This time last year (okay, Sept. 12 '08), as McCain surged ahead of Obama in the polls in the wake of Sarah Palin's demagogic debut and a ghoulish supporting cast blasting away at the "community organizer" in the Republican Convention, David Plouffe was ruefully downplaying the panic of Democratic "bedwetters." Here we go again: after a month of gleeful lying about health care reform in town hall meetings, Republicans smell blood and Dems are wetting away as Obama's poll numbers sag.
I am confident that Obama will once again prove calmer, more focused, smarter than his critics. As Jonathan Chait and John Dickerson have pointed out, premature postmortems detailing his purported errors -- too uncompromisingly liberal, too focused rhetorically on reducing costs rather than increasing coverage, too passive in the legislative process -- are wrong where they're not mutually exclusive. In hindsight, again, we'll recognize that Obama was consistent and focused, and that he gave his adversaries space to hang themselves. Concessions and scaling back, as with the stimulus bill, will loom large and disappoint, but in hindsight it will be recognized that the legislation that passes constituted a giant step toward universal coverage.
Meanwhile, the dominant narrative comes across visually as much as verbally. Our radiant One has become the frowning, nonplussed, beleaguered One, per above. Let's see if the image changes after his speech on health care reform next Wednesday.
I'm a freelance writer and media consultant with a lasting interest in how democracy works, how it malfunctions and self-corrects. Since fall 2013 I've focused increasingly on the unfolding drama of Affordable Care Act implementation and health reform more generally.
I have a Ph.D. in medieval English literature and a propensity to parse the rhetoric and logic of our political leaders as well as that of media pundits and scholars who jump into the national debate. I wrote a dissertation on the remarkably humane and subtle medieval English anchorite Julian of Norwich, a mystic nun whose knack of squaring circles and framing paradoxes reminds me a little of our current president. A sampling of that work (mind the google gaps) is here: http://bit.ly/OzwsrR