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I know the guy works at AEI, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a more objective and knowledgable observer of the lawmaking process than Norman Ornstein. I personally respect his opinion enormously, and I guess it's encouraging when he ends up validating some of my feelings about health care like he does in this outstandingly observant column in WaPo today (h/t Ezra Klein):

On the public front, it was clear that there was no groundswell for broad change. There is public dissatisfaction with the health-care system, but it is framed most by the universal public definition of reform -- "I pay less." Without some guarantee that reform thus defined will be enacted for the vast majority of Americans, the likelihood has always been that the closer government gets to enacting change, the more nervous voters would get about embracing the devil they don't know. And the closer one gets to broad change affecting 16 percent of the economy and a hefty slice of the workforce, the more those whose incomes depend on the current system will fight to keep their share.

At the same time, enacting reform the way it should be done -- with broad bipartisan leadership support and broad bipartisan majorities -- was simply not in the cards in today's political universe. Bipartisan support was clearly a non-starter in the House, if less so in the Senate, but past experience also showed that finding partisan majorities, even with healthy margins in both houses, would not be easy.

Overall, I think this sums it up well:

But having watched the lawmaking process in all its glory (and messiness) for 40 years, as well as having watched the meltdown of the Clinton health plan up close, I am seeing from the administration signs of savvy, not weakness.

I think this analysis is right on, and it's also why the push for the public option is so critical: the Administration DOES have to be flexible, can't get caught up too publicly in what it wants until it is absolutely necessary.

So we are the ones that must push very, very hard for real reform. It has a real payoff in the end, if not in 2010 but in 2020, 2030 and beyond.

Lawmaking is an epic thing that the media is incapable of covering well. Their coverage is similar to that of the blind man describing the elephant: they are not incentivized by their abilities to describe the true nature.

But we are lucky to have true experts like Ornstein to guide understanding, however small his contribution to broader understanding it might be.

Originally posted to I said GOOD DAY sir on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 09:57 AM PDT.


Do you see the savvy, or do you see the Clintonian incompetence on health care?

41%30 votes
19%14 votes
39%29 votes

| 73 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    "Don't bet against us" -President Barack Obama

    by I said GOOD DAY sir on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 09:57:44 AM PDT

  •  Obama is clearly a savvy politician (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, ctlrick, CA Berkeley WV

    but so was the Big Dog.

    Getting elected and running the government are clearly two different things. Examples: Clinton; Reagan; and the worst two term President ever by so much it beggars the imagination, Bush 43.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference.

    by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 10:00:19 AM PDT

  •  someone said we are watching the first (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, I said GOOD DAY sir

    quarter of a match.

    I may not hang around after halftime.
    Where is the forceful Obama when you need him?

  •  The path Ornstein sees: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    itskevin, Boppy, Fury, loper2008, Lib Stone

    The only realistic way was to avoid a bill of particulars, to stay flexible, and to rely on congressional party and committee leaders in both houses to find the sweet spots to get bills through individual House and Senate obstacle courses. Under these circumstances, the best intervention from the White House is to help break impasses when they arise and, toward the end, the presidential bully pulpit and the president's political capital can help to seal the deal.

  •  The proof is in the pudding. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, ctlrick

    I hope you're right, but we'll see.

    This will either be a GREAT victory or a HUGE failure.

    "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

    by Bush Bites on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 10:02:44 AM PDT

  •  Signs of savvy?? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    :::shielding eyes to try and see it:::

    Where, where, where is it??!

    ..Got to admit it's getting better...A little better all the time. ~ Beatles

    by Terre on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 10:03:28 AM PDT

  •  It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    artebella, Boppy, Bush Bites, Lib Stone

    I do believe in my heart of hearts that the man who told us about his mother's struggles with insurance companies while dying of cancer is not going to walk away from this without real reform.  But it is a chess game.  We do need to push as hard as we can and they do their part, which is the game of politics.

  •  Depends On Your Point of View (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If this column is directed at the Conrads, Nelsons, etc., then it is a good column.  They should be willing to compromise to move healthcare reform forward, even if that means including a public option that they don't like.  However, I doubt that this was Ornstein's intention.  More likely, he is directing this to Pelosi and the House progressives.  In that case, it is BS.

  •  I am very concerned (0+ / 0-)

    Obama is not going to fight for the Public Option.  I hope this changes now that he is back from vacation.

    He that chooses his own path needs no map. Queen Kristina of Sweden.

    by Boppy on Tue Sep 01, 2009 at 10:16:41 AM PDT

  •  I guess my vote is who knows? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not defending Obama's strategy on healthcare, but as others have pointed out, there is a reason universal healthcare has been talked about for decades, but hasnt been passed. It's a very personal and complicated issue. I guess we'll see what the bill looks like, and then see if the strategy was good.  

  •  Yeah, great if the AEI thinks Obama's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on the right track, we can say for sure that we're doomed.

    Substantively, no amount of political savvy can change the fact that we have a bad set of bills working their way through the pipeline, bills that will mandate that people turn over even more of their hard-earned money to insurance companies than they already do. If good and affordable health care were truly in the offing, there'd be no need for an individual mandate. In the eloquent words of the President that I donated money and pounded the payment for:

    "Their essential argument is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way. What I have said repeatedly is that the reason people don’t have health insurance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it."
    -- Barack Obama, Nov. 24, 2007

  •  Right now it's all about moving forward (0+ / 0-)

    The only real goal is to get legislation out of each house, then fix it in conference.  

  •  If you listen to what he says, rather than the (0+ / 0-)

    balbberers, Obama intends to pass a plan with a strong public option, and is not worried about the August balbber-storm.

    So far he has...

    1. set up the Repubs as the party of complete lunacy
    1. established his bonafides as having genuinely tried to work bipartisanly
    1. esatblished himself as open to all ideas, though he's basically sticking to his original plan
    1. revealed & isolated the Blue Dogs as the obstructionists that they are (useful for later fights)
    1. shown why reconciliation may be the only way to get this done.  Which it was all along, though to go that route directly would've seemed "too pushy"

    Not a bad trick!

    Now, as he's said many times, Obama gets to come in fighting "in the 4th quarter," and win.

  •  Ornstein is about the only decent aspect (0+ / 0-)

    of AEI.

  •  Happy to see this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was just searching today's posts to see if someone covered it.

    I don't like anointing any pundit or think tank wiz as some kind of definitive voice, but in this respect at least, Ornstein echoes a lot of what I've been arguing.

    The game in Congress is to play the cards you're dealt, and in Obama's case, he was dealt a dysfunctional institution.  His game plan ensured the maximum chance of passing something through the Senate, but it was never going to satisfy the demands of cable news or the activists wishing for the president to personally de-pants Chuck Grassley on the Senate floor.

    All the sage alternative advice Obama's been receiving on the blogs almost begged him to repeat Clinton's 1993 approach to Congress, complete with bright red lines and waving veto pens.  It becomes speculation to wonder whether one path would've been more effective than the other, but how silly would all of us feel if Obama failed on health care AFTER Clinton tried to do it the same way?

    What gives me confidence is that the fireworks of the August recess didn't change the facts on the ground, and we're essentially in the same position now as we were on August 1.  The difference is that now there are a few more cable hosts feeling proud of themselves and a few more bloggers with ulcers.  It's also comforting to remember that Team Obama is cool enough under pressure not to get too caught up in the hysterics and stick to their plan.

    Tipped and rec'd.

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