The Poll Number to Be Worried About

The Washington Post has a poll out this morning (more about it later), but the poll to be worried is the Rasmussen poll number.

Eighty percent (80%) of Americans now say Wall Street benefited more from the bailout of the financial industry than the average U.S. taxpayer.

If Obama is viewed as caring more about Wall Street than Main Street, he’s finished.

Obama Grabs the News Cycle on Healthcare

The president just finished a rather unusual Friday 4 p.m. statement – without taking questions.  It was on healthcare, and it again demonstrated his ability to take the long view.  More important, it was a demonstration to the public of his ability to do just that.  It positions him as someone who cares about the future and not about political points. 

Obama has a knack for demonstrating to the public that he is thoughtful.  This statement was exactly that.  He took, in his words, “the long view” of the healthcare debate.  Just knowing someone is taking that view reassures the public.

He first focused on the idea that we have a consensus that something that needs to be done.

He then ticked off those who support him by listing the organizations that have either agreed to concessions or who have endorsed his plans – the pharmaceutical Industry, hospitals, nurses and the AMA.  What that does is reassure people that “your doctor is behind me.”

He also talked about the need to improve “preventive and wellness programs.”  Which is a way of saying, “Americans, you need to take responsibility for your health, without sounding like a fitness nut.

He used words like “stability and security,”  which can resonate in these uncertain times.

He then talked about keeping coverage even if you lose your job and not losing coverage for preexisting conditions.  Those are two key points.

He then addressed how we pay for it.  He discussed not adding to our deficit, paying for immediate changes and slowing long-term health costs.  He repeated that point, and sure enough, the news program I was watching, Bloomberg, emphasized that point. 

He made a plea for controlling costs by having independent doctors and others over seeing costs. Which means taking Medicare payments control away from Congress.

He finished by saying, “Now is not the time to slow down” on healthcare reform.  If we step back, we we assigning our children to crushing deficits and increased healthcare costs.”  It’s always a good idea to frame the debate with cherub faces.

He also said that “If we don’t get this down, no one insurance is secure.”  Which polls suggest the public understands.  Even if they like their current insurance, they know we have a problem.

Sure enough, the Bloomberg anchor, led with “Sounding confident, Obama…” and then mentioned the support he has among key players.

This guy is as good if not better than Reagan.

Why Reporters Should Keep Opinions to Themselves

How was President Obama’s town hall meeting on healthcare yesterday?

According to the AP headline and its story about it, his performance was thin gruel.

Emotion, few details, in Obama’s health care pitch (headline)

…The health care changes that Obama called for Wednesday would reshape the nation’s medical landscape. He says he wants to cover nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, to persuade doctors to stress quality over quantity of care, to squeeze billions of dollars from spending.

But details on exactly how to do those things were generally lacking in his hour-long town hall forum before a friendly, hand-picked audience in a Washington suburb.

But The Washington Post called his performance “wonkish.”

President Obama offered a wonkish defense of his embattled health-care reform effort during an hour-long town hall meeting in Northern Virginia yesterday that featured seven questions, including one sent via Twitter and several from a handpicked audience of supporters.

…One Twitter user asked whether it makes sense to tax people’s health-care coverage as a way to pay for reform. That led Obama to offer a long explanation of the various financing proposals, including his own for limiting deductions for the wealthy.

Why do reporters try to signal us how we should feel about the information they are imparting?  As Jack Webb (as those of you old enough to remember his TV detective persona) might say, “Just the fact, ma’am.”

The Post reporters, Mike Shear and Jose Antonio Vargas, seemed particularly judgmental today.

With the president’s health-care ambitions meeting a cool reception on Capitol Hill, the administration is increasingly seeking to pressure lawmakers with evidence of the public’s desire for action as well as proof that the health-care industry is a stakeholder in — not an opponent of — the effort.

“Meeting a cool reception”?  How do they judge that?  As best I can tell, the principal tenants of Obama’s outline are still in tact, including the public option. Are there challenges to it?  Yes, but principally from the marginalized GOP.  There are a few Democratic senators who are balking, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said all along that her chamber’s healthcare plan will include a public option.  And now the Senate is moving in that direction.

What’s so cool about that?

This comes after Media Matters  objected to a characterization of the effectiveness of a public plan by Post health reporter Ceci Connolly.

[Interim chief executive of Change Congress Adam] Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan [emphasis added] but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."

As Green articulated in his own post about the interview, he wasn’t asked about the benefits of a public plan.

If Green’s recollection of the interview is correction and given today’s characterization of the debate in Congress, one must ask if The Post has a chip on its shoulder about the plan.

There’s nothing cool about that.

Trying to characterize the entire debate in Congress about Obama’s outline – which is not a detailed plan – is a fool’s errand.  And Post reporters are no fools. 

So what’s the beef?

Lincoln, 1862 & Obama, 2009

Much has been made about how President Obama fashioned his cabinet after Abraham Lincoln’s by recruiting some of his adversaries and Republicans.  Whether it was to have his adversaries close or to remove them from the electoral landscape is a point of debate.  It certainly didn’t help Lincoln dissuade his Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase from attempting an aborted run against Lincoln for the nomination in 1864.  Lincoln also chose William Seward, another Republican rival, as his secretary of state.  Seward was considered the front runner before the convention.  Obama, of course, chose the early front runner to lead his State department

I have just finished reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s A Team of Rivals, meaning I know just enough about Lincoln to be dangerous.

But I’m struck by a different parallel between the two presidents.  Goodwin characterizes Lincoln, especially during the early years of his presidency, as cautious, uncertain, and conciliatory.  In her book, he does not come off as an extremely confident individual during the first year of his presidency. 

Once elected, one issue Obama was expected to address fairly early was discrimination against gays.  It was thought that he would extend to gays benefits comparable to what heterosexuals have.  Perhaps not gay marriage at first, but certainly overturning “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Despite this week’s announcement that Obama will extend some benefits to gay in the federal workforce, the LGBT community has a right to feel disappointed.

In 1860, some leading Republicans were among those most opposed to slavery.  Once the Southern states seceded, many wanted to declare all the slaves free.  Lincoln demurred.  He did  not think black people were equal to whites, but he opposed slavery.  Yet during the first two years of his presidency, as Republicans ratcheted up calls for freeing the slaves, Lincoln resisted, even as he grew less prejudice in his view of blacks. 

Goodwin suggests that by late 1861, the reason Lincoln was still resisting issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was not because of any hesitation on his part.  Rather, she suggests that he was waiting for the country to catch up with him.  Many Northern Democrats, especially, were still against freeing the slaves, and not all moderate Republicans were there yet, either. 

But as 1862 wore on, the mood in the Northern states changed.  So that by the end of the year, the country (that is the Northern states) was ready, and so Lincoln issued the Proclamation freeing slaves living in the Confederate states.

One has to wonder if Obama is waiting for the country to catch up with liberals on gay issues.  I’ve said before that it is inevitable that gays will ultimately win this fight.  I expect gay marriage to be legal in most states in 10 years.  The younger generation is way ahead of the country on this.  But the rest of the country is catching up to them

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 10 years.  I doubt we will.  I expect after the 2010 elections, maybe a year later, Obama will make the big moves the LGBT community is waiting for.  In fact, I would think it strategically advantageous to wait closer to the 2012 elections and hope that the Republicans jump all over the issue.  If they make it central to their presidential campaign, I think it will help sink them.

Is Obama emulating his hero and simply lying in wait?

Obama and the Stock Market

Remember when every dick of a GOPer was blaming Obama for the stock market’s decline?

On March 3, 2009, the Dow Jones closed at 6,726.02, continuing its drop and, despite his claims, Obamanomics (or at least his plans) have contributed to the evaporation of your retirement accounts. Looking at it in perspective, the Dow Jones is:

  • Down 7,438.51 (or 52.5%) since its all-time high
  • Down 2,899.21 (or 30.1%) since Obama’s election
  • Down 1,223.07 (or 15.4%) since Obama’s inauguration

But there is good news to consider in all this while you down your Tums. In 2010, Republicans have the opportunity to retake Congress and overturn the socialist, stock market destroying policies. Two years later, in 2012, Republicans can recapture the White House and reduce all the taxes Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid raised. The campaign to restore fiscal responsibility (Obama spending trillions upon trillions that we don’t have doesn’t qualify, no matter what he says) begins today!

Well, as of yesterday’s close,

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained (emphasis added) 15 percent since Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration, compared with a decline of 9.6 percent in the first five months of the Bush administration and an increase of 3 percent under Clinton.

GOPers, I can’t hear you!

By the way, it was shortly after March 3 when Obama said the stock market was probably then a good investment.  It’s up more than 30% since then.

Obama, the Wily Fish?

The American right has been criticizing President Obama for not interjecting himself into the Iranian elections.  They say he should show support for Mir Hussein Moussavi’s bid to become president, bolstering democratic forces in the Middle East, and thereby acknowledging President Bush’s “freedom agenda.”

But Obama, always taking the long view, knows that to do so would only enflame the supporters of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Robert Kagan takes it one step further,  He claims in a Washington Post op-ed today that Obama is siding with Ahmadinejad.  He claims that Obama is being silent because he wants to convince the Iranian mullahs that he does not embrace “regime change.”

If you find all this disturbing, you should. The worst thing is that this approach will probably not prevent the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. But this is what "realism" is all about. It is what sent Brent Scowcroft to raise a champagne toast to China’s leaders in the wake of Tiananmen Square. It is what convinced Gerald Ford not to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the height of detente. Republicans have traditionally been better at it than Democrats — though they have rarely been rewarded by the American people at the ballot box, as Ford and George H.W. Bush can attest.

You’ve got to wonder at times, if neocons like Kagan would prefer Obama attack the current leaders of Iran, just so they would, in turn, escalate the rhetoric so as to bolter the neocon’s contention that the only way to deal with them is to bomb them into oblivion.

Tom Friedman suggests they aren’t the only ones who would prefer an Ahmadinejad victory

Israel was taken by surprise by events in Lebanon and Iran. And Israeli officials have been saying they would much prefer that Ahmadinejad still wins in Iran — not because Israelis really prefer him but because they believe his thuggish, anti-Semitic behavior reflects the true and immutable character of the Iranian regime. And Israelis fear that if a moderate were to take over, it would not herald any real change in Iran, or its nuclear ambitions, but simply disguise it better.

Let’s hope Obama continues to resist the bait.

UPDATE:  It was just a matter of time before the neocons got their wish.

Is Obama’s Capital Counterfeit?

At least that’s what Felix Salmon think.

How did Obama manage to spend all his political capital so quickly? Did it all go on the stimulus bill? Wasn’t the whole point of bringing Rahm in as chief of staff that he could work constructively with Congress to pass an ambitious agenda? And isn’t Obama himself the first president since JFK to have entered the White House from the Senate?

With Democrats, it may never have been real.

There You Go Again

From the text of President Obama’s health care speech today to the AMA.

We know the moment is right for health care reform.  We know this is an historic opportunity we’ve never seen before and may not see again.  But we also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what – who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that’s worked in the past.  They’ll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors.  We’ve heard it all before – and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.

And the lede in a story today on Politico.

As President Barack Obama tried to sell the American Medical Association today on his health care overhaul, the top Senate Republicans launched a familiar line of attack.

They warned of rationed medical care, lack of patient control and government bureaucracy.

“The American people will not stand for rationed health care,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Monday. “We believe that a one size fits all approach is the wrong approach."

I think it smart for Obama to repeat and repeat the GOP scare tactics and label them as such.  Ignoring them gives them credibility.  But because President Bush is so identified with “scare tactics” to gin up support for the Iraq War, it’s a beautiful way of keeping Bush-era Republicanism alive!  In effect, Obama is saying, “There you go again.”

Obama Folds

I had dinner last night with a friend who describes himself as a “businessman Republican.”  He doesn’t cotton to the right –wing moral issues.  He voted for McCain.  Yet, he effusive praise of Obama and thought he was “pragmatic.”  I wasn’t up for an argument, so I changed the subject.  It’s not hard to see why business people are happy.

While the White House’s new so-called special master for compensation, prominent Washington lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg, has been given unprecedented powers to set pay at seven of the most troubled firms, the plan that was laid out Wednesday largely maintains the status quo for compensation practices at all other publicly traded companies, including hundreds that are receiving taxpayer assistance. In addition, the administration got rid of a previously announced $500,000 salary cap at financial firms that in the future take the kind of exceptional assistance that firms such as Citigroup and Bank of America have received.