Normally, when party leaders need to whip recalcitrant members to get on board a controversial bill, they apply sweeteners and threats in the needed proportion to gain the votes they need. Unfortunately for Nancy Pelosi, she can’t allow changes to the Senate version of the ObamaCare bill, so she can’t offer Cornhusker Kickbacks like Harry Reid did to get a floor-vote victory. Democrats will instead get a solid dose of arm-twisting, and Byron York gives readers some insight into what fence-sitters in Pelosi’s caucus will experience:
I called a Democratic strategist with a question: Say I’m a moderate Democrat. I voted for the House bill last November, but I’ve seen the polls, I know a majority in my district opposes the bill, and I feel certain that voting for final passage will end my time in office. Why should I vote yes?
“Look, you voted for it before,” said the strategist, who asked to remain anonymous. “You should have thought about that then. You’re stuck with the vote, it’s around your neck, you’re going to wear it like an albatross. The ad that’s going to run against you is going to be the same whether you vote for it now or not.
“The Republicans are going to be able to frame what you did their way, and you’re going to need to be able to frame it a different way, to say that you fought to make health insurance more affordable and insurance companies more accountable.
“And if you’re a bedwetting crybaby, you should just go home right now.”
If you get the idea that, in private at least, Democrats are going to make this vote a serious test of manhood, you’re right.
“You big weenie, you know what I’d like to say to you?” the strategist continued. “You sit there and you’re willing to go send an 18-year-old to go fight for his country, knowing he might die, and here you are unwilling to take a tough vote on an issue that you promised your constituents and you voted for once before? You don’t deserve to be here!”
If you get the idea that, in private at least, Democrats have lost their minds, you’re right. The problem isn’t that the House members holding out on ObamaCare are doing so because they’re looking for a Cornhusker Kickback. For most of them, it conflicts with their principles, especially on abortion. In fact, that kind of argument could work better in convincing progressives to vote no than on pro-life moderates to vote yes.
Besides, it’s a bit difficult to cajole Democrats into bravely falling on their swords for their President when the President himself has hardly shown any leadership at all on the issue. The Hill asked contributors whether it’s time for Obama to start sounding like a President rather than a law professor stuck on the wrong campus:
Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
Is Obama weak? By no means. He has strengths and he is as smart as Romney or Bill Clinton. But he may not be cut out for the task at hand. As others have said, he is more a law professor. …
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit blogger, said:
Yes, Obama is weak. When he brought in Rahm Emanuel, I hoped that it was to have someone tough to resist the impulses of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. But when it comes to congressional pork, Obama has been enabler-in-chief. Though he blusters and bullies from time to time, when push comes to shove he is not acting, but acted upon. Turning over leadership to the worst Congress in my lifetime is likely to prove a disastrous mistake for His Presidency, even if — as seems unlikely — he somehow manages to sneak this healthcare bill through. …
Peter Navarro, professor of Economics and Public Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:
The first big mistake Obama made in his presidency was to turn over the fiscal stimulus to Reid/Pelosi. They botched it. His second big mistake is to ASSERTIVELY and Quixotically pursue health “reform” in the face of sure political catastrophe in November.
One dissenter, Joe Madison of the Black Eagle radio show, attempts a defense by criticizing George Bush:
President Obama is thoughtful, intelligent and insightful. These are traits of a strong president, not a weak one. He cannot be led around by the nose and the smell of public opinion. We forget that during Bush’s two terms in office, most Americans questioned who was running government, the president or the vice president.
Thankfully, no one thinks that Joe Biden is in charge, but most people already know that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have run the agenda for more than a year. Obama tried to take charge this week on health care by offering his own smaller plan to provide a fresh start. Remember when the White House promised that? Instead, Obama fell in line with Pelosi and Reid by backing reconciliation on the long-existing versions that have become electoral poison to Democrats.
President Obama’s message to progressives who are dissatisfied with the Senate health care bill is two fold: First: Don’t forget about the uninsured. Second: Don’t forget what failure to pass this bill would do to the party and my presidency…
…Obama reminded the assembled Democrats that doing nothing would be politically disastrous. “To maintain a strong presidency we need to pass this bill,” the President said, according to Grijalva.
So, despite the haranguing of Democratic strategists, it’s not about courage or fatalism. Heck, it’s not even about health care. It’s about rescuing Obama from the debacle in which he’s been led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. If this is “a serious test of manhood,” then Obama’s failing it.