The Obama White House has done the near impossible: It has united the Republican Party. Social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians—they’re all against the health-care schemes as presented so far. They’re shoulder-to-shoulder at the barricade again…
The president seemed like a man long celebrated as being very good at politics—the swift rise, the astute reading of a varied electorate—who is finding out day by day that he isn’t actually all that good at it. In this sense he does seem reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, who was brilliant at becoming president but not being president. (Actually a lot of them are like that these days.)
Also, something odd. When Mr. Obama stays above the fray, above the nitty-gritty of specifics, when he confines his comments on health care to broad terms, he more and more seems . . . pretty slippery. In the town hall he seemed aware of this, and he tried to be very specific about the need for this aspect of a plan, and the history behind that proposal. And yet he seemed even more slippery. When he took refuge in the small pieces of his argument, he lost the major threads; when he addressed the major threads, he seemed almost to be conceding that the specifics don’t hold.
When you seem slippery both in the abstract and the particular, you are in trouble.