No encore after healthcare?

By Ken Feltman

The New York Post compares the Obama administration’s push to get a favorable vote on healthcare reform to an especially eventful episode of “The Sopranos.” Former Rep. Eric Massa’s hard-to-believe tale of being confronted by a naked, fingerpointing, profanity-shouting Rahm Emanuel is being confirmed privately by a congressman who says he witnessed Emanuel “lobbying Massa.” Uh, put that way, it sounds sort of salacious.

  • Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) said he might be willing to change his mind and vote for reform. Next thing you know, his brother was nominated by President Obama to be a federal judge.
  • Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) leads a group of about 10 Democrats who oppose Obamacare because it provides funds for abortion. Funny thing: Media outlets in Michigan have begun to receive information about supposed “ethical lapses” by Stupak.
  • Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) got good news that the Justice Department is dropping an investigation that could have led to felony charges. Coincidentally, Mollohan switched sides and now supports Obamacare.

Expect more hard-ball tactics and more conversions. Supposedly, Emanuel has remarked that it was easier for the Catholic Church to convert heathens when the Inquisition burned a few at the stake. That got everybody’s attention.

When votes were needed in the Senate, we had the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator Aid for Florida. Montana got millions in asbestos money and Connecticut got more in hospital funding. Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln (D) has been criticized back home for not selling out for a high price. She has been criticized by others for demanding too high a price and getting nothing. So if she votes again on healthcare reform, she may vote against Obamacare. Regardless, White House political operatives have engineered a liberal challenge to her renomination and she trails in the polls against her likely Republican opponent.

Deals have always happened, of course, but in today’s blogger-saturated Washington, deals are harder to hide. Beside that, the Obama White House seems to believe that people have short memories regarding tactics but long memories regarding results. Damn the tactics, full speed ahead. Obama needs results.

This is the Chicago-style politics that I predicted in late 2008 and early 2009. This is why Obama has Emanuel there. And this is why more and more participants in focus groups are expressing disgust with Obama. To quote one man in California: “He promised us bipartisanship and he brought us dump trucks.”

No matter what happens, the self-confident and self-absorbed Obama will come out of the healthcare struggle diminished personally and politically. Winning at all costs means you spend all your capital. People understand that. After healthcare, they wonder, what will Obama have left for jobs and the economy?

They think that they know the answer: Nothing. As a woman in Virginia said, “It will all be gone. After healthcare, he’ll be finished even if he wins this one.”

About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Know as a coalition builder, he has participated in election campaigns and legislative efforts in the United States and several other countries.
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