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:
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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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.