The Corner

Obama on Abortion: Politically Smart after All?

Yesterday, I did some huffing and puffing about how Obama might be about to sacrifice the health-reform bill in the name of abortion. A reader suggests an intelligent, and dangerously plausible, alternative:

What you write is certainly true, and I think unlikely to be missed by Obama and his political advisors.  But another perspective should be considered: What if the president is practicing a little rope-a-dope?  The bill is in some trouble in the Senate already.  Obama’s declaration of opposition to Stupak could be an attempt to channel the negativity surrounding the bill. The debate will become particularized on a hot-button that is a very small part of the whole.  Then, after the opposition to this dark forest of a bill is focused on one tree, Obama gives an impassioned speech (his bailiwick, no?) explaining that healthcare reform is  so important that he will acquiesce on the Stupak amendment point in service to the greater good.  He gets his bill, and sets about expanding the programs it creates to include abortion coverage quietly, probably not until his second term.

Obama is good at two things:  giving an inspiring (if often empty) speech, and throwing things and people under the bus when necessary, and to salutary political effect.  I suspect that his opposition to “changing the status quo” is a pose, struck specifically for the purpose of positioning for a tactical retreat that might get him to 60 in the Senate.