By rolling the dice with his successful all-in fight for health-care reform, Barack Obama has managed overnight to resurrect a young presidency from expectations of premature collapse.
WASHINGTON — By rolling the dice with his successful all-in fight for health-care reform, Barack Obama has managed overnight to resurrect a young presidency from expectations of premature collapse.
His feat, accomplished with the spectacular field-generalship of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, gives him a tailwind in his principal second-year challenge of job creation in the unfinished task of economic recovery.
Dismissing advice to trim back his health-care ambitions and pivot sharply to tackling the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate, the president beat the odds. He demonstrated his toughness, determination and leadership in winning the reforms, while clearing the decks for the next fight.
Perhaps for the first time since his inauguration, Obama delivered importantly on his campaign promise of "change you can believe in," by opening health care to most Americans. Now, by convincing voters that the change is real, he has the means of combating pre-vote pessimism of severe losses in November's congressional elections.
The president started re-selling the reforms at the bill signing in the East Room yesterday, citing such popular items as an end to denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and to arbitrary terminations of coverage as evidence of promises kept by the Obama administration. And tomorrow (Thursday) he will go to Iowa to carry on the persuasion effort.
Meanwhile, one of the perils for the Republican Party that sought to obstruct him on the reform package, and that now continues to predict a national calamity in its passage, is that the world may not come to an end after all in time for those elections.
The GOP prophets of doom, with House Minority Leader John Boehner at his most baleful best, are not only promising Armaggedon but also committing their party to repeal of the health-care legislation even before its full enactment.
Considering the lack of a Republican majority in either house, it's an empty threat, at least through the approaching elections. And it puts the opposition party in the posture of looking back as Obama looks ahead, working to dig the country out of the economic mess it left him in 2009.
No doubt, the tea party movement and its cheerleaders like Sarah Palin and the right-wing cable talk show hosts will continue their clamor for repeal, and for court action to negate Obama's legislative coup. The state attorney general in Virginia has already said he will challenge the mandated purchase of health insurance in the Obama bill as unconstitutional, with several other states chiming in.
But all the scare tactics thrown at the Democratic plan, and the resolute assurances of the Republican leaders that Pelosi in the House did not have the votes to pass it, couldn't prevail. So it will be a very tattered flag under which they will carry their defeated cause into the midterm campaign in the fall, and presumably beyond.
Meanwhile, the Obama political team that seemed to have lost its momentum in the long and torturous run-up to the decisive House vote seems now to have gotten its bearings. The end-game drive that included a fighting Obama back on the campaign trail, backed by Pelosi's tenacious courting of resistant Democratic House members, provided the spark and energy that finally carried the day.
What had been widely written off in so many quarters as a naive and even bumbling administration political operation suddenly came alive in the final days. Obama himself, rather than lashing out at the Republicans, disarmingly continued to express willingness to cooperate with them. He targeted instead the insurance industry, which handed him a political gift in untimely bids for huge premium increases on individual policyholders.
In stonewalling the Democratic president on his primary first-year legislative objective, the Republicans succeeded mainly in cementing the allegation that they are the Party of No, determined beyond all else to smother his young administration in its crib. In the end, Obama used that argument to rally loyal House Democrats to his side.
Through it all, Obama has managed under the circumstances to survive his first-year woes with remarkable equanimity and considerable public support. So far at least, he can say politically, as Mark Twain once did, that reports of his death are premature.
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