Quotes of the day

“Mr. Axelrod said he accepts some blame for what he called ‘communication failures,’ though he acknowledges bafflement that the administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a crisis, overhaul health care and prosecute two wars have been so routinely framed by opponents as the handiwork of a big-government, soft-on-terrorism, politics-of-the-past ideologue.

“‘For me, the question is, why haven’t we broken through more than we have?’ Mr. Axelrod said. ‘Why haven’t we broken through?’…

“In a lengthy interview in his office on Wednesday, Mr. Axelrod was often defiant, saying he did not give a ‘flying’ expletive ‘about what the peanut gallery thinks’ and did not live for the approval ‘of the political community.’ He denounced the ‘rampant lack of responsibility’ of people in Washington who refuse to solve problems, and cited the difficulty of trying to communicate through what he calls ‘the dirty filter’ of a city suffused with the ‘every day is Election Day sort of mentality.’

“When asked how he would assess his performance, Mr. Axelrod shrugged. ‘I’m not going to judge myself on that score,’ he said. But then he shot back: ‘Have I succeeded in reversing a 30-year trend of skepticism and cynicism about government? I confess that I have not. Maybe next year.'”

“A little humility would be nice. So would a sense that he answers to the public rather than to some self-proclaimed (and self-determined) imperative of history and/or call of destiny. What Obama seems to fail to understand is that his own, overblown self-assurance and self-mythologizing is actually hampering his own goals. One need not stretch too far to observe that one of the factors adding to public opposition to Obamacare is a growing public disquietude about the lack of responsiveness, the authoritarian certitude, and the zealous near-fanaticism of the government that would run the new health-rationing system — all character traits as embodied by the president himself

“And it’s not just on health care. They work against public opinion on matters of criminal justice, terrorist treatment, race preferences, bank bailouts and corporate takeovers, overall spending, domestic welfare requirements, fossil fuel development, missile defenses, advocacy of American interests (and pride!) abroad, and on the whole panoply of oft-unstated attitudes that cohere as American exceptionalism.

“This is not the way the system is supposed to work. This is not the American government we grew up with. This is not the national ethos that we love.”

“Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. Less than three months ago, they were stunned at the way the Democrats managed to get 60 senators to vote for the health bill. Then Scott Brown took them back down to 59, and Republicans were again stunned to find the Dems talking about ramming this thing into law through the parliamentary device of ‘reconciliation.’ And, when polls showed an ever larger number of Americans ever more opposed to Obamacare (by margins approaching three-to-one), Republicans were further stunned to discover that, in order to advance ‘reconciliation,’ Democrat reconsiglieres had apparently been offering (illegally) various cosy Big Government sinecures to swing-state congressmen in order to induce them to climb into the cockpit for the kamikaze raid to push the bill through. The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too…

“Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That’s a huge prize, and well worth a midterm timeout…

“[G]overnment health care is not about health care, it’s about government. Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.”