Peggy Noonan wrote this in her most recent Wall Street Journal column:
And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn’t worth it – worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill….
Yeah, but she’s on our side.
So what does it mean when a friendly, the Washington Post, comes to the same conclusion? From a piece, today…
The lengthy and rancorous debate has inflicted considerable damage on the president and his party. It helped spark the grass-roots “tea party” movement and generated angry town hall meetings last summer that led to some opponents painting Obama as a socialist and a communist for advocating a greater government role in the health-care industry. The issue now is whether final passage of the legislation… will cause more harm or begin a turnaround in the Democrats’ fortunes heading toward the November midterm elections….
This is not how the struggle over health care was supposed to unfold. When the president decided last year to push for comprehensive reform, there appeared to be the best opportunity in a generation to ensure that nearly all Americans have access to health insurance. There also seemed to be a consensus among business, labor and health-industry groups that government help was needed to rein in the escalating costs of health care.
A year later, Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are struggling to find the final votes in the House to push the bill through, against united Republican opposition and a country sharply polarized over whether and how health-care coverage should be extended to virtually all Americans….
The political stakes are enormous. Obama’s approval ratings are below 50% in several recent polls, and more people disapprove of his handling of health care than approve. The outcome of the debate will stamp his presidency.
Democrats are afraid of failure and nervous about what success could bring. They fear substantial losses in November, with their majorities in the House and Senate possibly at risk if the country turns even more negative toward the administration and its policies. Republicans vow to continue challenging the program at the state and national levels….
Democrats are keenly aware of the risks ahead, which is why it has been so difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to round up the votes. Many Democrats, recalling the debacle after their failure on health care in 1994….
“The political consequences of 1994 took a full decade for the D Party to undo and reverse,” said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House. “If the political consequences of this effort turn out to be as long-lasting as 1994, that would be a very significant price that will have to be weighed in the historical balance.”
Such differing interpretations guarantee that even if the bills pass, the fight over health care will continue long afterward. “The division we now have is not going to disappear,” [presidential historian Robert] Dallek said. “It’s going to be a continuing part of the national debate. This legislation is going to play out over the next 4 or 5 or 6 years.”
[Photo of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama on Capitol Hill yesterday by the Associated Press]