With the potential collapse of health care reform President Obama has begun to take some withering fire from the left wing base of the Democratic Party. The complaints are multifold but boil down to the President paying too little heed to the left on policy, and being too willing to compromise to achieve legislative success. Rahm Emmanuel has come in for some heavy criticism, being accused of steering the Administration to the center and being too willing to make legislative deals. The President himself seems torn, giving mixed signals on where he really is on several issues of substance.
The President and Rahm have a real understanding of the legislative process, and if there is to be criticism then I believe it should be centered on being too deferential to Congress is developing key legislation. I do believe that the President could exercise firmer leadership on setting policy goals involved in major legislation, although I am sure the President feels he has done that. The legislative process however cannot be blamed on the President. The left does not like the sausage making, and I agree that it can be and is ugly. But the President did not elect Joe Lieberman, or Ben Nelson, or Kent Conrad. The realities on the ground are not changeable by Presidential fiat. To get to sixty votes on health care in the Senate was exceedingly difficult, and I do not believe the President could have shifted votes (on the public option for example) by any means. Is he perfect? No. Would running attack ads against moderate Democrats have produced a different result? Not a chance. Some interesting articles on the revolt of the left over at the Wall Street Journal. An Ed Schultz exchange with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is here, as well as the President’s comments to Diane Sawyer on how he will proceed from here. Another interesting read from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Revenge of Bill Clinton” gives the WSJ take on the politics involved in the center vs. left issue.