As President Obama returns from a Labor Day vacation in Camp David and members of Congress return from the August recess, the president is coming back to immense pressure: from the left, not to abandon the public option, from conservatives to "start over" and get specific, and from the public in the form of avalanching poll numbers since reform efforts stalled in July. Politico reports this morning that the White House has decided on a new strategy that will take a more aggressive stance against both recalcitrant Republicans and Democrats. This is not the first time the Obama team has tried to buckle down. Will it work?
- Obama's No Good at Details, suggests Joe Wiesenthal at Business Insider. "This will also test Obama's political skills in a new way. On the stump, he's a big ideas guy (kind of like Bush) not eager to get into explaining specifics."
- Beware of Whaling on Liberals, says Greg Sargent at the Plumline. "Liberals will ask why unnamed advisers aren't showing the same zeal for "staring down" Republicans and centrist Dems...But the unbreakable rule is that when Dems confront the left, it's the right kind of tough, and when they stand up to Republicans, it's the bad, shrill kind...Given that Obama aides frequently ridicule D.C. conventional wisdom, it's hard to imagine them in the grip of thinking as tired and conventional as this."
- Broken Promises to "Get Tough" Before, says Rick Klein at ABC. "Team Obama has always been a bit better about telegraphing the strategic shifts than in following through -- or in following a new course once it's publicly selected. (How many interviews did Axelrod or Obama himself give in 2008 to send the message that the campaign was about to get tougher? And what happened to attacking insurance companies, or making the moral case for health reform, or focusing on consumer protections?)"
- All in Obama's Hands, suggest Mark Silva in Time. "It has been the president who has been hammered by a summer of criticism from members of Congress and the public alike, leaving the president's unclear plans vulnerable to a barrage of complaints...The question for Obama is whether it's too late for a personal appeal of his own -- with a recipe for reform -- to change the minds of doubters and set crtitics."
- Congress Distracted by Looming Elections, says Dan Balz in the Washington Post. "But members of Congress and the president are now operating on conflicting political timetables. Obama doesn't have to worry about reelection until 2012, when the world could look quite different. Members of Congress have to face the voters in 14 months and already they are nervous about what they see. Once they start worrying mostly about their own survival, Obama's hold on them will be weakened."
Yes, health care reform has lost some popularity. But Democrats are past the point of no return. They have no choice but to pass a bill, and the Republicans have done them a favor by showing their hand.