On Sunday’s The Chris Matthews Show, the HuffPo’s Howard Fineman and the WaPo’s David Ignatius both identified Obamacare as Pres. Obama’s biggest mistake. On Twitter, some on the right — including some I consider to be very sharp — consider the comments an interesting admission, or worthy of mockery. There is more to the comments than that.
Consider the actual quotes:
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Chris, on things under his control, not the wars so much because they were built in, his decision to spend all of his political capital in a year and a half of his time on the healthcare reform law I think was his biggest political mistake.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Smart statement.
DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: I would agree with Howard. The idea of launching a major change in social legislation without having a consensus in the country and in Congress about what that should look like was a mistake. That’s just not how a president makes good policy.
Note what is not said. Neither believes a government takeover of the healthcare sector was a bad policy. Rather, they believe it was a political mistake and that it is “bad process” to pass legislation without consensus. The establishment media took an entirely opposite position when it counted. When the debate was raging, the media never tired of writing about how everyone was going to love Obamacare after it was passed.
The comments from Fineman and Ignatius reflect two things. First, they are a belated recognition that Obamacare is truly unpopular. Second, they reflect a need to get themselves on the record against passing big, controversial legislation now, before the 2012 election. Should the GOP thump Obama and the Dems next year, they want to be able to point to comments like this when they oppose anything like the House GOP budget, entitlement reform and so on.
It’s just another iteration of the “Neutral Story Line.” The establishment media rejected the idea that it was wrong to legislate gigantic societal change when Democrats had big enough majorities in Congress. Now that the GOP may end up in control, it’s a bad idea… until such time as the Dems win again.