Is Barack Obama Responsible For Health-Care Reform?

By Conor Clarke

Well, is he? With a little cutting and pasting, here's Ross Douthat in the New York Times:

If the Congressional Democrats can't get a health care package through, it won't prove that President Obama is a sellout or an incompetent. It will prove that Congress's liberal leaders are lousy tacticians, and that its centrist deal-makers are deal-makers first, poll watchers second and loyal Democrats a distant third. And it will prove that the Democratic Party is institutionally incapable of delivering on its most significant promises.

You have to assume that on some level Congress understands this -- which is why you also have to assume that some kind of legislation will eventually pass. [...] If it doesn't, President Obama will have been defeated. But it's the party, not the president, that will have failed.

And here's Matt Yglesias in the Daily Beast:

Major legislative change is hard, so it should come as no surprise that Barack Obama's drive to comprehensively reform the American health-care system is running into some problems. By contrast, Monday-morning quarterbacking is easy, so it also should come as no surprise that these problems are inspiring a massive wave of second-guessing.

[...] It's possible that despite the formidable obstacles, Obama will prevail in the end. Already he's come closer than any of his predecessors. But it's also possible that he'll fail, and if so, there won't be anything unusual about it. [...] Time and again presidents and their supporters learn the main lesson of American policymaking -- that for better or for worse, our system makes big changes difficult to implement.

I am glad to see this point being made on both the right and the left. One of its virtues is that it's correct! And one of its vices is that it's not made enough.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/08/is-barack-obama-responsible-for-health-care-reform/23714/