Will healthcare make Obama a one-term president?
Back in the bloom of 2009, when Democrats were still aglow with the joy of victory and their future looked bright, South Carolina's Jim DeMint urged his Republican colleagues to stand firm against healthcare overhaul. The healthcare push, said DeMint, could be President Obama's Waterloo. At the time, DeMint was widely denounced, by the president and others, for putting politics ahead of the need to fix the healthcare system.
Now, in the trench warfare of 2010, when Democrats are scrambling to rescue a pared-down version of the bill and Republicans are salivating at the opportunity to bury them with it, some on the left think DeMint might have been prophetic.
Howard Dean, once the darling of liberal Democrats, predicted Thursday that the current healthcare package will "hang out every Democrat who's running for office to dry." In an interview with liberal Bill Press Radio Show, he predicted that even the president could be in trouble in 2012, because "we're not going to be able to explain it to people over the din of Fox News and the Republicans."
As if arguing with Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, Obama told Democrats meeting at the White House that if they pass a healthcare bill, he will sell it, using his vaunted skills as a communicator to convince the public that healthcare overhaul was the right thing to do.
But even he sounds a bit worried. According to participants in the meeting, Obama told lawmakers that doing nothing would not only be politically disastrous for them, it would imperil the entire Democratic agenda, even "a strong presidency."
You can actually argue this both ways -- doing nothing could make the Democrats look lame, doing something could make them look blind to all that anger about the perils of government-run healthcare, and not just from those "tea party" activists who helped make Republican Scott Brown the new senator from Massachusetts.
A difficult choice. If he had a do-over, what would Napoleon do?
-- Johanna Neuman
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