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Waterloo Time?

Michael Gerson sums up the Democrats’ ObamaCare dilemma:

Their proposal has divided Democrats while uniting Republicans, returned American politics to well-worn ideological ruts, employed legislative tactics that smack of corruption, squandered the president’s public standing, lowered public regard for Congress to French revolutionary levels, sucked the oxygen from other agenda items, reengaged the abortion battle, produced freaks and prodigies of nature such as a Republican senator from Massachusetts, raised questions about the continued governability of America and caused the White House chief of staff to distance himself from the president’s ambitions.

It is quite an accomplishment. For the president, it must also be quite a shock, because he thought he was taking a reasonable, middle path on health reform.

Gerson contends we got here because Obama eschewed incrementalism in favor of transformation and failed to appreciate that there was little appetite for a new entitlement program. And it didn’t help that it seemed to be only one element in a series of big-government power grabs. These were not small tactical errors but huge errors of judgment and vision. In short, he got just about everything wrong.

Is there a way out? Well, after HillaryCare went down to defeat, Bill Clinton moved on to other things. There was no “Plan B” for mini-reforms. And Clinton lived to fight another day, win a second term, and benefit from the restraint imposed by a Republican Congress. Another option is to move away from a massive plan before a painful, if not humiliating, vote comes down. The murmurs in favor of “incrementalism” are being heard on the Democratic side. It would not be as stinging a defeat as a “no” vote on ObamaCare. But right now Obama, as he has done every time he’s been given a chance to turn back, is instead plunging ahead, trying to force a vote in a matter of days.

Obama seems oddly eager to create a make-or-break moment — to put his entire presidency and the congressional majority of his party on the line for the sake of a bill reviled by 2/3 of the country. The result may be bracing. And he will have no one to blame but himself if he fails, nor much, if any, political capital left to sustain him through the remainder of his term. He better know something the rest of us don’t about the House vote count, or this will, in fact, be his Waterloo.



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