in the abstract. They may even say they're willing to pay more taxes for it. But once the debate turns real, they get skittish. Most people, after all, have health insurance already.
Last month, when John McCain decided to address the housing crisis, he adopted a decidedly cautious tone.
The latest CBS/New York Times poll is out and its full of provocative results. The headline (literally) is "Weak Economy Sours Public's View of Future." Among the findings: 48 percent of Americans say the economy is "fairly bad" while another 30 percent say it's "very bad." The last time the CBS/Times poll captured such pessimism was January of 1992, while the country was deep in recession. Not surprisingly, the economy is also voters' top concern: 32 percent say it's the most important problem facing the country today.
For most of the twentieth century, no single group represented a bigger obstacle to universal health care than organized medicine. It was state medical societies that blocked the very first efforts in California and New York, back during the late Progressive Era. (Back then, reformers called it "compulsory insurance.") And it was the threat of similar opposition that is widely believed to have dissauded Franklin Roosevelt from including health insurance as part of the Social Security Act in the 1930s.
Everybody wants to know which party leader will step forward and bring the Democratic presidential campaign to a conclusion. I think we already know the answer, or at least a good part of it: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Today, Pelosi appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," where she made her most specific comments yet on how she envisions the Democratic race ending.
For the last two weeks or so, as my colleagues can attest, I've been asking everybody I know whether they recalled ever seeing Barack Obama stand outside a factory and greet workers as they walk in for their shift. It's one of, if not the, most cliched moments in poiltics. But I couldn't recall Obama doing it--and neither could any of my colleagues. I also didn't find any references to such events on Lexis-Nexis, either--although, in fairness, it's not so easy to search for that sort of thing.
Did Barack Obama fail to close the deal with John Edwards by seeming arrogant and insufficiently committed to his policy agenda? New York magazine's John Heilemann seems to imply as much in a much-discussed article that appeared on Friday. My colleague Noam Scheiber respectfully disagrees. Noam has better sources within the campaigns than I do (as, I presume, does Heilemann). So I'm really in no position to say who's right on the overall issue.
A political afterthought on Clinton's health care interview: Reading about Clinton getting back in wonk mode is a reminder that, when her campaign focuses on policy, they actually make her--and her candidacy--seem very appealing. It's really the best card she has to play.
Hillary Clinton will make you buy health insurance you can't afford! You may recall hearing arguments along these lines, from Barack Obama, among others. And, although the polling on this question is a little hard to read, I know from inteviews that a lot of people find that argument compelling. It's not hard to see why. If the government suddenly requires everybody to get health insurance, won't most people be at the mercy of private insurers--who already charge more than a lot of people can afford? But, as readers of this space know, I've always thought the argument suspect.