(Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters via the NY Times)
President Obama, returning from a fund-raising trip, phoned campaign volunteers to tell them it was imperative health care reform happen this year, or it won’t happen at all. The conference call was put together by his political organization Organizing for America, and is part of a strategy to keep his 2008 campaign volunteers active and engaged. The push comes right after a fund-raising dinner where Obama congratulated himself on all his administration has done so far, even explicitly inviting superlative comparisons to FDR, and told his audience, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
There’s a political reality to Obama’s warning that there is only a limited window for his universal health care package. It has to happen during the honeymoon phase so he can minimize opposition effectively while voters continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. Wait any longer, and there’s a chance his efforts will meet with greater resistance as time passes. It’s a political fact of life that any President must face.
But on top of that, there’s a continued sense that the Obama administration keeps pushing the “it’s now or never” line to scare people into following the plan. We heard it with the stimulus package, where if Congress didn’t pass it immediately, the American economy would immediately explode. We are hearing it with cap-and-trade, where we hear the planet simply can’t afford for us to wait any longer for us to take political action. And now we’re hearing it with Obama’s universal health care plan, where the President acknowledged a real political deadline but also has tried to tie it directly to the economic crisis, and we can’t stop anything that might help end the financial crisis, can we?
The speed and ferocity might make some swell with pride, but legislators and voters have little idea of the details of any of these plans that are being ramrodded through. It’s summed perfectly by Rep. Henry Waxman indignantly stating he has no idea of the specifics of his own cap-and-trade bill, and by the admission of lawmakers that they hadn’t read the stimulus bill. The left charged the Republican-controlled Congress of sneaking through the Patriot Act in the dead of night when no one was watching, but apparently the lightning-fast push-through of any and all of the President’s agenda with little to no deliberation is just dandy.
The President still has three and a half years left in his term. He has plenty of time to take a breath and attempt to pass whatever legislation he wants. But quite frankly, ramming through as much as he can in as little time as he can is a disservice to the legislative process, which ought to be more deliberate and conscious of potential consequences, and it seems suspiciously to be just more of “Hurry up before they see.” More importantly, it’s distracting the administration from the growing concerns of North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan, who we cannot afford to ignore while the President occupies himself unnecessarily in racing through a checklist of domestic agenda wishes.