Commentary Magazine


LBJ He’s Not

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill – and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.