The Corner

Obama’s Opportunity

In the blog world, there is a phrase, “concern troll,” that means someone on the right (or left) who says, “I’m worried that the Democrats (or Republicans) don’t realize just how unpopular x or y position really is,” etc. The other side’s response being, “Thanks for your concern, troll.” The implication being that, at best, the concern troll cannot objectively evaluate the situation and is probably wrong. At worst, he is cynically trying to manipulate the other side into abandoning a position he disagrees with.

Well, call me a concern troll if you like, but here goes anyway: Lefties, it’s not that Massachusetts voters were dismayed at Obama’s lack of fortitude in allowing the Pelosi-Reid health-care bill to be watered down. The building blocks of the bill itself — the mandates, the taxes, the cost controls, even the subsidies — are incredibily unpopular. Speaking for myself, I was looking forward to bashing this bill for an entire year. I was highly optimistic that it could be repealed. In my piece today, I wrote:

I am personally a little sad that it looks like it won’t pass. After studying how Republicans were able to repeal a similar set of “reforms” in Kentucky, I became convinced that Obamacare could be repealed and replaced with a better set of reforms. I actually think it would have been easier to get the right reforms* in place as part of a package that repealed parts of Obamacare, because it will be years before Congress wants to touch health care again if the Pelosi-Reid legislation fails.

*The “right reforms” in my view being the ones Ramesh describes below. So, yes, I was looking foward to that. Trust me, it not out of “concern” for the Democratic party when I say that the calls on the left for the Democrats to put the pedal to the floor on Obamacare are mind-boggingly wrongheaded, probably the worst advice Obama could get right now, advice that I think, because he’s not dumb, he is sure to reject. This is Obama’s opportunity to lay the health-care fiasco at the feet of Reid and Pelosi, wash his hands of the whole mess and say, “Hey, what can I do? The voters don’t want what they don’t want.”

Bill Clinton also failed to pass a health-care-reform bill, yet he prospered as the administrator of a divided government and went on to a comfortable victory in 1996. Obama could pivot to the center, free himself from Reid and Pelosi and reinvent himself the way Clinton did. And because I think that strategy would probably lead to his re-election, it’s something I’m very “concerned” about.

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