The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Health-Care Strategy Hasn’t Changed in Eight Months

Back in July, I covered Obama’s health-care rally at a community college in Northern Virginia, and wrote:

The town-hall meeting ultimately represented a solution in search of a problem. Americans don’t need to be persuaded that the current way of providing care is frustrating, paperwork-laden, complicated, and growing more expensive. What’s left to sort out is what ought to be done, a process that would require “honest accounting” on several different levels.
And yet, Obama’s lines haven’t changed much: They’re still the usual combination of attacks on the status quo and catchphrases fit for a self-help guru. “Premiums are rising three times faster than wages.” “If we don’t act, more people will lose coverage, and more people will lose their jobs because their employers cannot afford to cover them.” “This is a problem we cannot wait to fix. We are going to pass health-care reform, this year.” “We’re at one of those rare moments where everyone is ready to move forward. You can’t just be scared.” “It can be done.”

. . . This is, in fact, the path HillaryCare trod 15 years ago. Americans weren’t terribly pleased by the way they were paying for health care back in the early 1990s. Employees always think their premiums and co-pays are too high; employers always feel like they’re shouldering too much of the burden; and those without insurance always think somebody should step in and provide them with some. Everybody wants everything they need covered by their insurers, as well as some things they probably don’t need (e.g., gastric bypass surgery, chiropractors, hair prosthesis — all subjects of mandates or attempted mandates in various states).
So reform sounds great in the abstract. But then the public learns the details of the legislation — say, from an incredulous Harry and Louise sitting around a breakfast table — and it doesn’t seem like such an improvement. Town-hall meetings don’t build a majority of “aye” votes, and when there is no real effort to engage the arguments of the opposition, just the usual straw man that the alternative is to “do nothing,” one wonders whether these town-hall meetings are worth anyone’s time, much less the president’s.

. . . The second necessary task — which grows out of that prioritization process — has largely been outsourced to Reid and Pelosi: determining which items in that hierarchy can get 60 or more votes. If we include this provision, does that bring on X many senators, but cause Y number to bail? If we make these changes, can it still get through the House? Can we address that issue in some separate legislation later?
This would require governing, not campaigning; compromising, not promising; and meetings with legislators up on Capitol Hill or at the White House, not the doling out of easy applause lines to an audience at a community college in Annandale.

Here we are, eight months later, and we’re seeing the exact same style of “governing” from the president: heading out from Washington to a college campus to recite the same disputed pledges before an adoring crowd, when the real obstacle is on Capitol Hill, in the mind of a Democrat who sees the proposal as political suicide and/or a non-solution to a real problem.

He held a similar event at the University of Maryland in September. Yet the numbers on the health-care bill’s support rarely if ever move in the right direction.

This is all the White House has left. If any Democrats shift from “no” to “yes,” it isn’t going to be because of Obama.

The rallies couldn’t save Deeds, or Corzine, or Coakley. Why does Obama think they will save his health-care plan?