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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

works every time

How long before Congressional Republicans catch on to President Obama's favourite tactic? My guess is never. Today's New York Times headline says it all: 'Democrats Seem Set to Go It Alone on a Health Bill', the implication being that they had no choice. Here's how Obama's brand of rope-a-dope works:

-First, he goes out of his way to appear bipartisan.

-In response, the Republicans, being Republicans, don't give an inch and in fact trip over themselves sprinting further rightward.

-Finally, Obama gives up on working with the other side and does what he has to do: he goes it alone, like the headline says.

Now that there are reports of self-appointed militiamen carrying assault weapons to the president's public events, can you blame him?

I know that many on the left are concerned that the Democrats will be sold out by their conservative wing, the so-called 'Blue Dogs'. Given the public stage for a couple of weeks, they, too, have shot their load and come up empty. Witness the other heavy-saturation news angle of the week, from yesterday's Times:
Headline: 'Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate'

First paragraph: 'WASHINGTON — The White House has indicated that it could accept a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan, originally favored by President Obama. But the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers.'

Even if the Blue Dogs persist in opposing the 'public option', i.e. a proposed system of government-provided health insurance to those who want it, the numbers are irrefutable: the Democrats have sixty seats in the Senate and, most importantly, although the five or six Blue Dogs in the Senate may vote against the legislation, they would not dare vote against cloture. How could they? Congressional Democrats will never be as disciplined or uni-minded as their Republican counterparts, but not a one of them would dare support a Republican filibuster. For those Blue Dogs who fear that a vote in favour of the public option would hurt them in their home states, the chance to vote No is exactly what they need to prove their conservative bona fides to both their supporters back home and the insurance-company overlords who bankroll their re-election campaigns.

President Obama is the Iceman. No one in American government has more sangfroid. He lets a few weeks go by, acts like he's willing to compromise, allows people to think he's being indecisive; then when it's all over, his enemies have slain themselves, he gets to do what he wants legislatively, and he ends up looking like Mr. Nice Guy. That is tactical genius. After Obama's inauguration, people were quick to compare him to FDR. Time may prove that the better comparison is to the great political tactician of the twentieth century, LBJ.

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