“I’ll be real frank here,” Webb said at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg News. “I think that the manner in which the health-care reform issue was put in front of the Congress, the way that the issue was dealt with by the White House, cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader.”
Webb voted for the law, but also for more than a dozen GOP-offered amendments to it.
“If you were going to do something of this magnitude, you have to do it with some clarity, with a clear set of objectives from the White House,” added Webb, who opted not to run for a second term this year. “...It should have been done with better direction from the White House.”
He faulted Obama for playing too passive a role in shaping the legislation. Taking a lesson from Bill Clinton’s failed 1994 health-care overhaul effort--which was faulted for its micromanagement of the details of the bill--Obama opted to spell out a broad set of goals, and let Congress work out the details.
What happened in the end, Webb said, “was five different congressional committees voted out their version of health-care reform, and so you had 7,000 pages of contradictory information. Everybody got confused. ... From that point forward, Obama’s had a difficult time selling himself as a decisive leader.”
Webb also said that if Obama had opted for a smaller measure, he would have stood a chance of winning the support of a significant number of Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The White House had no immediate comment on Webb’s statement.
Webb added that he believes most Virginia voters--outside the staunchest partisans--have not yet begun to focus on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee.
“People are getting ready to pay attention to his message, the average person, rather than the nominating base,” Webb said. “Romney has a case to make. He has to make his case.”