In the wake of Massachusetts, President Obama faces two urgent decisions. One concerns his agenda for 2010 and beyond. I offered my advice on this last week, have not changed my mind, and won’t repeat myself. The president must also decide how to proceed with health care legislation. Here I find myself in a paradoxical position. In this publication and elsewhere, I have argued since October of 2008 against beginning the new administration with an ambitious agenda that included comprehensive health reform.
If you’ve been a Democrat for more than two or three years, disappointment with your leaders is something that comes rather naturally. From the 1970s until well into the previous decade, the party produced presidents and presidential candidates like Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry. These men weren’t lovable losers. They were just losers. Even the lone winner among them--Bill Clinton--famously and infamously found ways to disappoint. But then Barack Obama came along.
Obama wants a study of the country at a micro-level. That seems reasonable enough in the abstract--but it's also coming a bit late. This, too, wasn't done during that January-March review? It also signals something less than a vote of total confidence in the judgment of the top U.S. commander on the ground, Stanley McChrystal. Moreover, it further indicates that we won't see a decision on troop levels in the next several days.
Seven hundred billion dollars may seem like a lot of money. But when it's spread out over ten years--and you're using it to pay for health care reform--it really isn't. It costs money to put people on Medicaid. And it costs money to subsidize private insurance for people who can't afford premiums on their own. Spending enough to make sure every American, or close to every American, has health insurance would push the price tag of reform to over $1.5 trillion, if done properly. Anything less and you have to start cutting back. You offer lower subsidies.
This bit from The Note about Obama's health care struggles caught my eye: Can partisan war make it work? "There's also a limit to how effective this strategy can be," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "Independents liked Obama because they thought he was going to break this partisan gridlock -- not intensify it." Really?
In early May, White House Counsel Greg Craig circulated a memo inside the West Wing. Part of a series of memos on protocol, it explained how to deal with writers researching books and articles on the White House.
Brad and Marc Ambinder say that George Stephanopoulos has a big scoop: Democrats have chosen to put health care but not cap and trade through the "reconciliation" process, which probably means that health care will pass but cap and trade won't. But I'm not sure Stephanopoulos actually has the goods here. Here's Stephanopoulos's item: When the White House released its budget, I said the president's effort to reform health care and cap carbon emissions were "scorpions in a bottle" -- only one could make it through Congress this year.
Via Dave Roberts, George Stephanopoulos is suggesting that congressional Democrats may have just decided to prioritize health care over climate policy this year: George Stephanopoulos says Dems can't possibly pass both healthcare reform and cap-and-trade, and they've effectively chosen healthcare. Dems have supported a plan to push healthcare through via budget reconciliation, which requires only a 50 vote majority.
Both candidates took Sunday-show turns today. Noam blogged below on Obama's smooth "Meet the Press" ride. McCain for his part did ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, with somewhat more mixed results. I've never found McCain terribly appealing in the talk-show format. You would think he can channel more of the freewheeling humor that wins him such love on the Straight Talk Express, but he often seems stiff and irritable, as was the case today.