Was health care reform Obama’s white whale?

I don’t buy it.

“I sort of reject the notion that there is a communications problem with President Obama,” Cook said in an interview with National Journal, when asked about the long-term damage to Democrats of the health reform effort.

“I think it’s just fundamental, total miscalculations from the very, very beginning. Of proportions comparable to President George W. Bush’s decision to go into Iraq. While Bush went, ‘We’re going to go after Afghanistan as a reaction to 9/11,’ and then just pretty soon got distracted and obsessed with going into Iraq with varying rationalizations that sort of evolved over time.”

Cook was unrepentant. “Yes, I think choosing to take a Captain Ahab-like approach to health care — I’m going to push for this even in the worst downturn since the Great Depression — is roughly comparable to Bush’s decision to go to war,” he told me. “It basically destroyed the first year of a presidency.”

White whale? Not even a white guppy.

I don’t think the President truly pushed for health care reform. He claimed it as a priority, then he sat back and gave a few speeches but otherwise let Congress take the lead. (Gays will recognize this approach from the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate.) I think it’s naive to suggest that the biggest fault of the last year was pushing for health care reform, or that the President’s woes are all because of the economy. I think the President has an aversion, for whatever reason, to fighting for his professed beliefs. And that aversion has permeated the White House staff, whether by direct order or osmosis, so that the White House messaging machine is now muddled. This permitted the GOP, and especially the Teabagger wing of the party, to define Obama’s presidency, while at the same time scaring Democrats in Congress, and the White House, into further backing off from the President’s promises.

Congress deserves some blame as well. At the very least, they ceded far too much control over the agenda to the White House, which ironically didn’t want the job. Again, leading to muddle. As for the Republicans in Congress, yeah they suck, they’re obstructionist and extreme and care more about politics than policy. But when haven’t they? I’ve been reading a lot lately about small dog syndrome. It’s when you let a miniature pooch think it’s the king of the world by not putting it in its place, not setting boundaries, not showing it who’s in charge. The little guy gets awfully yappy, and ends up bossing you around. I think the GOP has small dog syndrome. And guess who enabled it?

I’ve said it before, and it’s a bit of an over-generalization, but only barely. The American people don’t care much about substance, they care about leadership. Someone with good ideas who refuses to lead is the public’s worst nightmare. That doesn’t mean you chuck your good ideas. It means if you want your good ideas to be enacted, you’d better lead.


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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