- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

VOTING PRESENT

“In my judgment President Obama‘s address [Wednesday] night was little more than a campaign speech with the Congress as the set piece,” Jay Cost writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Evaluated from that perspective, it was a success. But from the perspective of finding a policy solution - i.e. actual governance - it contributed nothing to health care reform,” Mr. Cost said.

“The president had to give [Wednesday’s] speech for a simple, straightforward reason: His party is divided on a few key issues, above all the public option. This is what forced the delay through August, at which point the opposition was able to seize the microphone from government leaders and drive their poll numbers down.

“To ameliorate this dilemma, the president chose to give [Wednesday] night’s speech. In it, he:



“(1) focused on items that unite the Democrats.

“(2) blasted Republicans while praising bipartisanship.

“(3) indulged in rhetorical flights of fancy that have become his stock-in-trade.

“Each of these items contributed some aspect to the ostensible goal of rallying the Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. It probably did that, at least to an extent.

“However, it failed to address the reason for their doldrums. Democrats need rallying because of internal divisions over actual policy disagreements. President Obama did not deal with those divisions. When you strip away the setting, the soaring rhetoric, the poetic cadences and all the rest, you’re left with the criticism that both Hillary Clinton and John McCain leveled at him through all of last year: He voted present.”

HUGE GAMBLE

“Millions of Americans watched President Barack Obama‘s speech [Wednesday] night to a joint session of Congress. Much of it was familiar, having been delivered in at least 111 speeches, town halls, radio addresses and other appearances on health care. But his most revealing remarks on the topic came on Monday, at a Labor Day union picnic in Cincinnati,” Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“There Mr. Obama accused critics of his health reforms of spreading ‘lies’ and said opponents want ‘to do nothing.’ These false charges do not reveal a spirit of bipartisanship nor do they create a foundation for dialogue. It is more like what you’d say if you are planning to jam through a bill without compromise. Which is exactly what Mr. Obama is about to attempt,” said Mr. Rove, who served as senior adviser to President George W. Bush.

“Team Obama is essentially asking congressional Democrats to take a huge gamble. The White House is arguing that ramming through a controversial bill is safer for Democrats than not passing anything. This is based on the false premise that the death of HillaryCare is what doomed Democrats in 1994. Mr. Obama told a reporter in July that the defeat of HillaryCare ‘helped [Republicans] regain the House.’ Former President Bill Clinton echoed that thought recently by saying ‘doing nothing’ today is ‘the worst thing we can do for the Democrats.’

“Actually, attempting to pass HillaryCare is what brought down the party. Voters rejected a massively complicated, hugely expensive government takeover of health care and the Democrats who pushed it.

“In reality, it is riskier to be at odds with where Americans are than just standing by as an unpopular proposal goes down. The problem for Democrats is they are scaring voters by proposing a takeover of health care that spends too much money, creates too much debt, gives Washington too much power and takes too much decision-making away from doctors and patients.”

FREE ICE CREAM

“This didn’t look anything like the Barack Obama I remember from the campaign,” Tucker Carlson writes in a blog at www.thedailybeast.com.

“Obama the candidate seemed almost unaware of his opponents. At his best, which was most of the time, he rose above them completely, utterly unwounded by the attacks,” Mr. Carlson said.

“He also seemed like an adult. Obama was forever reminding audiences of the hard choices America needed to make, choices that had been sugar-coated when they weren’t ignored completely by politicians too fearful to tell the whole truth. Once elected, Obama promised, that would change.

“Never has a president been warped by Washington quicker. At times [Wednesday night], Obama sounded like an embattled second-termer with a 35 percent approval rating. What percentage of his speech was spent lashing out at his enemies, real and imagined? Radio and cable television pundits, George W. Bush, former Congresses, unnamed ghouls employing ‘scare tactics,’ whose ‘only agenda is to stop reform at any cost’ - they’re all against him, Obama said. And they’re lying.

“This isn’t how confident leaders speak. These are the complaints of a man on his way to bitterness. So soon?

“And whatever happened to the hard choices? Obama spent the early part of the speech describing his plan as the reasonable middle ground between a single-payer Canadian-style system favored by the left wing, and the laissez-faire, Hobbesian chaos so beloved on the right. It’s a plan, he said, that will add ‘not one dime to the deficit, now or in the future.’

“Fine. But when it came time to explain where the money would come from - that $900 billion over 10 years - he flinched. His answer: Why, by eliminating waste and fraud from the current private system, of course. Also, the insurance companies (maybe the most reviled industry in the world since the makers of DDT went under) may have to reduce some of their obscene profits.

“And that was pretty much it. Nobody else - not seniors, not the middle class or the poor or anyone else you have ever met personally - was going to have to pay anything for this wonderful new system. In Obama’s telling, there are only upsides. Free ice cream for everybody.

“This is deceptive. In fact, it’s a lie. Obama the candidate would have been ashamed to say it.”

UNLIKELY REFORMER

Stephen F. Hayes, writing in a blog at www.weeklystandard.com, notes that President Obama has promised to study tort reform.

“I am directing my secretary of health and human services to move forward on this initiative today,” Mr. Obama said in his speech to Congress on Wednesday.

“That would be Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, whose resume includes eight years as director of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association,” Mr. Hayes wrote. “So Obama has chosen a former industry lobbyist to run tort reform.

“Why are people cynical about health care reform?”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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