President Obama is only one year into his very young presidency, so I think it’s way too early to know what kind of leader he will turn out to be. So why have I been so dissatisfied, especially in regard to the health care debate?
Pretty much for the same reason I was disappointed in the Clinton and Bush presidencies — whether it’s the system or how Washington has perverted the system, it seems increasingly impossible to get things done. I didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid for president and, shockingly, I believed that Obama’s mandate gave him the clout to tell them what to do. Too often, it’s seemed the other way around.
But it goes deeper than that. I had this ridiculously hopeful idea that after all the “pulverizing” of the past eight years (thanks for the word, Bill), Obama might force his party to do the right thing — simply because it’s the right thing.
The Washington Post had a powerful editorial this morning that offered a concrete example of what I’m talking about.
The Post offered a compelling illustration of where Obama is falling short of expectations in the minds of voters like me. And by focusing on one specific that particularly rankles me — the malpractice litigation debate — reflected what I mean by doing the right thing just because it’s the right thing.
Voters also are disappointed that President Obama’s promises of pragmatic, bipartisan cooperation have not been fulfilled. On that score, too, we sympathize.
The White House answer will be: We tried, and Republicans didn’t want to play ball. But imagine that Mr. Obama had refused to take the Republicans’ no as his final answer.
The president acknowledged, for example, that malpractice litigation is a factor in driving up health-care costs. He signaled he might be open to its reform if Republican senators would support his overall framework. When none did, malpractice reform fell by the wayside, which was the predictable response; why offend a Democratic interest group (trial lawyers) for no apparent political gain
But Mr. Obama could have insisted: This is a good idea, not just a Republican idea, and it belongs in health-care reform. A series of such steps, difficult as they would be, might have a real effect on public opinion and the political climate.
Rod used to write about the Republican Party not being his party any more. That’s how I’m increasingly feeling about the Democratic Party, as it’s been taken over by its most liberal wing and developed an arrogance that “it knows best.” Obama’s smarter than that and, if he doesn’t grab a hold of his congressional leadership’s necks and shake ‘em hard, he’ll never be able to accomplish what I still believe is largely a good agenda.