Commentary Magazine


The Blame Game

Obama would like nothing better than to blame the Republicans for his troubles in getting health care passed. But with Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, that line doesn’t even pass the straight-face test. For once, the mainstream media is calling foul.

The A.P., for example, is not buying Obama’s straw-man argument that this is all the Republicans’ fault:

House Democrats put their divisions on display over the details and timing of health care legislation Tuesday despite fresh attempts by President Barack Obama to hasten a compromise on the issue that looms increasingly as a major test of his clout.

The report also points out just how testy House Democrats are getting over being strong-armed by the White House.

“I think that we always need to be reminded that members of Congress don’t serve under presidents, they serve with presidents,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.

But of course it is the Democratic majority that does not have its act together, forcing House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer to confess that they “may leave town this month without voting on health-care legislation, saying lawmakers still need to reach a consensus.” Hoyer also let on that opposition within Democratic ranks is not limited just to the 50-something Blue Dogs. Indeed, Democrats are now openly sniping not just at their congressional colleagues but also at the president himself:

As the prospects for passing health reform by the time Congress leaves for its August recess look bleaker, Democratic grumbling about President Obama is growing louder. One Democratic senator tells CNN congressional Democrats are “baffled,” and another senior Democratic source tells CNN members of the president’s own party are still “frustrated” that they’re not getting more specific direction from him on health care. “We appreciate the rhetoric and his willingness to ratchet up the pressure but what most Democrats on the Hill are looking for is for the president to weigh in and make decisions on outstanding issues. Instead of sending out his people and saying the president isn’t ruling anything out, members would like a little bit of clarity on what he would support – especially on how to pay for his health reform bill,” a senior Democratic congressional source tells CNN. The Democratic leadership had hoped the work going on behind closed doors for months could bear fruit in time for the president’s news conference Wednesday night. But multiple Democratic sources tell CNN that’s looking very unlikely, and one senior Democratic source tells CNN there is some frustration among Democratic leaders that Senate negotiators have, “repeatedly missed deadlines.”

One can’t help but think the Washington press corps are getting fed up with the White House spin that the problem rests with the Republicans. The first sentence of this Sam Youngman report reads: “Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed their concerns about the cost of health-care reform during a White House meeting with President Obama.” And the last: “In a statement before the meeting, Obama largely blamed Republicans for holding up legislation in the House.” Got that?

The president would love to blame Republicans. But this is a problem of the Democrats’ own making and of his own inability to make good on his ludicrous promise to bring health care to the masses without running up the debt or socking it to the non-rich. If Obama fails, it won’t be because the minority party said no; it will be because his own party decided the risks of a horrible bill outweighed the risks of doing nothing.