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March 08, 2010

Comments

It's logically possible that a President's popularity is determined by both the state of the economy and how he connects with people. However, I don't know how one could study that hypothesis, at least not by statistical techniques. The President's popularity is numerical as is the state of the economy. But, a President's speaking ability or ability to connect is not measurable as a numerical figure.

Obama's "political predicament" would be different if he turned loose Ray LaHood?

FREE RAY LAHOOD!!!

Here's a personal anecdote that reflects on Obama's communication. My wife, a close friend, and I were discussing Obama's health reform. We discovered that none of us knew what it consisted of. Not just small points. We didn't even know whether it included a government option.

My friend and I are insurance experts; my wife was a long-time medical school professor. I get much of my news from conservative sources on the web; the other two get their news from the Lehrer Report, National Public Radio, the local paper, and the New York Times.

I think it reflects badly on Obama's communications that three people with some degree of expertise in the field of health care and insurance, from different political backgrounds, and using different news sources are all so clueless about the contents about the President's defining legislation.

By comparison, when Reagan did his defining legislation, the public understood that we were going to have a big tax cut.

I agree Obama isn't connecting, but the lack of connection is in policy, not communications.

US unemployment rates are at record levels for the modern era, with a population that's no longer used to joblessness or significant recessions. Yet, using the most tortured logic to rationalize it - "we might save $100b over a decade! What a victory!" - he persists in focusing his political capital on the passage of an expensive, incoherent and largely futile twist of the health care dial a tiny notch or two to the left.

It's not just that he doesn't feel America's pain; it's that he's also doing too little to heal it.

Apropos of my prior comment, another blogger pointed out a telling quote from Nancy Pelosi:

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"

Quote including context:

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy....

I'm not sure David's lack of understanding of Obama's health insurance reform is Obama's fault. Has he listened to any of the speeches, esp. the Sept. 9, 2009 speech? Time had a good overview, Ezra Klein covers this topic in exhaustive detail, and the White House web site breaks it down. Hopefully, his employer won't be affected by the reforms since he's unprepared to even discuss them. At minimum, he can get familiar with RomneyCare in MA to give him a starting point.

What Brian sensibly describes as "a largely futile twist of the health care dial" is considered as "the most dramatic improvement in social justice in at least four decades" by Jonathan Chait of The New Republic. That would make the health care bill a more dramatic improvement in social justice than equality for women, freedom of choice, gay rights, the rise of the black middle class and the end of the draft. If we look back beyond four decades (since Chait says "at least"), it would make the health care bill a more dramatic improvement in social justice than the civil rights movement.

How can anyone take Chait seriously when he is this overwrought? There must be something in the water at The New Republic that causes this condition in writers like Chait and Andrew Sullivan.

I think it reflects badly on Obama's communications that three people with some degree of expertise in the field of health care and insurance, from different political backgrounds, and using different news sources are all so clueless about the contents about the President's defining legislation.

All that proves is that people with some degree of expertise in the field of health care and insurance, from different political backgrounds, and using different news sources can be willfully ignorant brats who don't pay attention and then blame their teachers or parents for flunking the test.

That would make the health care bill a more dramatic improvement in social justice than equality for women, freedom of choice, gay rights, the rise of the black middle class and the end of the draft.

Title IX is 38 years old, so he was 2 years off on equality for women. I can't think of more recent federal legislation that would undermine Chait's statement. FMLA of 1993 and Ledbetter Act of 2009 were helpful, but certainly not comparable to covering 40 million uninsured.

The draft ended 37 years ago, and it is not even clear that it has led to improvement of social justice. It is still mostly poor kids who die in wars.

There has been no federal law enacted in the last 40 years that significantly advanced freedom of choice or gay rights. On the contrary, most federal legislation in those areas has hindered those rights (Hyde Amendment, "partial birth" nonsense, DOMA...).

Obviously, no law created the black middle class.

So, other than pedantry about 37-38 vs. 40 years, what is the point of the objection?

Bullfighter, why do you think that improvements in social justice can result only from federal legislation? Chait's statement was not so limited. For example, the change in the role of women in American society over the last forty years has little or nothing to do with Title IX. The mentality that societal changes must emanate from federal legislation is quite remarkable, though it probably does put you squarely in the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Bullfighter, why do you think that improvements in social justice can result only from federal legislation? Chait's statement was not so limited.

Rob, why do you think you can compare federal legislation with judicial decisions, secular trends in the society, and other completely different beasts? That would make no sense at all, which is why Chait's statement can only be reasonably understood as limited to legislation. (The federal part may be too narrow, I grant that's open for debate, but I don't think the conclusions would change significantly if state legislation were included.)

There's a reason for Chait's over-the-top purple prose. He can't describe the plan and explain why it will work. That's because the plan will not work. Thus, the plan is being promoted by means of vague superlatives and by demonizing health insurance companies. There's no way to sell the Plan itself.

Nor will it lead to social justice. It will create a 3 tier system. Members of Congress and others in power will get much better care than the proletarians. And, wealthy people will be able to buy private care that will be superior to what the plan provides for the poor.

So bullfighter, I think we're actually pretty much in agreement. We both feel that it makes no sense at all to say that the pending health care legislation is "the most dramatic improvement in social justice in at least four decades," since judicial decisions, secular trends in the society and other developments have wrought far more significant improvements in social justice.

Our only difference is that I take Chait's statement at face value and conclude that he makes no sense, whereas you believe that in order to make his statement reasonable we should understand it as limited to legislation. That's a difference scarcely worth arguing.

I'm only now getting around to reading all of Packer's essay. My favorite passage is this:

It's not that he's been less eloquent as President, or that the public has grown disenchanted with his character. Obama's honesty, thoughtfulness, discipline, far-mindedness--none of this has been muffled by a year in the cocoon of the Oval Office.
Reading this, I can't help wondering whether Packer is able to type with just one hand.

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