Did Barack Obama learn a lesson from Bill Clinton on triangulation? Politico reports that the President will pivot on the “public option” in ObamaCare and take on the left wing of his party. Obama senses an opportunity to gain credibility as a moderate, but that will hardly help Obama in the polls:
Obama is considering detailing his health-care demands in a major speech as soon as next week, when Congress returns from the August recess. And although House leaders have said their members will demand the inclusion of a public insurance option, Obama has no plans to insist on it himself, the officials said.
“We’re entering a new season,” senior adviser David Axelrod said in a telephone interview. “It’s time to synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done. We’re confident that we can do that. But obviously it is a different phase. We’re going to approach it in a different way. The president is going to be very active.” …
On health care, Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers if they argue they would rather have no health care law than an incremental one. The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done.
Obama’s problem will be not just defying his own party base, but … his own words, such as this from just three months ago:
Bill Clinton didn’t spend six months hawking her records before publicly scolding Sister Souljah on the campaign trail. Barack Obama has spent the last six months, and two years of presidential campaigning before that, pushing the idea of a government-run health plan as a way to supposedly keep the private sector “honest.” Obama can pivot and triangulate all he wants, but the net effect will make him look more dishonest and vacillating, not moderate. He lost moderate months ago with the introduction of ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.
Right now, Obama remains where he’s at because of the almost-lockstep support he gets from his base. If he goes to war with the left wing of the party, he won’t convince Republicans and independents of anything except his taste for political expediency. His approval ratings will go even further south, though, in a dynamic that will look a lot like what happened to George Bush after he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Those low approval numbers came from conservatives voting with their feet, and thanks to Bush’s spending, they never came back.
If Obama had a moment for triangulation, it was when the CBO began scoring the House and Senate bills. He could easily have pivoted at that time, declaring the spending to be too much and the bills too large, and urged Congress to slow down and get it right. Instead, Obama urged Congress to rush through these bills so he could sign them. Like it or not, Obama owns ObamaCare and the public option, and his poll-slide conversion will only alienate the few allies he has left.