The Mistake Obama Didn't Make

There's going to be a lot of armchair quarterbacking over the next few days, and I expect that one of the greatest complaints will be Obama's decision to leave the thing to Congress, which inched through the health care bill at a glacial pace.

It's true that in hindsight it probably would have been better to take charge and move the bill through more quickly.  But until two weeks ago, that probably wasn't true.  Letting the Senate take charge insulated Obama from political heat, and ensured that what he came up with could pass.

How could you have predicted this?  Okay, it was likely that Kennedy was maybe going to die before you could get a bill passed, but who thought that he was going to be replaced by a Republican?  Knowing that would have required knowing that the Democrats were going to nominate one of the most extraordinarily incompetent candidates since . . . well, insert someone you hate here.

But maybe more importantly, it would have required believing that Americans were going to hate the health care bill you were so lovingly crafting--hate it enough that Massachusetts would vote for a candidate who promised to kill it.  And hate a bunch of other things Democrats were doing.  Maybe not fairly--but I don't think that many Democrats imagined they would end up in such trouble unfairly.  Early in the year, when these decisions were made, Democrats thought they were witnessing FDR II:  Bigger and Badder.  They thought that everything they did was going to be wildly popular, because after all, hadn't America really been waiting for this moment for years?

I don't really think it's reasonable to say "Obama should have known that Americans were going to be disenchanted with much of his agenda, and rushed it through faster."  First of all, I'm not sure how much faster it could have gone.  And second of all, if Obama had thought that health care reform was going to be this unpopular, maybe he would have thought twice about doing it in the first place.