Commentary Magazine


Family Feud

It seems that Obama has been spectacularly unsuccessful in rallying his own party, let alone the country as a whole. The Washington Post recaps:

House Democrats feuded openly over health care Friday before shaking hands on a deal that guaranteed only that they would keep negotiating, wrapping up a week in which consensus on a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health-care system seemed to diminish by the day.

White House aides announced a week ago that President Obama was ready to “take the baton” for his biggest domestic campaign initiative, and indeed Obama campaigned for his proposals virtually nonstop this week, including taking an hour of prime-time television to make his case directly to the American public.

But despite the president’s attentions, Congress was further away Friday from passing health-care legislation than it was on Monday, with only days left before lawmakers leave Washington for their August recess.

The White House and its dutiful spinners on cable TV and in the blogosphere claim it’s the mean Republicans throwing sand in the gears of health-care reform. But it’s plain to see for all but the still-smitten Obamaphiles: health care has stalled because the president hasn’t made the sale to the American people, and Democrats aren’t willing to walk the plank for a government takeover of a sixth of the economy.

Once the August “deadline” comes and goes, lawmakers can venture out into their districts. They will have plenty of explaining to do. The midyear budget review will readjust the deficit, no doubt upward. Unemployment will unfortunately rise. The president’s poll numbers will drift down. And the public’s skepticism over the president and Congress, which spends and taxes with no end in sight, will only increase, especially if they insist on pushing a trillion-dollar health-care plan.

Liberals are convinced that a vast network of grassroots activists stands ready to carry Obama over the health-care finish line. Perhaps. But they haven’t stopped the hemorrhaging of support for the president and his policies. Before Obama gets around to convincing the public to embrace his government-run health-care vision, he’ll need to get his own party on board. And he’s a long way from doing that.

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