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    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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The Emperor’s New…Pig

Posted by The Curmudgeon on February 26, 2010

…or is it the same old pig—with a lot of lipstick?

 

Back when now-defunct Eastern Airlines was in its death throes, then-CEO Frank Lorenzo was characterized as using a “carrot-and-stick” approach in dealing with stubborn union leaders.

Lorenzo was reputed to have laughed and replied: “Yeah. I show them a carrot—and then I stick it up their ass.”

For some crazy reason, that quote came to mind several times in the days leading up to the much-ballyhooed “summit” at Blair House that seeks (ostensibly) to reach an agreement on health care reform; perhaps such thoughts were spawned by…oh, gee, I don’t know…maybe it was owing to the thinly-veiled threats of wielding the fifty-one vote reconciliation method (aka “the nuclear option”) like a cudgel in an attempt to intimidate congressional members who’ve not eagerly embraced the existing proposals with open arms.

Try for just a moment to get beyond the bored looks and smirks that marked the proceedings. Try to overlook Obama’s condescending comments about this not being an election or a campaign, and his bluntly reminding all present that the gross imbalance of speaking time was owing to the fact that “I’m the President.” Try to pretend that this wasn’t simply a token initiative designed to provide Democrats with a false pretense to throw-up their hands in feigned exasperation and claim that they’d tried to take a reasonable approach (presumably in preparation for the threatened “nuking”—which probably won’t work, either). Try not to take Obama’s own words (“You can put lipstick on a pig—but it’s still a pig.”) and apply them to the The Big Pig Pow-wow at Blair House—where he seemed intent on simply demanding that everyone fall in love with his new (supposedly) and improved (but largely unchanged) porcine Maybelline queen.

In the end, it was a predictably pointless exercise in futility. Obama didn’t give any ground—and it’s unlikely that he’ll do so now that he has so much at stake. It was more a lecture than a “summit” (Obama himself spoke more than all the Republicans combined—and the whole affair consisted largely of he and his fellow democrats regurgitating pretty much the same drivel as before, punctuated with a number of personal vignettes for effect). Instead, he did his usual smoke-and-mirrors routine, talked a lot without really saying anything, offered-up a few platitudes about bipartisanship, and essentially told those present (once again) to shut up and drink the Kool-Aid…or else.

What this was really all about was Obama not being able to get what he wanted—and he’s really not happy about it. (I was reminded of the scene from the movie Men in Black where the gigantic cockroach vented his frustration: “You don’t get it! I won!“)

While it’d be foolish to regard his ominous warning as an empty threat, actually carrying it out could well prove his undoing.

Let’s briefly (in an era of two-thousand-plus-page legislation) recap the situation; I promise to be much less verbose than the narcissist-in-chief.

• Obama was elected President; his delusions aside, he doesn’t have the absolute power of a monarch.

• Even while the last of the celebratory confetti was still falling after his 2008 election, Obama set the tone for future confrontation when he bluntly reminded a prominent Republican: “I won.” (He then laughed and suggested that he was joking; he clearly wasn’t.)

• Notwithstanding Obama’s allusions to (and apparent illusions of) a “year-long debate,” the current proposed legislation hanging over Congress like a particularly rancid fart was constructed by Democrats—and largely in secret. There was no significant bipartisan participation. Conspicuous by its absence was the promised “transparency”—and most particularly the C-SPAN coverage Obama had repeatedly called for during his campaign. (The obvious drawback to such a unilateral approach is that it leaves those responsible with no one upon whom they can credibly shift the blame for any shortcomings; try though they may, it all comes back to those who forced the issue.)

• Although virtually everyone would like to see some degree of health care reform (does anyone really believe that we all enjoy paying those insurance premiums?), the people by and large have never warmed to ObamaCare; while certain aspects of the proposal found popular support, there remains widespread apprehension about the idea of such expansive government control—and deep distrust of those seeking that control.

• Obama has expended massive amounts of political capital—and he can’t afford to write it off. From the start, health care reform has been the signature issue of his administration. All his arm-twisting and (for want of a better term) bribery — e.g., the “Louisiana Purchase” and the “Cornhusker Kickback” would be vindicated (in his mind, at least) should his efforts prove successful. He clearly was not pleased to learn that the task proved more difficult than he’d planned—and he’s nearly livid at having not prevailed despite the huge numerical superiority he’s enjoyed (cue the angry cockroach again).

• As fond as Obama is of blaming Republicans for everything, his health care woes are rooted within his own party; many of the “reforms” he’s pushing are popular only with his extreme left-wing supporters—and he’s been unable to reconcile their demands with those of the more conservative factions.

• Obama’s momentary foray into the job/stimulus issue was at least partly diversionary; for a brief period, attention was focused elsewhere. It’s now become clear that many of us were correct in predicting that the issue wouldn’t be off the radar for long—and now the real push begins.

• As noted above, The Big Pig Pow-wow at Blair House was probably intended to (a) make one last attempt (notably half-hearted) to browbeat Republicans — and, by inference, reluctant Democrats — into drinking the ObamaCare Kool-Aid, and (b) furnish a patina of rationalization for the more-extreme measures they’re considering by appearing to reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship—and having the overture spurned.

• Republicans are correct to stick to their guns at this point. They are now insisting that the current proposals be scrapped, and the process begun anew—with them actually included in the redux. And rightly so; true bipartisanship has to be evident at the outset and continued throughout the process—not thrown-in grudgingly at the end game. There’s been no bipartisanship throughout the ObamaCare process, and The Big Pig Pow-wow yielded no changes. As one might imagine, Obama isn’t at all receptive to the idea (cue the angry cockroach, yet again).

• Democrats may ultimately have no choice but to either scrap the whole deal and start over (anathema, at this point…and potentially a major political coup for Republicans) or at the very least agree to sweeping changes in the current proposals. Past supporters of the legislation have soberly noted the political price paid by some of their colleagues and taken heed; it’s increasingly doubtful that Obama could muster even the support he was able to build for the Christmas Eve vote. Republicans successfully (and accurately) characterized the whole effort as a “ram it down their throats any way you can” measure—a method that typically doesn’t play well with the electorate even when it works; an unsuccessful power play now would have the added effect of further eroding the Democrats’ credibility at a time when even the most optimistic projections indicate a coming power shift in Congress with the mid-term elections.

Obama’s crusade for health care reform legislation was a crap-shoot from the beginning—and he clearly sees himself as being in too deep to turn back now (or his boundless ego simply won’t allow him to). Setting aside all the hot air and hoopla of the day-long session, Obama himself summed-up during the closing moments everything he had to say when he bluntly stated that “…that’s what elections are for.” He left everyone with the clear message that he’s prepared to see this thing through to the end—whatever the cost. (Congressional Democrats surely noted that acceptable cost clearly included their own political fortunes—and that their fearless leader obviously expects them to fall on their swords if necessary.)

At the end of the day—…well, it looked just like the beginning of the day. And the beginning of the week. The only substantive change was that Obama actually voiced what was already understood; it remains to be seen whether he’ll make good on his threat—and whether it will succeed.

And it’s still a pig.

________

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2 Responses to “The Emperor’s New…Pig”

  1. crosssection said

    Great article detailing how the American people feel about health care…isn’t that what it is supposed to be all about??

    http://crosssection.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/how-many-times-must-we-defeat-the-healthcare-bill/

  2. Lynne Z said

    At first, I feared the gopers made a mistake by showing up for Obi’s summit (governors had asked to attend, but were disallowed). Now that the rhetoric has settled it appears the Republicans did a good job of getting their message through to the public, despite our Dear Leader’s arrogant attempts to marginalize & ridicule his opponents.

    Another swell writing-right!

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