27 January 2010

Tacking Into the Wind

President Obama seems to be wavering between two options for tonight's SOTU speech.

Option 1: Tack to the middle. Moderates in his party are demanding this, and are trying to block efforts to resuscitate the health care bill through reconciliation. Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi seem to realize that efforts to ram through a compromise bill are dead, and the House will not pass the Senate bill without modification.
'Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters, “We’re not on health care now.” As for the schedule to get it done, he said, “there is no rush.”'
  • 'Speaker Pelosi has said House Democrats will not simply vote to approve the health care bill adopted by the Senate on Dec. 24, and send it directly to Mr. Obama for his signature.
  • Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said, “We are not passing the Senate bill period.”'

Option 2: Assume that sinking poll numbers are due to a failure to go populist enough. This seems to be the tack that the President is leaning toward. With this option, he can accept blame for not ramming through his priorities fast-enough, without considering that those priorities may be unwanted or unwarranted.

'When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.'

Neither option will win over all of the President's own party, much less the independents who are deserting in droves, but it will be interesting to see which option he chooses tonight. The one consistent lesson this White House seems to draw from setbacks is that it can talk its way out of them. I doubt this, given consistent drops in all polls despite much talk, but he'll certainly try.

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