Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Fifth Columnist at Buzz Flash
"It's clear he has to have this," Sen. Jay Rockefeller said a couple days ago of President Obama and health-care reform. And if that was arguably clear, then, it's incontestably blinding, now.
A fierce urgency? Kid's stuff. This, Obama knows, is either do, or die.
In just the last week or two we've witnessed the president's shifting stances: from a reserved, legislative distance to European shoutouts and chief-of-staff slapdowns; from New York Times reports of Democratic lawmakers "[coming] under fire" from a mountingly impatient White House to Washington Post stories about "Lyndon B. Johnson-style lobbying" in which Obama assures those lawmakers that he's willing to "stake his political capital on this year's top agenda item."
For the Post's health-care correspondent, Ceci Connolly, the Johnson comparison has morphed into a durable narrative, a reassuring frame, a tale of presidential management that's recognizable to students of political history:
"Just as Johnson gave legendary lawmaker Wilbur Mills latitude to craft the Medicare bill," Connolly has written, "Obama has asked Congress to write the health-care revamp legislation. And just as Johnson was known for his powers of personal persuasion, Obama ... has assiduously cultivated and cajoled lawmakers."
The White House, knowing that in the minds of many LBJ is synonymous with (eventual) action, has been far from diffident in pushing the historical equivalence. "There are two qualities these presidents have in common," said Obama adviser David Axelrod. Johnson "had a big vision and drove the country toward it, and second, he had a great appreciation for the legislative process."
Translation: While not losing sight of higher and ultimate objectives, Obama knows he must suffer these foot-dragging fools with paternal understanding -- and he can do it with the best of them.
But if Lyndon Johnson's successes act as a guiding inspiration to Obama, there's the transcendent example of Bill Clinton's failures to act as a monstrous warning: "In sessions with Democrats," wrote the Post, "Obama and his advisers remind lawmakers that the defeat of President Bill Clinton's health-care overhaul spelled electoral disaster for the party in 1994, costing Democrats control of both the House and Senate."...(Remainder.)