In both examples, the presidential sales pitch ended up being overhyped, with promises made that couldn’t realistically be achieved. At its heart, the mission to oust Saddam Hussein was about preventing a dangerous tyrant from using weapons of mass destruction – but administration officials advocated everything from democracy promotion to preventing an alliance between Iraq and al-Qaida as part of its overall argument. When events turned south, failure to achieve many of the items on the checklist proved politically embarrassing.
Obama’s health care law was designed to expand access to the uninsured. It’s a noble goal, if not necessarily a smart political priority. (It’s more popular to advocate for improved health care, not expanded access.) But to win support for the law, Obama claimed it would lower costs, improve the quality of care and not force anyone off their current health care plan. That’s not shaping up to be the case. Premiums are rising, employer uncertainty is growing and voters aren’t viewing the law favorably – with many not even aware of the frontloaded benefits already in place. And even on the access side, the law of unintended consequences is kicking in: Some large retail companies are cutting back employee hours so they won’t have to offer health insurance. That’s not good for the economy or health care access.
The conventional wisdom today is that the incessant conservative drumbeat against ObamaCare, is confined to the base and that the more “mainstream” position would be to accept and improve the legislation. (Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat makes a persuasive case on the policy side of that argument this week.) But politically speaking, it sounds awfully similar to the advice moderate Democrats advocated as public support for the Iraq war dipped – change strategy in Iraq, but don’t advocate for withdrawal. What became the winning political position, and what propelled Barack Obama into the presidency over Hillary Clinton, was an unequivocal opposition to the war