Green Room

ObamaCare: A failure of leadership

posted at 11:41 pm on January 21, 2010 by

ObamaCare is not dead, but TPM’s Josh Marshall now joins my half-joking assessment on Twitter that it is Undead. And I find myself agreeing with his estimation that “there’s nothing but Plan B” — the two-bill strategy — open to the Dems, but time is of the essence.

Top Dems do not seem to be on that page. House Dems’ hopes of settling on a strategy by the weekend seemed to fade, as they continue to sort through their options. Senate Dems are not rushing to assure the House that differences can be worked out through budget reconciliation. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that “concerns about the political climate” make that plan less than appealing to some Democrats.

All of which brings me back to Josh Marshall:

My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan. It actually seems highly, highly fluid and possibly susceptible to dramatic change if any of the key players assert themselves. But I’m not sure there’s anyone really ready to do that, unless rank-and-file Democrats and Reform supporters assert themselves.

What the dazed and confused Dems are not asking (yet) is: Why was there no plan? The possibility that a Scott Brown victory in the Senate race in Massachusetts could affect final passage of ObamaCare was being publicly discussed at least as early as January 8th. Within a week, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen had boasted that “even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation.” The events of this week show that Van Hollen was bluffing, which leaves the question on the table. How did Pres. Obama, Sen. Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their staffs not have a contingency plan in place for a Brown win? Their membership is now beginning to wander all over the reservation, while pessimism and panic settle in.

All of the Dems who want to mock the defeated Martha Coakley for her political incompetence ought to be looking at their top leadership’s negligence at a crucial moment for their most cherished crusade. Those leaders may yet regroup. But this process has been one of the Dems’ near-religious fervor on this issue trumping public disapproval and the fact that the Dems lacked a consensus solution. That sheer political will is being sapped by the loss in Massachusetts. Unless their leaders can find that consensus solution soon, Democrats may find ObamaCare slipping from Undead to Dead.

Update: Less than an hour after I posted this — with all of its pingbacks to Josh Marshall and TPM, Marshall offered a new post:

Martha Coakley and her campaign have been roundly, mercilessly and rightly ridiculed for getting caught off guard by Scott Brown’s rapid ascent in the Massachusetts senate race. What’s the excuse of the White House and congressional leadership for having no plan in place for what to do if Coakley lost — a live possibility going back almost three weeks?

Hey, good question! And when asked by Josh Marshall, Democrats might start thinking about it.

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November is right around the corner and independent conservatives are fired up…

PatriotRider on January 22, 2010 at 8:29 AM

The Dhims appear to have had nothing on the books except bluff and bluster starting a week ago. There’s a great deal of misdirection and spin coming from their side right now. If a course of action that they’ll pursue does begin to take shape those of us opposed to the tree-killing mega bills will have to pay close attention and catch it as quickly as possible.

ya2daup on January 22, 2010 at 8:39 AM

I think that they were looking at it as one vote, and just not seeing the effect it would have on other people. A week or two ago they thought they could keep tossing bones to people to get/keep their votes. Then Nelson tossed his bone back and there is a whole lot of panicking going on.

MamaAJ on January 22, 2010 at 8:50 AM

The question is: Are the dems feeling lucky?? 🙂

DanaSmiles on January 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM

The prospect of this dragging on for weeks or months longer must be killing Democrats. They’re absolutely desperate to get this behind them and off of the front pages. And if the public optics of the sausage-making process has been ugly so far just wait to see what reconciliation looks like if they foolishly try to go down that path.

There’s no easy way out of the mess they’ve created no matter what they do now.

rsrobinson on January 22, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Here’s how I see it…

The NJ and Virginia gubernatorial elections showed that liberal strongholds were vulnerable. If the NY-23 election were held a week later or Hoffman had come to attention a week earlier, it likely would have turned out differently.

Enter Massachusetts. Where the previous elections had been warning tremors, Scott Brown was the volcano. The idea that a relatively unknown candidate can come from almost nowhere and win in a fairly short period of time is nearly unheard of.

The Dems have got to see the writing on the wall, but it appears they either are ignoring it or it is a language they can’t understand. Yes, there is a lot of backpedaling going on. The rats really don’t want to get fired before the year’s out. So they are going to step back a few paces to a safer position. The “leadership” still wants Obamacare. They just aren’t going to get it quite the way they had planned it. They know their constituants are on to them and can’t wait to take care of business in November. But, they aren’t going to quit working on it.

I expect to see the current bills die. Ramming them through by reconciliation or any other type of trick will result in a firestorm. They know this. So, expect to see bits and pieces scattered in a mishmash of totally unrelated bills, passed in the wee hours of the morning on a weekend. That method seems to have worked for them quite well in the past. They know this and we know this. That’s why we need to constantly watch them, what they do and how they do it. They have proven time and again that they can not be trusted.

As to why they didn’t have a failure strategy…I think they were staring at victory and deluded themselves into thinking they could not be stopped.

JohnTheBuilder on January 22, 2010 at 9:22 AM

That’s why we need to constantly watch them, what they do and how they do it. They have proven time and again that they can not be trusted.

And that goes straight to the heart of the matter. When we fear our own government, that government needs to be changed in a dramatic way. November may herold part of that change. We’ll see. But we must never allow this great nation to return to business as usual!

Crusader Rabbit on January 22, 2010 at 9:28 AM

Indeed, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that “concerns about the political climate” make that plan less than appealing to some Democrats.

We hear politicians are out of touch etc. didn’t listen enough. This little statement by Chuck U. Schumer proves they DO have their li’l tin ear to the ground and can understand rapidly which way the wind blows and exactly how the American people are feeling. We must change our government and elect folks that respect the constitution and the American people.

Herb on January 22, 2010 at 9:33 AM

JohnTheBuilder on January 22, 2010 at 9:22 AM

“The House Health reform bill contains sections that cut Medicare benefits, tax existing health care benefits, and increases taxes on the middle class, yet Mr. Owens stated today that he will now vote in favor of those things contrary to what he had promised the voters of NY’s 23rd Congressional District that he would vote against.”

“The mixed-up mess that was the 23rd Congressional District Special Election was a close race between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Doug Hoffman. Many feel that it was unlikely Mr. Owens would have won those crucial few thousand votes if the voting public was aware of his intent with regard to the Health Care bill. The majority of residents in this district do not support the Health Reform bill as it is now written and many feel like they’ve become victims of a fraud perpetrated by their chosen candidate.”

This may explain how Owens won. It wouldn’t have mattered how much more time Hoffman may have had. Owens could have probably lied indefinitely. According to this, the voters there didn’t want this bill to pass either.

DanaSmiles on January 22, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Listen to Obama, Dean and other leaders. They ‘won’ even though they lost. Why plan for failure when there is no way to fail, and you can spin yourself a victory no matter who wins. It appears however, that more and more people (and increaing number of congressional Democrats) aren’t listening to the spin anymore. They do not hear the Pied Piper’s music and are gradually realizing that the emperor has no clothes.

jerseyman on January 22, 2010 at 9:44 AM

Wouldn’t it be great to get rid of Schumer? hmmm, do you think ??

tarpon on January 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Healthcare “reform” has been undead since Hillary first proposed it. All that’s changed is, like a proper undead creature – vampire or zombie or mummy – it rose from its’ grave, got staked or cut down or burnt, and retreated.

The problem we Conservatives are going to have is much more systemic – how do we persuade a nation of “I want” and/or “Gimmie” that they really don’t want this and other bread and circuses.


acat on January 22, 2010 at 10:08 AM

What the dazed and confused Dems are not asking (yet) is: Why was there no plan?

Contingency planning requires maturity of thought and a healthy dose of experience, both attributes in which the Obama administration is completely devoid of.

bloviator on January 22, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Huh? It’s hardly a failure of leadership. The moron has been the greatest leader his gang-banger followers have ever had.

It’s a failure of 2 things:
1. his giddy inability to hide his revolution once in office
2. the revolution itself

notagool on January 22, 2010 at 10:47 AM

elect folks that respect the constitution and the American people.

Herb on January 22, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Right on, right on. The Dems have gotten so far from the Constitution that none of them remembers what it says. That’s what happens when you lie and scheme to get your way. It’s all about power in the hands of a few for them. They don’t even seem to recognize the consequences of that because they all think they will be the ones in power.

BetseyRoss on January 22, 2010 at 11:22 AM

Republicans need to jump in and fill the leadership vacuum.

Paint the failure in healthcare reform as a result of Deomcrats exploitation of health care to be use it as a vehicle to redistribute wealth from one group of people to another. The losers would have been taxpayers and people who buy insurance. The winners would have been Nebraska, Lousiana, unions, people who prefer low stress jobs or no job at all, and a small number of people who have fallen through the cracks. The only problem that needs to be fixed is the cracks.

pedestrian on January 22, 2010 at 11:43 AM

The Dems have gotten so far from the Constitution that none of them remembers what it says
BetseyRoss on January 22, 2010 at 11:22 AM

They know what it says very well, they just disagree with what it says. Remember that Obama interview about how the Constitution should have provided for more people (ala Soviet style) as opposed to being a limitation on the Federal government.

txmomof6 on January 22, 2010 at 11:46 AM

provided for more people
should have read
provided more for people.

txmomof6 on January 22, 2010 at 11:48 AM

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