I just don't get this:
The critical failure in all this was the failure to win public support. Cohn sort of acknowledges this. ("Public support would obviously help--a lot." Yes, it would.) But that failure is not mainly the Republicans' fault. I don't think their criticisms carry much weight: Republicans are no more trusted by the public than Democrats. It is Obama's fault, first for putting Congress in charge, and then for standing aside for more than a year.
Obama fault Number One: "putting Congress in charge" of legislation. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the point of Congress to pass legislation. What is the legislative branch for if it isn't to, er, legislate? In such a huge undertaking, will it be long and messy? Of course. So what? Is this plan super-liberal? It has no public option, it cuts Medicare, to trims the deficit and it bends over so far to please the drug and insurance companies it could get a job in the Cirque du Soleil.
I can imagine Clive writing back in the Clinton years the exact same conventional wisdom that the Clintons should not have tried to come up with an executive branch scheme and foisted it on the Congress. Same centrist world-weariness.
Now for this nonsense that Obama "stood aside for more than a year".
Was Clive alive last September? See David Brooks here on one of the best pieces of presidential oratory - turning around public opinion on the subject. Atul Gawande here. Andrew Sprung here. Half the blogosphere here. The other half here. Even Mickey Kaus - who originally didn't want Obama to give a big risk-taking health reform speech - here. Dish live-blogging here. My conclusion?
A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton's mastery of policy detail with Bush's under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country's ability to tackle pressing problems. This was why he was elected, and we should not be swayed by the old Washington and the old ideologies and the old politics. He stands at the center urging a small shift to more government because the times demand it.
And he makes sense. And this was not a cautious speech; it was a reasoned but courageous speech. He has put his presidency on the line for this. And that is a hard thing to do.
But according to Clive, Obama "stood aside for more than a year". WTF?