Invoking the not-so-long-ago proposals of Senators Bob Dole and Howard Baker, President Obama told the Republicans Friday that his health bill is “pretty centrist,” while suggesting they might leave off referring to it as a Bolshevik plot. “People in America don’t believe it’s centrist,” Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) told PBS NewsHour‘s Judy Woodruff just after the event — “the government defining costs, benefits…” Hensarling did not sound much like someone ready for bi-partisan cooperation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said yesterday, in a letter e-mailed to constituents, that “Congress will pass health insurance reform no matter what barriers stand in our way. We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in.” And therein may lie the problem: Obama’s move from health care to jobs as number one issue, and Pelosi’s, well, Pelosi-like determination to get some sort of a health bill through, no matter what. Some of us who agree that jobs and the economy are admittedly number one still believe the disaster that is our current health care system has got to be addressed. (One wonders what planet Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell lives on, commenting during his rebuttal to the State of the Union address that Americans don’t want to mess with “the best medical care system in the world.”)
Health reform, whatever remains of it, has become the yo-yo of the year: it’s up, it’s down, it’s tangling in multiple strings, and the axle connecting it between Democrats and Republicans looks more worn with every loop.
Here are a few of the assessments Friday night pundits were making: New York Times reporter Peter Baker on Washington Week in Review: “It’s become bad politics. There is no option but to slow down.” Also on Washington Week, Politico‘s John Harris remarked, “It’s comatose.”
The President did himself proud with the Republicans, in what was indeed a remarkable event, even if no immediate good will arises. It felt downright civil. But as to the health care yo-yo and whether it now rolls quietly under the sofa to rest a while, a parting thought came from columnist Mark Shields on NewsHour. “President Obama,” he observed, “doesn’t control Nancy Pelosi.”