While announcing yesterday that we have reached the end game (really? finally? honestly? truly?) in the fight for health care reform, President Obama said this:
"(T)he United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform. We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades. Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a supermajority of sixty votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts - all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority."
What we have here is Obama 2.0, the combative version. Here's the passage in translation: "I campaigned on a pledge to govern in a bipartisan way, but Republicans won't be satisified unless I junk the entire health reform effort. That's their definition of bipartisanship. So we're gonna do these reforms without them. We're gonna sidestep their Senate filibuster by using the same parliamentary tactic that they have repeatedly used to pass welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts. It's called 'reconciliation,' and all we need is a simple majority of 51 votes. So my message to the Republicans is simple: We're done talking to you. Buzz off."
There are no guarantees that the Democrats will be able to make good on their last-ditch strategy - after all, we're talking here about the Democrats - but at least Obama has finally acknowledged publicly that there's no point in breaking bread with an opposition party that is hell bent on destroying his presidency. It was obvious even last summer that the bipartisan approach would yield nothing; as I recall, Obama's Senate allies kept trying to woo Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, who rewarded their efforts by endorsing the lie about so-called "death panels." Obama is done indulging those kinds of shenanigans - if only because the clock has almost run out, the '10 election season is looming, and it's now or never on his signature domestic initiative.
So he's doubling down in hopes of the ultimate score. He's content to let the Republicans bare their hypocrisy about the reconcilation tactic. (Senator Judd Gregg on Fox News, two days ago: Using reconciliation will "really railroad the American people." Judd Gregg on the Senate floor, five years ago: "Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate used on numerous occasions....Is there something wrong with 'majority rule'? I don't think so.")
And while the aforementioned Obama speech passage was aimed at the obstructionist Republicans, another passage was clearly aimed at the ill-disciplined congressional Democrats: "At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future."
In translation: "You Democrats have the votes and the parliamentary means to get this deal done. If you screw this up, you will become the symbol of all that's wrong with Washington. You'll be demonstrating to the folks back home - especially the Democratic base - that you're too inept to govern. Good luck with that in the November elections."
Could the political stakes be any higher?
Karl Rove is ready to party like it's 2003. George W. Bush's political svengali is poised to release his long-awaited memoir, which reportedly includes this fascinating little nugget:
Rove writes that Bush would not have invaded Iraq had he known that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
From the book: "Would the Iraq war have occurred without WMD? I doubt it. Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the WMD threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations."
Rove insists that Bush didn't knowingly tell falsehoods to the American people ("So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not"), but the bottom line is damning nonetheless. Rove in his book is essentially admitting that his boss took us to war (at a cost that has now reached nearly one trillion dollars) on the basis of a nonexistent rationale. Whether Bush deliberately lied is not really the issue, and I doubt that he did anyway; more likely, he came to sincerely believe what he was told. So the real issue is whether Bush asked the tough questions and exercised sufficient skepticism about the purported WMD evidence.
Enough already. Rove's book, due out Tuesday, will undoubtedly reignite debate about Bush and the war, but, frankly, I'm sure I speak for many when I say that the tempests of the present moment seem far more urgent.