Of course, there is no direct connection between the renewal of Mr Obama’s domestic political momentum and his chances of success in foreign policy. But there is an indirect connection. Put crudely, the passage of healthcare reform makes Mr Obama look like a winner rather than a loser. It also shows that he is tenacious and that his stubbornness can pay dividends.
Healthcare looked like a lost battle but it turned out just to be a long battle.
Foreign leaders who have written off Mr Obama’s chances of succeeding on the big international issues Afghanistan, the Middle East, climate change, Iran will now have to consider the possibility that the president’s persistence might ultimately deliver success. That increases the likelihood that leaders who are wavering will listen and try to work with him.It may also make foreign leaders who are inclined to thumb their nose at the president think twice. This is not a great week for Mr Netanyahu to arrive in Washington where he is scheduled to speak to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac). If healthcare reform had collapsed in Congress, the Israeli prime minister might have been emboldened to try to rally US opposition to the Obama administration’s Middle East policies. But now that the president has a following wind, confronting him looks riskier.
Success over healthcare may also encourage fickle pundits (I include myself among them) to take a more balanced view of Mr Obama’s first year in office. The administration did, after all, avert the threat of a complete meltdown of the banking industry. The US economy is now growing at an annualised rate of almost 6 per cent a year much faster than any comparable western economy.