Commentary Magazine


Heading for an Exit on ObamaCare?

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. ”Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.