President Obama is not helping his cause. His personal approval ratings are plummeting and he is no longer viewed as honest and trustworthy by a majority of voters. His massive ego may resist the suggestion, but he needs to stay out of sight.
At a point in the Iraq War when it looked like Congress might pull the plug on funding or vote to demand a phased withdrawal before the surge could take effect, President George W. Bush did something that reflected his humility and political adeptness. He took himself off center stage and made Gen. David Petraeus, universally respected (except by the infamous MoveOn.org, which ran the horrific “General Betray-us” ad that predictably backfired), the advocate for the surge and the face of the administration. Despite the snarling from then Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who said we’d have to “suspend disbelief” to think the surge was working, Petraeus carried the day and bought breathing room for the surge to work.
Who can do that for Obama, assuming he would agree to give up the limelight? Bill Clinton seemed like the natural candidate until he plunged the knife, recommending the president make good on his promise we could all keep our plans. Leon Panetta is another Democrat who enjoys bipartisan respect, but he, too, has been out criticizing the health-care rollout debacle. When you think about it, there is no one who commands widespread respect (certainly not the vice president!) who could sell this turkey.
And that in turn should tell Senate Democrats something. Why are they trying to save a lemon which no used car salesman would touch? Sure, they voted for it, but surely they can make the case that the implementation has been so mangled that we need something else. They’d have a receptive audience for the proposition that the president is incompetent and unable to carry out their scheme in pristine condition.
Liberals would then be free to advocate what they’ve wanted all along — a single-payer system — and moderates could vaguely call for “bipartisan solutions” or a delay. Whatever. The point is to get off the sinking ship. When Nov. 30 comes and goes with, at the very least, according to the administration, 20 percent of people unable to access HealthCare.gov, that would seem to be the smart move. If they hang tight, Democrats face challenges from their left in blue enclaves and from the right in purple or red ones. Moreover, they will need to discredit the president and this particular effort if they are to keep alive that liberal cult of big government. It’s not all big government that is unworkable, just this mess made by Obama.
Republicans can help wean Democrats off Obamacare by offering a one-year freeze, legislative relief for insurers who want to offer their old plans and a one-page list of items that they’d be amenable to (e.g. high-risk pools, a tax credit for individually purchased health care, block-granting in exchange for Medicaid expansion). It’s a win-win for Republicans: Either Democrats refuse to get into the lifeboat offered by the GOP or they abandon the White House. Both are so attractive, it’s hard to decide which to root for.