Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Obama finally keeps his word, says Jonathan Cohn in this piece praising the president’s decision to go “all in” on healthcare reform.

Americans always say they want politicians who lead rather than follow–who do what they think is right rather than what they think is popular. And liberals, in particular, say they want politicians who will think big and pursue far-reaching reforms, rather than triangulate their way with incremental measures.

Say what you will about Obama and his plan. Both, surely, are flawed. But, particularly with this latest statement, he’s living up to those ideals.

Well, what liberals want and what Americans who aren’t liberals want are two very different things. Non-liberals might want to be led, but not towards big, far-reaching liberal reforms. They would rather be led nowhere than in that direction. I agree with Cohn that Obama is right to start championing a Democratic blueprint–if that is what he does. (So far he is still only promising to campaign for it.) But Cohn’s notion that Obama is paying the price for naively trying bipartisan outreach, only to be let down by cynical scheming Republicans, is wrong. Obama did not try bipartisan outreach. He outsourced this reform to Democrats in Congress, and the last thing you can accuse Democrats in Congress of being is naive about Republicans.

The critical failure in all this was the failure to win public support. Cohn sort of acknowledges this. (“Public support would obviously help–a lot.” Yes, it would.) But that failure is not mainly the Republicans’ fault. I don’t think their criticisms carry much weight: Republicans are no more trusted by the public than Democrats. It is Obama’s fault, first for putting Congress in charge, and then for standing aside for more than a year. Also, as Jonathan Chait says, it is the fault of progressives, for working so hard to mobilise Democratic resistance to a reform they believed was insufficiently “robust”.

All in all, the liberal strategy of focusing on the public option and constantly harping on the bill’s shortcomings has won few identifiable concessions and has significantly increased the chance that no bill at all will pass.

Agreed. Unlike the president, liberal opponents of the Senate bill did a good job.

I hope it is not too late for Obama to do what he should have been doing all along: making the case not for reform in the abstract, but for a specific proposal capable of commanding wide support.

The fable of Emanuel the Great. David Broder, Washington Post. Broder quarrels with Dana Milbank’s view–”a remarkable fiction”, he calls it–that Rahm Emanuel is the only voice of reason in the White House.

It’s Emanuel who’s dangerous to the presidency. Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post. She goes further in repudiating Milbank, reviving the previous line that Emanuel is the problem. Interesting to see that the Post now has all bases covered. Her reasoning, though, is hard to follow. She blames Emanuel for masterminding the elections of 2006 and turning so many seats Democratic. That sapped the party’s progressive resolve. Maintaining that resolve, even if it means losing elections, is apparently the main thing. Republicans endorse this analysis. I think I know what Emanuel would call it. (I could never endorse such incivility.)

Ed Luce interviews Richard Holbrooke. FT. Holbrooke’s assessment of prospects in Afghanistan is not exactly upbeat.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

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