Obama’s Health-Care Gamble

And why he may come to regret it.
By Howard Fineman
Dec 31, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Jan 11, 2010

President Barack Obama begins and ends each workday at the White House by going over a to-do list with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The two were reviewing things recently when Emanuel reminded him of the sheer size of the administration’s workload, which includes fending off the Great Recession and dealing with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, evidently, Yemen. “You know, Mr. President,” Emanuel said, “Franklin Roosevelt had eight years to deal with the economy before he had to lead a war. You have to do it all at once.”

Nothing unusual about a little fawning in the Oval, but it prompts questions. Given the urgency of those challenges, underscored by the Nigerian bomber, was it wise for the president to spend most of his first year and political capital on a monumentally complicated overhaul of the nation’s health-care system? And will the results of that gamble—not fundamental reform, but rather an expensive set of patches, bypasses, and trusses bolted onto the existing system—improve the lives of Americans enough to help him or his fellow Democrats politically?

Put me down as skeptical.

Perhaps not since the New Deal has a new president made such a massive bet on a single domestic initiative. I think I understand Obama’s reasoning. It did not take him long (probably after the first round of CIA briefings) to realize that he was not going to be able to satisfy his liberal base on intractable, unwinnable foreign and security policy. It’s easier to make history on the home front.

The Newsweek article continues here.

Comments are closed.