On the Swampland blog, Time's Jay Newton-Small reports congressional Democrats are peeved at Newsweek pundit Jonathan Alter's Obama-polishing book on his first year, especially how he seems to give the president most of the credit for passing ObamaCare. Alter defended himself with more Barack-boosting:
Even though he did not draft the bill, it has come to be known as “Obamacare” and will be – for better or for worst – one of the crowning achievements that history will remember of Obama's first term. “On the idea of winning- it's always messy,” Alter tells me. “He has joined [Franklin] Roosevelt and [Lyndon] Johnson as a President of great domestic accomplishment. He gets the credit, even though he may have screwed up here or there, but in the final analysis he won and if he'd lost nobody would've given him credit for good intentions.”
Yes, health care reform could not be done without Obama, but there's a case to be made that it also couldn't have been done without Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Max Baucus, Olympia Snowe and any number of people in the sausage making process. But sausage makers aren't sexy and they don't sell books.
Don't miss the note of arrogance in assuming Obama is only in his "first term." 2012 is already a cakewalk, and Obama will be greeted like a liberator. Like many media liberals, Newton-Small thinks that Obama dithered too much with Democrats on the Hill, and should have put a boot on the neck of the moderates who were delaying the drive and making deals that smelled like special-interest pleading:
If only Obama had thrown his weight around! August 2009 through March 2010 might have been avoided. Defending this, Alter notes in a telephone interview a quote in the book from an unnamed White House official saying: “I love Max Baucus, but I wish we'd put our foot down harder and said, it's over Max.” But Baucus wasn't the only problem: Obama's reluctance to say no to Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman's demands for special deals caused more headaches for Dems than they were worth. His inability to reign in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer when – over Obama's objections – they ditched negotiations with Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and made a final, and nearly fatal, push for a public plan. If Obama had only introduced his own plan – or even outline –six months before his address to the Joint Session, a lot of heartache and drawing of arbitrary lines in the sand might have been avoided.
Newton-Small adds that Alter says the Obama team did have a secret 800-page health plan if other bills failed. She also says it's quite obvious who Alter was taking notes from in this tome, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod: "note to Alter, it's pretty obvious who your sources are when you call everyone in the book by their last names except for 'Rahm' and 'Ax'."