Power Play

Summer Swelters for Democrats

Battle rages over health law implementation, Cap and frown for conservatives at commencement and Holder in for the long haul?


“It is essential that we take advantage of the opportunity to be in touch with our constituents about [President Obama’s 2010 health insurance law].”

-- From talking points provided to House Democrats by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for holding town hall events, obtained by Buzzfeed.

Scandalmania, which first broke out in fever and hives, has become a chronic condition. After the dizzy spells and night sweats, the political press and those they cover have realized that the agues of Obamaland will be with them for a long while.


The president realized it from the first, which explains why he opted to move incrementally on the misdeeds in his administration rather than swinging hard into action to root out and punish wrongdoing. President Obama knew that House Republicans would spend months on the targeting of his political enemies by the IRS, spying on reporters by the Department of Justice and the doctored talking points about an attack by Islamists in Libya last year. Plus, Obama and those advising him likely know that more unhappy details will be rolling out as investigators do their work. Why make their jobs easier by opening the books and purging the payroll?

The fact that the president’s job approval rating has not dipped more than it has suggests his strategy has its merits.

First, insulate the president, even at the cost of isolation and inefficacy. Second, hunker down and wait for the initial wave of outrage to pass. Third, shame or coax media friends into becoming apologists. “Yes, _____ is bad and unprecedented, but….” From there, a pliant pundit can choose their combination from a menu of explanations: Government is complicated./It’s really the Republican’s fault./National security!/We need to move on…

The damage to Obama’s brand will happen more slowly and, therefore, in more controlled fashion. This is sort of the last threshold for Obama in disproving the belief that he was different than other politicians. He even does scandal management the old-fashioned way.

But by choosing to treat his ailments as a chronic condition rather than with invasive surgery, the president is again leaving his fellow Democrats to suffer the side-effects for him.

For example, the prospect of having Eric Holder lingering around the Department of Justice trying to rehabilitate his image as a liberal do-gooder rather than a creepy email snatcher cannot make congressional Democrats too happy. But it’s looking like rather than shooing him away, Obama may do as George W. Bush did with Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and stay the course just long enough to damage his party’s midterm chances. While this was frustrating to Republicans from Bush, who was usually a hard worker when it came to helping his party, this can be no surprise to Democrats since Obama is a loner.

Democrats can be happy that the economy has not yet repeated the cycle in 2013 of every year of the Obama era with green shoots of optimism in the spring wilting in the summer. For all the talk about the doom of “sequestration” and tax hikes, the economy seems to be chuffing along for now. There are a lot of miles of track to cover for the economy between now and the fall of 2014, and opportunities for derailments abound. But Democrats right now have hope of avoiding the double whammy of 2010 when frustration with Washington married up with deepening economic pessimism.

But right now that’s the only bright spot on the horizon for the Blue Team.

Consider what House Democrats were sent home to talk about over the summer recess – selling the president’s 2010 health law that got them booted out of the majority in the first place.


Most Democrats from swing districts will wisely dump the suggestion from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and instead work hard to distance themselves from their party, their president and the city where they work. But the very fact that polishing up the health law was even considered as a summertime talking point suggests that the Democratic establishment is not yet seeking aggressive treatment for what promises to be a dire condition next year.

This is the part of the election cycle in which the contours takes shape. We find out who will be in the fray, what resources they will have and who will be defending. On the last point, it’s very plain that Democrats will be on defense again.

They will be defending their Senate majority in some tough places, defending all the president’s scandals and Obama’s health law just as the most problematic provisions fall into place.

It’s too soon to say what the climate will look like next year, but the outlook for Democrats for this year is for a sweltering summer.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“That's the Obama administration's own Iran-Contra: raising the money on the side [to implement the president’s health law] because it can't get it through Congress, which under our constitution is supposed to appropriate -- the executive spends.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.