No wonder the Democrats are dazzled, frazzled and confused. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are sitting on enormous majorities, but they’re at the mercy of an obscure conservative congressman from rural Arkansas and a tiny band of Democratic dogs, some blue and some ol’ yaller posing as the more fashionable blue. Bow, wow.
The Democrats are trying to stuff a health care scheme down the throats of Americans who clearly don’t like it, don’t want it and can’t pay for it, and Mr. Ross and his Blue Dogs have stalled it, forcing changes that might make it palatable, or at least less toxic. But now that maybe it’s not as bad as it could be, the liberals - who want to be called “progressive,” having ruined the label “liberal” - say they don’t want it, either.
President Obama, who insisted for months that he had to have his health care “reform” by Aug. 7 or Saturn would collide with Pluto, suddenly insists that there was never anything magic about a date in August. Everybody is free to toil at leisure. Any time in October will be perfectly OK with him. But his leige men in Congress are singing hymns in a different key. Harry Reid, the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, met reporters Thursday and risked bustin’ his galluses, such was the chemical purity of his dudgeon.
“That is a deadline that you created,” he told the reporters, his face weary with worry, fatigue and frustration. “It’s not like we don’t have a product … the mere fact that this wasn’t done by last Friday or by 5 o’clock doesn’t mean we’re not going to get a quality product.”
For her part, Nancy Pelosi, who a fortnight ago mocked the Blue Dogs with a boast that “we’ve got the votes,” rails that “the insurance companies are the villains.”
Sen. Richard Durbin, a Reid deputy, dutifully agreed. “There are people out there with a lot of money at stake in this debate,” he said, darkly. “The health insurance companies are some of the most profitable businesses in America. By fighting ‘change’ they’re protecting the bottom line.” (A business making a profit is practically un-American this season.)
Her handsome Democratic majority has flushed and scattered completely out of Mzz Pelosi’s control. The “progressives,” who thought that by the Fourth of July they would have America remade in the image of France, or at least look at lot like Luxembourg, can’t understand why they haven’t.
“I don’t think it would pass the House,” says Rep. Barney Frank of the compromise. “I wouldn’t vote for it.”
Neither would Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, if he means what he says. “We signed a pledge to reject any plan that doesn’t have a robust public option,” he says, “and this plan doesn’t have a robust public option.”
What Messrs Frank, Hoyer and their like-minded colleagues want is a government scheme that would eliminate private insurance, later if not now, and this is what Mike Ross and his Blue Dogs appear to have stalled, for now if not later.
Like his congressional partisans, the president has been stung by the common sense that has become a rising tide not so slowly sinking the Democratic scheme. Like the effective pol he is, the president understands that once Congress goes home for its long summer recess the tide of common sense will gather lethal force.
“First of all,” the president told a selected audience in North Carolina, “nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I’m tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody, you know?”
That sounds promising, but growing numbers of Americans just don’t believe him. A poll for the New York Times-CBS News, out Thursday, shows public skepticism of the Democratic health care scheme - and worse, skepticism of the president’s ability even to shape the debate, growing significantly. An earlier Gallup Poll showed the president’s approval rating dropping to 53 percent, and Rasmussen puts the president’s approval rating at 48 percent, the first time his approval rating has fallen below a majority.
It’s just hard to trick an old dog.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.