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Messing With the President

In case you’ve just tuned into the latest Washington soap opera, and are wondering why the Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to withhold funding for Obamacare even if it leads to a prolonged government shutdown that poses all sorts of political risks for the party, President Barack Obama has offered an explanation. Speaking to a crowd of adorers in Liberty, Missouri, on Friday, Obama said of the Republicans that “They’re not focused on you. They’re focused on politics. They’re focused on messing with me.”
Another explanation would be that the Republicans genuinely loathe Obamacare because of its budget-busting costs, job-killing mandates, bureaucratic inefficiencies, inevitable cronyism and corruption, intrusions into the people’s most private matters, and assorted other problems which are becoming clearer with each step of its implementation, but one can readily understand why Obama would prefer to think that it’s all about him. Harder to understand is how the Republican opposition to Obamacare could be effective politics if it were not focused on the people who overwhelmingly share their disdain or the law, or why Obama is in such a grouchy mood if it’s not effective politics, but he’s no doubt confident that no one will ever get within shouting to distance who would ask such impertinent questions.
In the upcoming public relations battle over Obamacare the Democrats will have a large government-funded propaganda campaign, the constant help of much of the still-powerful media, an army of unthinkingly loyal activists, and of course the presidential bully pulpit, but thus far they are conspicuously lacking in persuasive arguments. The president continues to make all the old promises about health insurance premiums going down and everyone keeping their existing coverage, but even his most faithful fans will be more inclined to believe the bottom line on the bills that come that do or the regretful explanations of their employers who have cancelled longtime benefit packages. The millions of Americans who can find only part-time work will be assured that Obamacare’s requirement that full-time jobs entail costly and time-consuming health care compensation has nothing to do with it, but more and more people are now hearing otherwise from the people doing the hiring. The president is fond of pointing out that although health care costs continue to rise they are doing so at a slower rate, but when the Republicans get a quote or two in the story for the sake of balance they can point out that the rise started slowing back in ’06 when Obama was still voting “present” as an Illinois state senator.
There’s always the Obamacare provision that allows the young folk to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, which is said to be popular, but certainly some percentage of those aging dependents would prefer a full-time job and their own health care plan. Expect to hear a lot about Obamacare’s mandate that insurers cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, which sounds very compassionate and continues to poll well, but the public seems to have figured out that there’s a lot more in that 2,000 page law and the gazillions of pages of resulting regulations than just that.
Nor is it likely to be persuasive if Obama makes it all about himself. There are still some true believers out there who will rally round their president no matter the cause, and have plenty of time to do so between unemployment checks, but after the National Security Agency’s snooping and saber-rattling at Syria and the general lack of hope and change that the administration has generated the numbers seem to be dwindling. As much as some people might still love the president, many would prefer to have a full-time job and are beginning to understand that Obamacare makes it harder to get one. For those less enamored of the president from outset his petty and petulant tone will only exacerbate their dislike and stiffen their resistance as the battle gets uglier.
Republicans aren’t opposing Obamacare just to mess with the president, but if it gets him so obviously annoyed that’s an added bonus.

— Bud Norman

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