Saturday, December 26, 2009

Adam Nagourney: Debate Shows Obama Plays by Washington’s Rules

New York
As much as Mr. Obama presented himself as an outsider during his campaign, a lesson of this battle is that this is a president who would rather work within the system than seek to upend it. He is not the ideologue ready to stage a symbolic fight that could end in defeat; he is a former senator comfortable in dealing with the arcane rules of the Senate and prepared to accept compromise in search of a larger goal. For the most part, Democrats on Capitol Hill have stuck with him.

Still, Mr. Obama’s approach to this battle should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed his career or his campaign for the White House. He served in the United States Senate and in the Illinois Senate. His choice for chief of staff — Mr. Emanuel — was the No. 3 person in the House Democratic leadership, and many of his top West Wing aides came out of staff jobs in the Senate.

Mr. Green said that Mr. Obama’s failure to push for the public option — or to enlist his network of grass-root supporters behind it — had sapped the energy out of the base and would have consequences for the 2010 elections. If Mr. Green is correct, that could be a real problem for Democrats, particularly given how energetic opposition to the health bill and the entire Obama agenda appears to be among Republicans.

But this could also prove to be a test of just how much power the outside voices in the left wing have over the insiders in the White House and on Capitol Hill. The stinging attack from Mr. Dean and organizations on the left calling for the defeat of the health care bill failed to dissuade a single Senate Democrat from voting for it. And Mr. Axelrod said he was not worried that would hurt the party come November.

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