September 10, 2009

Obama has no Master Plan!

I had assumed there was a master plan. I was wrong. I'm not talking about a 1000+ page health care reform bill. Clearly that plan was driven by Congress and not the President anyway. And I'm not talking about an agenda-related Master Plan. Clearly he has one of those: increasing government control in all areas of ordinary life in the mistaken belief that government knows best. No, I'm talking about a political Master Plan. He doesn't have one - at least not on health care. All through the primaries he was lauded as genius in his ability to unexpectedly win primaries and enchant voters with his rhetorical flair. He had a plan and great execution of that plan. Never mind the supposedly 'brilliant' rhetorical flair.

So going into last night's speech to the joint session of Congress, I had assumed there was a clever political Master Plan. Let the Congress tear itself apart and the miracle President would ride into town and save the day. He would add to his image in the process of saving the health care bill for the Democrats. How he was going to attempt that was the biggest interest for me in his address. So strong was my belief in his Master Plan political shrewdness, I even tried to apply game theory as to which path Obama would take in his speech.

I had assumed, as many others had, that he would do something that moved the debate onto a different path, or change it's trajectory. Hence the Master Plan theory. Either he would bring a new plan, or he would explain the existing plan better or he would address his critics' concerns specifically, and that at the very least he would come down on one side or the other of the government payer option. He did none of the above, rambling on as if the mere volume of his words were enough to erase the criticisms of his mysterious plan, and sooth the worries of the American public. Remember, he has this ability to enchant, this oratory skill that is spell-binding. It seemes he's bought into his own mythological prowess and has assumed the content of the speech didn't matter, his delivery did. The speech was not well crafted.

So instead of bringing a game changer of a speech, he brought a muddled mix of part trying to placate everyone, part rant, part villifying his critics, part villifying various groups of Americans like insurance companies, part threat, and part promising the moon. It was an unmitigated failure if the goal was to change the game. Now perhaps he was trying to assure people and undoubtedly the address will move the yard sticks to some degree. But it will be temporary and it will not be to the degree he needs because he added nothing to the debate. A fig leaf to Republicans on tort reform? Please.

He has no Master Plan. He has a liberal dogma driven agenda and no master plan on how to get there other than the sheer weight of momentum. But he's lost that momentum and he has no apparent idea on how to recover from it. If he did we would have seen a very different speech. Instead he went to his well of ideas - speak and enchant, demonize the opposition, be vague enough to not get caught in an idea trap, but sound intelligent enough to seem like you have all the bases covered, contradict himself and hope nobody catches it, and rely on the mainstream media to smooth out the wrinkles for him. It was not even especially rhetorically brilliant. It seems those are only possible to an adoring throng when he is preaching to the converted. Hell almost anyone can do that.

No master plan, means the two areas conservatives were willing to grant the President, brilliant political calculation and influential speaking have evaporated as illusory. There is no reason for the GOP to hold back now. He is emminently beatable. The President and the media have set this up as his last kick at the health care plan. Ill conceived though it was, did it help him? The GOP will likely not budge. The public will be somewhat eased but that will get erased in the weeks to come, and the Blue Dog Democrats and the far left progressive Democrats are all probably scratching their heads in a collective (pun intended) "what did he say?" moment. The President did not muddy the waters, but he did not clear them either. By that measure the speech is a failure. As I wrote on Twitter last night - Conservatives; hold fast - this is no better, and no different than it was last week.

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