Danger in Delay: The Real Reason Why Obama’s Health Care Initiative Bombed

There’s been a great deal of speculation about why Obama’s health care reform plan (to the extent it’s Obama’s and not Nancy Pelosi’s) has bombed to the point where he’s having to “fall back and regroup.”

Conservatives speak of anti-government sentiment, liberals speak of the hysteria “ginned up” for the town hall meetings.  But there’s one tactical mistake that no one seems to have picked up on: he messed around too long after his inauguration to get the plan started in Congress.

Obama tried to avoid what he felt were Hillary Clinton’s mistakes in this regard, but he replicated this one.  Consider this:

Given the press’ near-hysteria about the alleged health care “crisis” in the spring of 1993, and the uncertain position of GOP moderates, if the administration had submitted a bill, hatched in secret, to the Democrat-controlled Congress by April, it might have passed, if narrowly, in a few weeks.  This appeared to be the strategy pushed on Hillary by the congressional Democratic leadership, which believed that a plan could be passed without a single Republican vote.  Hillary accepted the advice: She was already predisposed to stiffing the GOP and aware of the mistakes another southern governor, Jimmy Carter, had made in going his own way and alienating the Democrats on the Hill.  “They [the administration] have a fifty-vote strategy in the Senate and they believed they would not need a cloture vote [sixty votes to cut off debate and move to a vote] on this legislation,” said Lawrence O’Donnell, former staff director of Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Finance Committee, a critical player who met frequently with top White Hosue officials, including Hillary…

The alternate strategy would have been to run an inclusive process for about a year, persuading various segments of the health care industry as well as many Republicans to support a modified Clinton bill.  Instead, Hilary too the worst elements of each approach.  She antagonised much of the profit sector and the GOP and frightened the public by running a military-style operation.  Yet she let the one-hundred day deadline become hostage to (Ira) Magaziner’s three-ring circus and it was until a year and a half later that Congress finally took legislative action.  This gave interest groups from all sides and the Republican opposition plenty of time to organise against Hillary’s “secret” plan. (David Brock, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, pp. 346-7)

Had Obama dispensed with “bipartisanship” up front (which was always doubtful at best and mendacious at worst,) put off the stimulus package until the summer (you can always pass pork) and rammed health care through Congress in the spring, he might have succeeded.  But he didn’t and the rest, as they say, is history.  He may get something through yet, but it won’t be what he could have had he learned this critical lesson up front.

It’s also worthy of note that Brock’s assessment of Hillary Clinton has made it clear that she has as little use for market capitalism as Barack Obama.  “Nativists” who think that she would have been an improvement over Obama should look at things more objectively, keeping this in mind in 2012.  Unfortunately David Brock has been too busy repudiating much of his excellent work to allow us to see that his new masters could have pushed their agenda further and faster if they, too, had looked at things more objectively.

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