"Look," the President said. "Even if we hadn't tackled health care, this was going to be a tough year." We were in the Oval Office, talking about how health care reform had become such a mess. It was the Friday before his first anniversary in office, the Friday before a Republican named Scott Brown demolished the assumptions of Barack Obama's presidency by winning Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and ending the Democrats' filibuster-proof dominance. It was a Friday when the President's decision to go all in on health care was beginning to seem like a disastrous gamble.
I asked Obama how he thought his Administration was perceived by someone in the Boston suburbs who had supported him a year ago, looking for "change" — and now saw the President making deals with everyone from Joe Lieberman to the labor unions to Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska (whose special Medicaid deal was a public embarrassment) to the pro-life forces, not to mention the drug and insurance companies. "When I promised change, I didn't promise that somehow members of Congress weren't going to be looking to try to get a project in their district or help a hospital in their neighborhood," the President said halfheartedly. But later he acknowledged, "There's a culture in this town, which is an insider culture. That's what I think people outside of Washington legitimately can't stand — a sense that they're not being heard. I think we've done actually a pretty good job of working in this town without being completely consumed by it. But from the outside, if you're just watching TV, and all you're hearing about is the reports, people may get the false impression that somehow [the insiders] are the folks we're spending more time listening to."
Filed under: Barack Obama
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