Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Michael Jackson death overshadows hard week for Obama

June 26, 2009 |  8:48 am

Star The sudden death of Michael Jackson has overwhelmed the media universe and has sucked the air out of the furnace of politics. 

And for the Obama administration, that may not be such a bad thing.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting the White House today and her trip will certainly be overshadowed by the furious frenzy over how Jackson died. Still, a visit from a foreign dignitary wouldn’t have riveted the world’s attention for long even when the topic is troops for the war in Afghanistan.

But also lost in the Jackson coverage is that the Obama administration took significant steps on issues on two marquee issues: Healthcare and immigration reform.

The White House this week made it clear that it lacks the congressional votes to win comprehensive immigration reform. Obama said he remains strongly committed to pushing for an immigration package, but that the timing was somewhere down the road.

On healthcare, Obama and his top officials opened the door to negotiations on a public insurance option and to some form of cap or tax on employer-supplied healthcare benefits for the rich. Obama had pushed the public option and derided any tax during the presidential campaign. It may be too soon to say that the president has changed his mind, but he will try to ease congressional worries. And a door that is ajar tends to swing wider.

If the media tsunami caused by Jackson’s death drowned out the complaints over any policy shifts, it was a bad time for GOP opponents as well. Republicans had hoped to capitalize on opposition to the energy bill working its way through the House. Their complaints about new energy taxes were drowned out by Jackson’s death.

None of these issues is going away, however. And at some point, the lighthouse will turn and shine again on the political sea.

– Michael Muskal

Fans of pop star Michael Jackson sit vigil at talk radio host Michael Jackson's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)