THE SPINE JANUARY 15, 2010
I was sitting in the kitchen drinking my cup of cappuccino and reading an article in the Financial Times titled, "America: Maybe he can't." Suddenly the phone rang. It was Barack Obama and--damn it!--I couldn't find a pen or pencil to take notes. No, it was not the president "live." It was a recording of the president with some lame excuse for interrupting my day. But, actually, he wasn't really interrupting my day. He was beginning my day with a splash. It's not every day that starts with a message from Obama. Even a corny one, and one I should have half-expected.
As some of you may recall, I wrote a few days ago about how local Democrats were hysterical that their lackluster candidate, Martha Coakley, for whom I intend to vote on Tuesday (and not out of fear that, if I vote Republican, my right hand would wither and my tongue would cling to the roof of my mouth) out of residual loyalty to the party of parents who've been dead at least 21 years. It's a precarious link.
I voted for Alan Khazei in the December primary that chose a Democratic nominee to succeed Ted Kennedy. I am sure that, had Khazei won, the party would have had a winner and, what's more, a thoughtful and substantial senator. If Coakley can squeeze out a win, the Democrats will have a senator, but not a thoughtful and substantial one.
There two matters at stake. If Coakley loses, the Democratic margin in the Senate drops below 60-40.
If Coakley loses, the health care package is likely to go down the drain.
And that was the reason for Obama's call. This is high-risk strategy. If he doesn't put himself out there, Coakley is likely to lose.
If he does put himself out there and she still loses, that is a disaster for Obama's political muscle around the nation.
Nevertheless, the campaign is now pressing for Obama to make a flying visit to the Bay State. That would just multiply the risk for the president. This argument within the Democratic leadership in the White House and on Beacon Hill is discussed in a fine article, "Campaign visit to Bay State by Obama is a tricky prospect," in today's Boston Globe.
And, yes, I am very much for the health care legislation. But the negotiations being carried on for last minute compromises really will affect whatever financial soundness there is left to become law.
If you are in the mood to be disgusted, read today's Wall Street Journal dispatch by Laura Miller and Naftali Bendavid, "Unions Cut Special Deal on Health Taxes: Negotiators Agree to Delay Levies on Workers' High-End Policies Until 2018 Amid Push to Finalize Legislation by the Weekend."
P.S. Just off the wire. The President has decided to come to Massachusetts on Sunday. Less to campaign for Martha Coakley than to campaign against Scott Brown, about whom almost no one knew until a few weeks ago.