OFF THE GRID

The Health Bill Will Pass. Won’t It?

Nov 9, 09 | 10:52 AM   byMichael Wolff
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I think they have it. If they don’t have the votes for the best and purest version of the bill, I think they at least have a fallback position which holds 60 votes.

I believe this has to be true because you wouldn’t risk your presidency and place in history and epochal humiliation if you did not have the votes. You would not have brought it down to the wire like this.

On the other hand, I could very well be wrong. It is not just the Obama White House, but something about all politicians that, these days, makes them look like amateurs. None of them fill you with confidence. Nobody seems in control.

Harry Reid certainly does not seem like Lyndon Johnson, who, as majority leader of the Senate, was never wrong on a vote count. Or, if he was wrong, he had a deal or the muscle or compromising pictures to make it right. Instead of seeming like a man who relishes twisting arms and breaking wills, Harry Reid seems annoyed and put-upon.

This may be the nature of politics. It’s just not an inside game anymore. What it is is an assault from everywhere else. "Inside the beltway" used to be a reference to the insularity of power. But the insiders seem naked now, unprotected, cowed, desperate to avoid the cat calls and insults.

Everybody inside the beltway has his or her head down.

How not to be micro-targeted, defined against your will and interests, made into a cable television goat, is now the central concern of a successful political career. Of course, a truly successful politician is a media savant, not just crafty and a show-off, but beyond personal humiliation (e.g., Sarah Palin or Joe Lieberman). But most politicians are not so successful. They can’t manage the media. They’re afraid of it. Their main goal is not to be singled out by it.

Still, I think they have it. They must have it. It was bad enough for the Clinton White House to have lost on health care and precipitate a generational realignment of politics, and their bill didn’t get anywhere near this far. If this one goes down, it seems reasonable to assume the effect would be cataclysmic: an overwhelming loss next year together with the rise of (or return of) an ever-more-forceful Manichean Republican majority led by Fox News. In fact, if the Obama administration loses the health care bill, that would rather officially make Fox News a de facto part of government. Fox News becomes, then, as important as the New York Times once was.

I wonder if the president seems to be holding his breath. It’s certainly getting tight time-wise. Another two weeks and this effort hits the holidays. I wonder if he’s biting his nails.

I hope not. I hope he is serene in the knowledge that this is in the bag.



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