Anticipating Tuesday night’s State-of-the-Union Speech, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended his boss, whose approval ratings have sunk to new post-inauguration lows. Carney told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that Obamacare was worth the political consequences. “This is not about politics. So the answer is, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically,” said Careny, referring to the Midterm elections next November where Democrats could lose the Senate. How Carney justifies White House ineptitude is anyone’s guess. Taking on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) obsession with national health care, the young, inexperienced Obama couldn’t resist the party’s pressure. After promising during the 2008 to serve as a post-partisan president, Obama did the opposite.
Helping the uninsured get insurance or preventing insurance companies from blackballing or redlining subscribers are both worthy goals but sacrificing the No. 1 principle on which he ran to serve both parties was betrayed by Obama on Day. 1. Railroading the Patient Protection and Affordable Care down Republicans throats wasn’t in the country’s best interests. All the complaints about partisan divisions under former President George W. Bush only got worse under Obama once he let Pelosi and Reid dictate his presidential agenda. Where Obama went wrong was failing to weigh the benefits of Obamacare against his promise of serving the White House as a post-partisan president. When you look at the big picture, Obama made a terrible blunder pushing a Democratic agenda, without winning GOP friends on Capitol Hill to advance a bipartisan agenda.
Asked by ABC’s Jonathan Karl how Obama could be an effective leader when only 37% of Americans believe he can make the right decisions, Carney insisted the president would pursue his agenda on the Hill and through “presidential powers.” “I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this if they decide to run on it, because they’ve got to explain what repeal means,” said Carney, suggesting that it’s premature to write the Senate off in the Fall. Carney sees Obama’s problems stemming from the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov, the government’s Website for signing folks up on Obamacare. Frustration with Obama stems less from Obamacare and more from voters’ disappointment that he didn’t heal Washington’s bitter partisan divide. Obama’s inability to deliver his post-partisan promise opens the door in 2016 to candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Spending untold hours working on his State-of-the-Union Speech with speechwriter Cody Kennan won’t fix Obama’s failure at bipartisanship. With another debt crisis looming, milking too many applause lines won’t get the kind of bipartisan consensus needed in Washington. When he decided to go along after his first inauguration with Pelosi and Reid on national health care, Barack sealed his fate for future legislation. Now one of the earliest lame-ducks in U.S. history, Obama can only blame himself for the current gridlock. Blaming GOP conservatives doesn’t open more doors, only keeps them shut like a vault. Going high-minded in the State-of-the-Union speech might get more claptrap but won’t create the consensus needed to move ahead with immigration reform, wealth disparities, revisions to Obamacare or any foreign policy challenges.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney does Obama a disservice stubbornly defending Obamacare. “When healthcare.gov got off to a terribly rocky start in October and through November, Americans probably said, ‘why can’t they get this right,’” Carney, ignoring the real problems with Obamacare: Without bipartisan cooperation, the White House can’t fix problems alone. When Obama signed the controversial health care reform into law March 23, 2010, he sealed his legacy with the GOP. Raising more high-minded themes in ceremonial speeches won’t create the bipartisanship needed to fix Obamacare or move forward with any new legislation. Threatening to use “presidential powers” to bypass Congress only makes the gridlock worse. There’s no strategy in threatening to use “executive powers” to skirt Congress to push for legislation that won’t happen without bipartisanship.
Obama’s Achille’s Heel is not his prodigious public speaking abilities but his inexperience of letting Pelosi and Reid undermine his chance of serving as a post-partisan president. Gone are the days when Barack could wow bipartisan crowds with high-minded rhetoric. His appeal was his hashtag, “hope you can believe in,” now proven false because of Democratic decisions on national health care early on in his presidency. “The president sees this as a year of action . . .to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary . . . to lift folks who want to come into the middle class,” said Carney, promoting the class warfare that wins the president less Congressional cooperation, more enemies and more gridlock. Obama’s only hope is working with key GOP members in the House and Senate to find common ground for bipartisan legislation.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.