From the November 9, 2009 National Review Online
November 9, 2009
by Tevi Troy
Ten months ago, Republicans were in despair, convinced that the golden-tongued campaigner Barack Obama was going to consign them to permanent minority status.
Now, even the New York Times wonders if the president has lost his speaking touch. As Peter Baker wrote in “A President Whose Words Once Soared,” “Mr. Obama’s addresses these days may not resonate quite the way they did. Speeches that once set pulses racing now feel more familiar.”
His campaign skills did not prevent Democrats from losing the two most high-profile races of election night 2009, for governor of New Jersey and of Virginia. Democrats are making much of the New York 23 race, but it seems clear that the conservative candidate would have won that as well if not for some last-minute sabotaging by the liberal Republican who had withdrawn a few days earlier.
In addition, the president’s vaunted organizational skills, which helped him secure the nomination over the favored Hillary Clinton and a relatively easy general-election win over John McCain, have often failed him in even basic White House tasks like ensuring that cabinet nominees had paid their taxes.
From a policy perspective, House passage by no means guarantees or even foreshadows Senate success. Witness the cap-and-trade bill, which lies dormant, with limited prospects in the Senate. As for the narrowly passed health-care bill, Lindsey Graham has declared it “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office can be invaluable for analyzing the various Democratic plans, highlighting their high costs, increased taxes, and unrealistic assumptions. Meanwhile, the Republicans came up with a plan that would have reduced insurance premiums, which the CBO dutifully noted. If the GOP plan had done a better job of reducing the number of the uninsured, it might have even put a scare into the House Democrats. The Republicans did win on an abortion amendment, and the ability to offer amendments is far more limited in the House than the Senate.
Republicans need to keep pushing. At best, they will stop a disastrous bill. At worst, they will have shown voters that Democrats had every opportunity to address their plan’s flaws, but chose not to.
Tevi Troy is a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute and served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2007 until 2009.
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