Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama Can Relax Some Time in 2016

So a few days ago I was still thinking how I hope Obama can finally get health care passed so he can move on to other stuff, because there's a lot of it: energy, the environment, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the 2012 election, the 2010 election, education, South America, financial regulations, the economy, jobs, Guantanemo, Mars, senior positions, Africa, federal court appointments, corporate compensation, reengagement abroad, race, the U.S. intelligence apparatus, Asia, drug policy, immigration, gays in the military, Europe and Antarctica (Australia can suck it.)

Please do not email me to tell me what I have left off this list.

J/k no one every reads this shit.

Then yesterday happened. My first thought was about my opinion of the whole plan which is not terribly interesting and no one cares about. My second thought was about how the Senate would react (in case you missed it) and about what in general the consensus or narrative on this thing was going to be (which I think is still emerging but may be "Repubs. favor, Dems. oppose.") My third thought was "okay, obviously this is all anyone on any news channel will be talking about for a while. What's happening with health care?" (answer: amendments, etc.)

But just now I had my FOURTH thought, which was "Obama is never, ever going to take care of everything on that list."

When I saw Obama in the last week or so of the election, I thought "laugh it up, Fuzzball." He looked soooo confident and soooo relaxed. It was sort of inspiring. Obama had seen all the numbers I was watching obsessively and decided that he was going to win.

Thing is, I knew that the minute a president takes office is the minute he loses control of his agenda. I could literally count the days until Obama was no longer master of his own destiny. It wasn't his fault - there's just too much that a president has to contend with for him to focus on his ideal priorities whenever he wants. I mean, people actively trying to foil you at every turn is just ONE of your problems. Imagine if you had to deal with that in YOUR job.

This is why I was pulling for Obama to front-load - stuff is always going to happen that throws the president off, but early on is when he has the most momentum, political capital, control of his agenda and ability to govern.

All of which was going fine until health care. There's no shame in it. Health care has been foiling politicians in this country since at least 1906 (fun fact: the first time, it was shot down as "Prussianization.")

So I have been waiting health care out. It was touch and go for a bit (4:38), but I was confident health care would pass eventually and if maybe we lost the public option, whatever (Act Three or point two of a National Review summary here.)

I had hoped that once we had taken care of health care, Obama could maybe take on some easy stuff, some one-acts. Fixing gays in the military is just a matter of signing an executive order, calling everyone who doesn't like it unpatriotic, starting a more interesting news cycle and then six months later letting everyone know how many lives our new Arabic translators have saved, thanks to you. It's like a political appetizer.

But here was Obama piling one major and controversial life-or-death political issue on top of another major and controversial life-or-death political issue. It's not that he wants to - it's just that he doesn't have a choice. Afghanistan needed announcing and health care is coming along but it just wasn't done yet. What are you going to do?

And so I must now kiss goodbye to my imaginary hypothetical breather for Obama. This is simply the highest level of difficulty for a presidency since FDR. I mean, Obama was getting grey hairs back in March (they come and go.) Pass or fail - and this plan is going to be make or break for his legacy - Obama still has his work cut out for him. This guy is not going to get to rest until he's done with the whole damn game and napping on the porch of his coming-soon political library in Honolulu, I am guessing somewhere by the beach.

Until then, good luck to him and all of us.