Commentary Magazine


From Paris: Why Aren’t You Working Harder?

The president, who has distinguished himself on domestic policy by passively deferring to anything Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with, has annoyed the key Republican on healthcare. The AP reports:

Obama, after months of standing back and leaving the details of health care legislation to Congress, inserted himself firmly into the debate in recent days, including using his weekly radio address Saturday to declare “it’s time to deliver” on health reform.

That didn’t sit well with the Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, which has been laboring to come up with a health care bill that Democrats and Republicans can support.

Grassley is a frequent user of Twitter — the Internet-based social connection service allows users to send mass text messages called “tweets” — and he directed two angry “tweets” Sunday morning at Obama. The president was wrapping up an overseas trip with some time in Paris with his family.

Grassley’s first tweet: “Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us ‘time to deliver’ on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.”

A short time later: “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a ‘hammer’ u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.”

But the president has a problem if he makes clear what he wants. Will he come out in favor of taxing benefits? Will he say how to pay for the enormous cost of covering millions of previously uninsured Americans? (At least the New York Times editors are honest in explaining that lots of more taxes will be needed and that it won’t all pay for itself as the Obama team has suggested for months.) He’ll have to lay it out – and take the political hits. Or he could continue to “phone it in” and hope Ted Kennedy comes up with something both Congress and voters can swallow. But it’s probably not a good idea to phone from the City of Lights.