With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Victor Davis Hanson: Desperately Seeking a Healthcare Bill

[Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.]

Speeding Over the Cliff

It is quite amazing to watch Obama invoke God, call a joint session of Congress, go tit-for-tat with the town-hall movement, and reprogram daily the presidential message over the healthcare initiative — all in the midst of a recession. The problem is that right now 85% are not upset with their healthcare coverage, and feel that modifications, not a trillion-dollar reinvention, can address the uninsured, while 100% are paranoid about the economy, mega-deficits, and a shot dollar.

Cannot some staffer take the president aside and simply say,"If you just cool it for a bit, and curb lunatic new spending, the economy will go into its natural cycle of recovery, and you can take credit early next year for the rebound, then find some bipartisan project, and hope and change your way back up"?

The parallels to Clinton 1993–1994 are eerie. He misinterpreted unhappiness over a recession, a Bush aloofness and broken pledge on taxes, and the siphoning of votes by Ross Perot into some sort of hard-left mandate that included, inter alia, nationalized healthcare. Then came the 1994 push-back. But Clinton and his advisors were astute enough to reinvent themselves in the late autumn 1994, and by 1997 he was reelected, taking credit for a surging economy and enjoying 60%+ ratings...

Obama Could Learn from Bush

There are eerie similarities between Obama’s present crusade to alter healthcare and Bush’s 2005 effort to change Social Security through the introduction of private accounts. Just as Joe Wilson heckled Obama, so too Democrats booed Bush during his 2005 “State of the Union” address. Bush felt his re-election would translate into grassroots support for Social Security reform. But the problem then was that most Americans were more or less happy with the system, and did not believe that those over 55 were fully exempt from the proposed changes, or that private investments were superior to government-guaranteed returns. They knew there were problems with Social Security’s actuarial tables, but felt that modification, rather than wholesale reinvention, was the proper cure.

The Bush effort failed, and Obama should learn from it: He should remember that most Americans like their health-insurance coverage precisely because it gives them access to the best care in the world (especially when it comes to treatment for cancer and heart problems) and can be improved to extend coverage to the uninsured without radical reinvention.

Most likely, even as he continues to spout hope-and-change, this-is-our-moment rhetoric, Obama will discover the parameters of governance that all presidents — even the most messianic — must operate within.

Obama's Mad Dash Continues

Obama's problem is more fundamental than his health-care mess. He campaigned on a no more red state/blue state, white/black, rich/poor polarity, and offered a sort of transcendence that was used to make up for his prior dubious relationships with the likes of Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers.

When governing, his supporters liked to think that he would have to rein in extremists like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to gravitate to the center and work in"bipartisan fashion." But that was never in the cards. The problem is that beneath Obama's hope-and-change veneer, his past legislative and vocal record (cf. his Senate partisanship, his statements in his memoirs, his spread-the-wealth, clingers, typical-white-person gaffes, his talk of single-payer healthcare and reparations, etc) were hard left, left even of Pelosi and Reid. The Van Jones appointment was logical, not an aberration. So to save his presidency, since the hope-and-change hocus-pocus has become old and trite, Obama would have to become an un-Obama, and do a 1995 Clinton switcheroo...
Read entire article at Private Papers (website of Victor Davis Hanson)