The Corner

The Surge Parallel

Liberals want Obama to emulate Bush. After his “thumpin’” in the 2006 elections, he doubled down in Iraq. Obama shouldn’t retreat on health care, they say, any more than Bush did. To the extent liberals are suggesting that public opinion shouldn’t always be followed, especially if it may be transitory, they’re right. But I think there are two important differences between the situations. First, we hadn’t spent 2006 debating the surge proposal. I think the public has more definitively rejected the health-care proposals before Congress. Second, Bush didn’t need a congressional affirmation of his policy; he just needed non-interference and funding (in a context in which denying funding would have seemed like more than an expression of disagreement). If Congress, full of emboldened Democrats and scared Republicans, had been setting Iraq policy itself, we would not have had a surge. Obama has less freedom of action on health care than Bush did on Iraq.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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