Sunday, December 29, 2013
Obama’s 2nd Term Hinge of Fate
To depend on or turn on, as in "Everything hinges on his decision."
To say that President Obama’s 2nd term hinges on how ObamaCare turns may be an overstatement. But not by much. ObamaCare will dominate the political discourse from now until the November midterms. It is, at the same time, Obama's Achilles Heel and his Great Opportunity.
Already the media are predicting chaos after January 1. A perfect storm seems to be gathering over the healthcare.gov fiasco, the millions of health plan cancellations, and the uncertainty and skepticism among the public about what comes next.
What can President Obama do about this perfect storm ? He can talk of the good things ObamaCare has wrought. He can launch a PR campaign to persuade the public it is the right thing to do for the public good. He can mobilize his political and celebrity surrogates to go forth and spread the word. He can seek to convince the invincibles. He can, in short, talk the good talk and promote the good cause. But these tactics may not be enough. Distrust of his role in the health law is simply too deep.
Obama can do something else. He can be humble. He can say the ACA hasn’t worked out as planned. He can say mistakes were made - unilaterally passing the law without a single GOP vote and not living up to his promises that people could keep their doctors and health plans. He can apologize for failing to bring down premiums and deductibles. He can say to contain these costs health plans had to narrow the numbers of doctors and hospitals they could access, that patients might have to switch doctors, and they might see their benefits cut.
And he might even follow the example of Winston Churchill in these dark days of World Ware II when Britain's fate hung in the balance. He can acknowledge the confusions, uncertainties, and unforeseen consequences the law has generated. President Obama csn straightforwardly say things might go badly in the short term, in January when the law takes effect and perhaps right up to the November midterms.
In 1942, when things were going badly for Britain in World War II, with one British defeat after another in the deserts of North Africa and the seas of Southeast Asia, Churchill called for a Vote of Confidence in the House of Commons to warn the Nation of dark days ahead and coming misfortunes.
“There is no worse mistake in public leadership than hold out false hopes soon to be swept away. The British people can face peril or misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy, but they bitterly resent being deceived or finding that those responsible for their affairs are they themselves living in a fool’s paradise. I felt it vital not only to my position but to the conduct of the war, to discount future calamities by describing the immediate outlook in the darkest terms.” (Winston Churchill, The Hinge of Fate, 1950).
Churchill asked for a free debate, for things to be said in plain English. “No one need be mealy-mouthed, and no one should be chicken-hearted in voting.”
Obama should call for a free debate about the merits and faults of the health law. It has plenty of both. He should express both sides in his press conferences and his State of the Union address in January, and he should pull no punches in discussing either the bright and dark sides of the law. He should acknowledge that he has made 21 changes in the law to correct its deficiencies, many of which are self-inflicted and poorly thought out. He should call for full debate and ask for a Vote of Confidence in the primaries and the General Election in November. This is too large an issue to be swept under the political rug or to generate false hopes.
Tweet: The ObamaCare issue will dominate the national political debate between January and November, as it should.