The wrong approach

At the risk of repeating a point made by others, I think it’s worth noting that President Obama is going about overhauling our health care system in a strange manner. One would expect a leader, particularly one who is considered highly cerebral by many, to carefully craft a health care reform plan after a period of intense study. One would expect further that the leader would fight for his plan, compromising only around the edges and under extreme duress. One would not expect a leader to defer to others in his party simply to get a plan, any plan, passed by a certain date.
But Obama is, in the words of David Brooks, deferring to the Old Bulls in Congress on health care reform. He appears to be engaged in an ad hoc process whereby proposals are being cobbled together more or less on the fly and then adjusted in response to the political circumstances as they appear on a given day.
Obama presumably is determined to avoid the Clintons’ approach to health care reform. The Clintons followed something like the top-down approach that I sketched above and, of course, were resoundingly unsuccessful.
But this doesn’t make the approach Obama seems to be following preferable. The Clintons failed mainly because (a) they operated too secretly, (b) they didn’t have the kind of congressional majorities Obama has, and, most importantly (c) they came up with a very bad plan.
It is shocking that Obama would attempt to overhaul our health care system — this vast and critical portion of our economy — on such a short timetable and in such a haphazard fashion. The public senses the absurdity of his approach. It expects Obama to act like the careful, studious leader it voted for. Plainly, though, he has shed that cover.
This, I think, is a big reason why Obama’s approval rating on the health care issue lags behind his approval rating even on the overall economy, where his failure, at least to date, is more manifest.

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