How Can Charles Farthammer Be So Wrong About So Much?

Yes, the Farthammer is in rare form in today’s column, which purports to examine the “fall” of President Obama. There’s that spin we talked about. Let’s dissect.

Liberals try to attribute Obama’s political decline to matters of style. He’s too cool, detached, uninvolved. He’s not tough, angry or aggressive enough with opponents. He’s contracted out too much of his agenda to Congress.

Speak for yourself, not for “liberals,” okay, Farthammer? As we’ll discuss later, that’s actually not it at all.

These stylistic and tactical complaints may be true, but they miss the major point: The reason for today’s vast discontent, presaged by spontaneous national Tea Party opposition, is not that Obama is too cool or compliant but that he’s too left.


…Obama unveiled the most radical (in American terms) ideological agenda since the New Deal: the fundamental restructuring of three pillars of American society — health care, education and energy. Then began the descent—when, more amazingly still, Obama devoted himself to turning these statist visions into legislative reality. First energy, with cap-and-trade, an unprecedented federal intrusion into American industry and commerce.

Factually wrong, big guy. Cap and trade is not unprecedented. It was used quite effectively during the 1970s to help alleviate the problem of acid rain.

Then, the Farthammer lays into health care reform.

Then, the keystone: a health-care revolution in which the federal government will regulate in crushing detail one-sixth of the U.S. economy. By essentially abolishing medical underwriting (actuarially based risk assessment) and replacing it with government fiat, Obamacare turns the health insurance companies into utilities, their every significant move dictated by government regulators. The public option was a sideshow. As many on the right have long been arguing, and as the more astute on the left (such as The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki) understand, Obamacare is government health care by proxy, single-payer through a facade of nominally “private” insurers.

At first, health-care reform was sustained politically by Obama’s own popularity. But then gravity took hold, and Obamacare’s profound unpopularity dragged him down with it. After 29 speeches and a fortune in squandered political capital, it still will not sell.

It won’t sell because it ain’t reform. In poll after poll, when you present folks with the notion of a true public option, people like the idea. If only the bill we’ve got involved government as you’ve described. If only. No, Farthammer, the problem with the “reform” we’re going to see is that it delivers tens of thousands of new customers directly to the very private corporations who have been screwing us for years without providing any kind of market steam valve, which the public option would provide. It won’t provide much in the way of antitrust, it won’t expand Medicare, and, as it looks lately, it will tax benefits. This bill doesn’t sell because it does everything wrong. That’s why.

The health-care drive is the most important reason Obama has sunk to 46 percent. But this reflects something larger. In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30. And the American people—disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized—have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.

If only! Hell, I’d settle for the 35! No, Charles Farthammer, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. The reason President Obama’s approval numbers are down is because he ran as a bold, game-changing leader, but he has governed considerably more cautiously. His approval numbers are down because he has chosen to run his executive branch modeled after The Great Triangulator instead of after that of the only four-term President in American history. His approval numbers are down because he’s got a whole lot of Tim Geithner and not enough Robert Reich. That’s why. You freak.

Another reason his approval numbers are down? THOSE FRAKKING POLLSTERS NEVER CALL BRADY BONK! Because while I am of the opinion that Obama hasn’t invested enough political capital in the people who actually did the legwork for him, I also think he’s actually accomplished quite a lot in a year. I, for one, approve.

3 thoughts on “How Can Charles Farthammer Be So Wrong About So Much?”

  1. Well, I think so. But when they started with single-payer “off the table,” they gave up on even reaching the red zone…(can we take the gridiron analogies too far?)

  2. From the same column:

    “By essentially abolishing medical underwriting and replacing it with
    government fiat, Obamacare turns the health insurance companies
    into utilities, their every significant move dictated by government

    If only that was true. Profit margins for utility companies are regulated
    by the state, and when that margin is excessive, a utility will be
    required to refund all or part of the that amount to the customers,
    as recently happened in the case of Dominion Power.
    Granted it is not a perfect process, but at least the utilities are held somewhat accountable, and must explain and justify rate increases
    to state regulators.

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