January 28, 2010
Health Care Reform Vaporizes Obama PresidencyBy Monty Pelerin
In the fledgling days of the personal computer industry, software vendors frequently announced products that were not yet ready for release. The term "vaporware" was coined to describe such software. Most of these products never reached the marketplace; some that were sold to the public should not have been.
The recent health care reform effort was nothing more than a modern-day, political version of vaporware -- or, more aptly, VaporCare. The VaporCare bill never reached a point where it was ready for "release." In software terminology, the legislation was nothing but "spaghetti code." It was written by dozens of lawyers and congressional staffers. There was no guiding objective to the legislation other than "we must pass something quickly."
No one, including the various writers of the bill, the Congress, or President Obama, had a comprehensive understanding of the legislation. The bill was a "moving target," changing whenever criticisms arose, decision-makers met, or vote-buying was required. Few of the ad hoc changes had anything to do with improving the quality of health care. As stated in "The Legend of Bagger Obama":
No one in the political class knew what was in the final bill or whether their untested VaporCare would work. Few seemed to care.
VaporCare (or "spaghetti code" as a legislative process) might be foreign to voters, but the voters' health care is not. The public quickly realized that their concerns about the legislation did not matter, at least not in the eyes of the political class. Passage of a bill, any bill, was more important than the quality or quantity of health care. Monument-building was too important for normal folks to have input. The political elites knew what was best for the common folks and were intent on providing it good and hard.
Blinded by ambition, Democrats ignored the electorate. Despite rising public discontent, the political class plowed ahead. Why not? The Democrats had large majorities in both houses of congress. They had designed (and continued to modify) their "historic" VaporCare plan. Their president had messianic powers that would enable him to sell any program they designed. It was a sure thing. Full speed ahead!
Democrats clearly misjudged the market for VaporCare. The largest consumer testing agency in the country, the voting public, rated the product defective, yet the political class continued to push ahead. Congress came across as imperial.
President Obama fared even worse. Obama's ego and self-absorption apparently required him to be on stage all the time. According to CBS News, there were only 21 days in his first year where Obama did not make at least one public appearance. The statistics from CBS were amazing: 411 speeches, comments, and remarks -- of which 52 were on VaporCare. Obama gave 158 interviews, visited 58 U.S. cities and 21 foreign nations, took 160 flights on Air Force One, 193 flights on Marine One, etc., etc. In short, it was all Obama, all the time.
While familiarity doesn't always breed contempt, public disdain for the president started to rise. Campaign pledges were broken, promised transparency became a joke, foreign policy was seen wanting (if not embarrassing), our defenses against terrorism were clearly diminished, and Chicago-type political deals were viewed as standard procedure. These and other real-world inconveniences intruded on "The One's" plan for his Camelot. Public disappointment certainly diminished the Obama mystique, but it might not have killed his presidency.
Obama's continued hard sell, including obvious lies regarding the bill, revealed him to be nothing more than an unethical salesman attempting to foist a defective product on what he considered to be a stupid group of customers. The selling of VaporCare cost Obama whatever credibility he had left. His campaign guise of nobility and omnipotence was revealed as fraudulent when he used the hard-sell approach of a used car salesman. Messiahs don't sell snake oil. Anointed Ones don't engage in fraud.
The high hopes and dreams that accompanied Obama's ascendancy to the presidency (and ultimately Mount Rushmore) came crashing down when he lowered himself to selling the VaporCare lie. His image was transformed from Exalted Leader to just another used car salesman from Chicago.
Obama jokingly referred to the ending of the movie Thelma and Louise, saying health care would not end that way. But VaporCare did go over the cliff (or, Freudian slip, the "precipice"). What remained of Obama's reputation, image, and presidency fell with it.
VaporCare seriously tarnished all its proponents. The Democrats felt the wrath of the public in three statewide elections, all of which should have been won by the Democrats and none of which should have been close.
The push for VaporCare appears over for now. Its wake is strewn with serious political wreckage. The left is angry, the right is angry, and voting results show that independents are running from the Democrats in droves.
Obama's presidency was likely doomed to failure without VaporCare, but recognition of that outcome might not have come so soon. The lesson to be learned is that all style and no substance can fool some of the people some of the time. Form and flair are no substitute for governance.
Some Americans feared from the beginning that Obama was an empty suit. But the majority were willing to take a chance on charisma, myth, and sizzle. Now the line between public celebrity and public nuisance appears to have been crossed. Arrogance is never an asset, but it is especially unbecoming when it is not accompanied by competence.
Obama's effectiveness as a president is finished. This coming election cycle will not be kind to the left. And given Obama's propensity for anger and intolerance when questioned, the next three years are likely to get ugly.