Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Democrats and health care reform fans are in quite the funk this week. The excellent Jonathan Cohn, for example, is now convinced that whatever comes out of Senate Finance is the "best-case scenario," with further deterioration likely before a few tiny shards of a bill finally make it to the president's desk. , and links to Publius, who has a feckless Max Baucus giving away the store to clever Republicans.

All of this is far too pessimistic, as far as I can see. I'm not sure why Cohn feels that the compromise between the five committees acting on the bill would be at something less than the least ambitious bill. As for what's happening in Senate finance, it seems to me at least as likely that, should Baucus carry out his threat to pull the plug and pass a Democrats-only bill, that his months-long Group of Six negotiations will play out as a marker of Democratic flexibility in the face of GOP intransigence. And in a world where those markers are hard to come by, we should expect Baucus to be acting as he has regardless of where he wants to end up.

On the broader field, this isn't the first time Obama has been counted out after losing a few daily media cycles. Despondent Democrats should remember Fall 2007, when Washington conventional wisdom had Clinton inevitable and Obama floundering, or a similar dynamic in Summer 2008. Sullivan identified this as a rope-a-dope strategy some time ago, and I can certainly see (for example) GOP efforts to shut down Town Hall meetings backfiring severely. The basic point is that Obama and his team have told us repeatedly that they believe in long-term fights, even if it costs them in the battle over daily news cycles. That strategy might prove misguided -- although I don't think so -- but at the very least their moves should be understood through that lens. Meanwhile, my advice to Democrats would be to calm down, jettison the gloom, and get to work.

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