President Obama's health care reform effort has lost air speed and altitude. Democratic passengers aboard the aircraft are yelling "Pull up! Pull up!" as the oxygen masks fall. They better breathe deep -- regaining a safe flying elevation is going to be difficult.
By now it is clear that a "public option" doesn't have the votes to pass in the Senate. -- The administration all but said point blank last weekend that if it didn't have the votes, they'd throw it overboard in favor of getting something, anything, passed.
That prompted howls from people who a) seriously believe it's the best solution and b) have staked their legislative lives on it. It's hard to tell if the far left is serious about "sitting out the next election" as one of the union group claimed this week. Regardless, pent up frustrations are boiling over and lots of people are being scalded -- including the president himself, judging by his approval numbers. They are all on the same flight path as the health care effort.
This situation reminds me of the immigration reform effort President Bush attempted in his second term. It wasn't the Democrats who blocked that effort -- Republican infighting did it for them. While the GOP has vigorously defended its position and pointed out the holes in the reform plan as written, what's really brought this down is that the Democrats can't agree with one another on what they are for and they can't answer basic questions about how much it will cost and whether they'll really be able to keep the coverage they like and the doctor they trust.
So what can the administration do now? I still believe the president could do something dramatic and regain the upperhand. For example, he could say something like this...
"I campaigned on a platform of changing the way Washington does business. What we have seen this summer is not change -- it is business as usual. And it's not getting us anywhere.
"If it's true that we all believe we need reform to improve the health care system -- and despite partisan attacks from both sides, I believe that most people do want to achieve changes that will help provide coverage for more people and reduce costs -- then I am willing to ask Congress to tear up the current bill and to work with me to rewrite one that will accomplish our goals.
"I am asking the Democratic and Republican leadership to meet with me on September 15 -- where we will work all day if we have to -- to agree on a set of guiding principles and redlines that would be used to draft a new bill. This process would be transparent, and I am committed to answering the questions Americans will have in the greatest detail possible. I believe that regrouping in this way we will be able to show that we can change Washington -- yes we can."
Ok, so I'd drop that last phrase, but I was in the groove. I don't know anyone who wouldn't admire the president for this type of bold action. And even if it ultimately didn't succeed, it's better than it's better than crashing and burning.