Comments on “The Obama Way”

Ross Dothat wrote in Op-Ed titled “The Obama Way” here.

NYT summary:
“President Obama baffles observers because he’s an ideologue and a pragmatist all at once,
and he prefers cutting deals to walking away from the negotiating table.”

Here are my observations on “The Obama Way”:

The key phrase in the article is: "…if he succeeds."

Success is not a matter of winning votes, it is a matter of building governmental structures that work.
The engineering of such structures certainly has not been demonstrated an Obama trait.

He largely has accepted W’s solutions to the economic crisis and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq,
in both cases, keeping most of the same players in defense and on the front lines of Treasury.
I don’t see this as brilliant, but certainly it is pragmatic. I agree with the Afghan decisions, but highly
object to the bail-out spending which I feel was largely the result of extreme panic among the
financial "leaders", such as they were, in the fall of 2008.

On the stimulus and on the budget bills, I saw absolutely no attempt to follow through with any
of the promises he made to moderates during the campaign: no restraint on spending, no avoidance
of "earmarks" or other pork-barrel spending his congressional leaders seeming were eager to flaunt.

Guantanamo and "torture" decisions are very much clouded in my mind by the aggressive expansion
of the use of drones in Pakistan. Heavy use of drones does have the expediency of avoiding "trials"
or the dreaded "indefinite detention" and the need for Guantanamo itself, but it does this by killing
suspected terrorists where they sleep, without warning, via remote control, largely without official
acknowledgement and certainly without spelling out any rules of engagement and techniques to
protecting innocents that may be in the area attacked.  I’d much rather see marines on the ground
having eyes on the target and reacting to white flags after offering an opportunity for surrender.

So we are left with health reform, done virtually totally behind closed doors in negotiations with big
drug and medical device manufacturers, insurance companies and hospitals with virtually every idea
and word of text provided by the Democrat leadership in the house and senate.  It would have been
very easy to throw a bone to the Republicans by capping the awards that ambulance chasing lawyers
can extract from doctors.  It certainly would have increased competition if the sale of policies across
state lines were some how allowed or encouraged WITH eager Republican cooperation.

As it is, the moderate Democrats have forced much of increased competitiveness across state lines
that Republicans championed in the first place…. but still no attempt at all has been made to restrain
the trial lawyer lobby.  Why were these opportunities for cooperation so deliberately thwarted?

I just don’t understand how a President of the United States, on a key piece of legislation, at a key
juncture, invites in only the members of HIS caucus to discuss compromise!

That CLEARLY sent the "my way or the highway" message we all detested last time around!

Finally, in my opinion, the product is seriously flawed.  We still have a very complicated framework
in which the choice of the insurance provider for the vast majority of the American People is STILL
not in theirs!  Rather, selection of insurance provider or health management company in the hands
of THE EMPLOYERS!

And we wonder why the policies do not cover the employees after the employee can no longer work???
If the employer pays the bill, the policy serves the needs of the employer not the employee!  This is a
remnant of the old robber baron times when "the company" provided the doctors, homes, stores
and police for the workers who are kept as  virtual prisoners in the "company town".

We need to streamline the connection between patient and doctor, giving the patient the choice of
insurance provider and hospital.  The money the employer spends on health care is simply a way to
provide undue control over the employee:  "work for my competitor and I’ll throw you out of your
house" was the old threat.  Now it is "work for my competitor and you will lose health coverage!"

The employee earned the money the employer withholds from salary to spend on healthcare. The
employee should get that money and spend it on the health servicers/insurers of his/her own choice.
THAT would be an increase in personal freedom! …not the expansion in government AND big business
we are seeing in this legislation.

So what is the Obama way?  It seems to be the same as always:  you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
And unfortunately, none of that scratching involves actually increasing our personal liberties.  He
improves our lot only if you believe government is more trustworthy than business… and experience
teaches us that is not true.  I return to the first point:  success means building structures that work.
I see “change” mainly in the direction of increased government power, not personal empowerment.

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