Saturday 26 September 2009

Obama told troops not to fight the Finance Committee

More details are emerging with respect to Obama’s health reform strategy.

We have learned that the White House pushed liberals to mute their objections to the Baucus bill in the Finance Committee (which Schumer correctly called the least friendly battlefield for Democrats), and save their ammunition until a bill gets to the Senate floor, and then the conference with the House. We have also learned that Obama himself will jump into the health reform fight with both feet when the conference process begins.

Somebody over at the White House has clearly been reading the history of Fabius Cunctator, the Roman general who came up with the plan to beat the great general of Carthage, Hannibal. The Romans allowed Hannibal to wear himself out in attack after attack, until finally, after some internal squabbling in Rome regarding the strategy, they defeated him. Sun Tzu had advocated such strategies long before. George Washington used the same playbook against the Brits, and then those Vietnamese fellers used it against us. And a big part of the strategy was to do exactly what Obama is doing: wait until the enemy can be tempted into doing something stupid, or tempted to wear themselves out in pointless attacks, or herded onto the right battlefield. Or, ideally, all three.

Obama spent the spring and summer quietly learning the Senate rules, setting up the reconciliation instruction in the budget bill, talking privately to Senators to get the 50 votes he needs, and covering his back by talking to the AMA and the drugmakers. Meanwhile he was playing rope-a-dope, letting the Republicans punch themselves out in the townhalls and the Finance Committee, showing the whole nation that they are lying wingnut teabaggers who want nothing but obstruction, despite all the Democratic concessions, all the wooing of Snowe, all the trial balloons regarding coops and triggers.

A lot of us wanted Obama to take the more straightforward route, crush the Republicans like Sherman going through Georgia this year and ram the Democratic platform down McConnell’s throat. He could have done that and I kind of wish he had – we do need to re-establish the tradition of Democrats who are willing to fight for their beliefs and punch the bullies until they bleed. But there are some advantages to the more Fabian approach which Obama has taken. A long, hard-fought, tactically brilliant victory will resonate with the people and history in a way that a quick smash-and-grab attack against the GOP would not have. And more importantly, letting the Republicans really show the country what a bunch of worthless scumbags they are is absolutely going to pay dividends for future campaigns.

So now the Democrats are situated perfectly. The American people still want the Democrats to pass the public option. And the Republicans, having worn themselves out pounding away at poor little Max Baucus, demanding concession after concession, suddenly will have to face the army of Boxer, Feinstein, Dodd, Harkin, Durbin, Mikulski, Levin, Webb, Leahy and Sanders…and then Pelosi and the House liberals in the conference.

And then Obama himself. The most effective American political leader in decades. As we have learned, once the House and Senate begin the conference process, Obama and Rahm Emanuel will overtly step into the fray, with all the talent and firepower they used to win the White House in the first place.

As Fabius would have said, the enemy has done stupid things, worn themselves out with their endless Pickett-like charges, and stumbled onto the perfect battlefield where they can be destroyed.

Should be an interesting two months.

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