Quote of the Day: Did Health Care Reform Victory Reflect Major Obama Political Style Change?

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Our political Quote of the Day comes from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who suggests that the health care reform battle reflects an important shift in President Barack Obama.

Dowd starts out detailing how the Dems were shocked that after being counted out, viewed as legisitively ineffectual and stalemated, and basically a bunch of political wimps they sat in the White House yesterday watching Obama sign health care reform. She recounts some of the ugliness stemming from behavior in the GOP base and of “clueless” politicos such as Arizona Senator John McCain (a defeated Presidential candidate who increasingly seems to wear on his sleeve resentment for losing the election unlike the bulk of Democrats and Republican candidates for the White House who didn’t make it) and then says this about Obama:

Only a week ago, Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post’s editorial page editor, had written that Obama did not seem happy in his job, that he projected “weariness and duty” instead of the “jauntiness” of F.D.R. and J.F.K.

But Tuesday, the president was joyous, and that infectious smile so sparsely offered over the last two years lit up the East Room. Many Democratic lawmakers and Obama supporters were frustrated at the president’s failure to show more spine earlier. As Representative Louise Slaughter told The Times in February, “I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more toughness here or there.”

Until now, Obama has gotten irritated at those who cast Washington affairs in Manichean terms of strength or weakness and red or blue. He wanted to reason, to compromise, to float in his ivory tower.

But at long last, when push came to shove, he shoved (and let Nancy push). He treated politics not as an intellectual exercise, but a political one. He realized that sometimes you can’t rise above it. You have to sink down into it. You have to stop being cerebral and get your hands dirty. You can fight fear with power.

The Chicago pol in the Oval has had to learn one of the great American truths: You’ve got to slap the bully in the face. He’s a consensus-building “warrior,” Axelrod boasted to Charlie Rose.

The president, who has been reading Edmund Morris’s “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” has always spoken with a soft voice. Now he’s wielded the big stick.

Joe Biden was correct yesterday: the signing of health care reform was a F*@!&#! big deal — but so was the breathtakingly dramatic shift in political possibilities and perceptions for the Democrats. It’s worth noting this about Obama and the Democrats:

  • Previous talk by conservatives and Obama’s other partisan critics about him and his White House practicing “Chicago style politics” have been as accurate as calling a hot fudge sundae diet food. It’s been a “high concept” political definition label that wasn’t based in reality. If what Obama, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod had been doing up since taking office up until this vote, then the late Mayor Richard Daley would have been running a bar or pizzaria on Chicago’s south side rather than sitting for years in City Hall. But this vote and the way Obama dashed into it may change the calculation: he is not someone who can be rolled or who is naive but who knows how to play the power game.
  • You can see the shift in a new poll that shows a big increase in the number of Americans who now — seemingly turning on a dime — think health care reform is a good thing.
  • You can see the shift in a quiet but notable shift — that some GOPers are distancing themselves from the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity battle cry to completely repeal health care reform to move into the solar system of “nuance” where they are now saying they don’t really mean total repeal but to reform reform. (PREDICTION: Some will run on repeal but GOPers will never repeal since the basic concept of reforming “the best health care system in the world” has overcome the initial hurdle of a vote to do something.
  • Many Presidents learned in office and became different leaders after a bumpy or less than stellar first year. Go back and read books about JFK, FDR and Ronald Reagan. Even — depending on where you are politically and whether you felt tiangulation was a good thing — Bill Clinton. This could be Obama’s learning moment.
  • Indeed, the question from hereon in is this:

    Has Barack Obama now gotten a feel for how the levers of power can be used by a President? Will this go down as his one moment? Or will the people who dismissively suggest he is just some lecturing professor who doesn’t have a clue about bare-knuckle politics prove to be as wrong about him as they were about health care reform being dead with the election of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown — or as wrong they most assuredly will be about health care reform meaning death panels are going to let your grandma die?

    Will it show he has changed over the course of one year and there was a learning curve?

    Or will he head back onto the path towards Jimmy Carterland?

    The copyrighted cartoon by Taylor Jones, El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico, is licensed to appear on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.

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    2 Comments

    1. “Will it show he has changed over the course of one year and there was a learning curve? “

      yes and yes….an extreme learning curve due to his complete and utter lack of experience. Luckily…is a tough and intelligent man.

      Signing this bill isn't what I think was truly the turning point for Obama. When he went into the Republican lion's den and ripped the entire caucus to pieces, he knew they couldn't compete.

      It reminds of sports moments when I have looked at my opponent and truly realized…

      “this guy can't guard me”

    2. This was no big moment for Obama. That's just more silly hype. This is shrunken-down legislation compared to what the Dems origianally sought. Up to a day before passage libs and Dems hated it. Hastily crafted hype and support is laughable. It's not as if they have any reputation of good note to salvage. [snicker]

      This is a big deal because it shows the Dems may finally have pulled their heads into the air again and can resume progress — not only are they past GOP opposition but more importantly, their own self-made implosion may have ended. That certainly means relief, and joy about that recovery or salvage, the real issue here even if no lib or Dem dares to admit it.

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