by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
Liberal columnists decrying the Obama administration’s supposed lack of partisan fortitude and eagerness for a nasty fight for healthcare seem oddly detached from reality. The opposition to Obamacare would have gone nowhere had the president offered a concise plan, had his team kept repeating four or five logical and easily understandable talking points, and had he prepared a few pat answers to the more controversial elements of the plan, from the public option to so-called “end of life” panels to treatment of illegal aliens and the real cost.
Instead, Obama and his advisers, in lazy fashion, outsourced the plan to the partisan left-wingers of the Democratic party who are key House chairs. They in turn offered up a 1,000-page legalese mess, which the administration’s key players never read, and which Obama arrogantly thought he could wing through in a few weeks with his “hope and change”/“trust me” cadences.
Once a few citizens at town halls started to call them on it, it quickly became clear not just that Obama’s healthcare reform was an effort to emulate in the long run the failed Canadian system, but far more importantly, that none of its defenders were able to explain, much less defend, the plan.
Now the problem is not just that health care is going down, but that in the process the administration has tarnished the blue-chip Obama brand, and we are in a sort of emperor-has-no-clothes moment. Take away the rhetoric and charisma, and this same absence of preparation, professional research, and focused public defense seems to apply to almost everything Obama has offered, from more stimulus and more deficit spending to cash for clunkers and cap and trade.
The likes of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and Nancy Pelosi, all according to their stations, demagogued the Iraq War and unfairly tarred Bush as some sort of satanic figure. But they succeeded, primarily because the Bush administration in response could not articulate what the aims in Iraq were, why they were worth the likely costs, and why decisions like disbanding the Iraqi army, at first pulling back from Fallujah, giving a reprieve to Sadr, etc. were mistakes and would not be repeated. The problem was not that Bush and Co. did not fight back sufficiently, but rather that they did not explain adequately to the American people why the people’s growing doubts about winning in Iraq were mistaken.
So liberals should not blame conservatives for opposing what they do not believe in and think is harmful for the country, or their own team in the White House for not waging a partisan defense (they in fact have, ad nauseam). Rather they should fault Obama himself for not offering a simple, understandable plan and for failing to explain and defend with clear language and logic something that really does seem “fishy” to the American people.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson