The Fabled Figure. Fabled, as in Not Real.

Peggy Noonan on what’s wrong with El Supremo.

(I swear to God, the more I come to know Obama, the more he reminds me of El Supremo. Don’t know who El Supremo is? Go read Beat To Quarters, by C.S. Forester.)

In Washington among sympathetic political hands (actually, most of them sound formerly sympathetic) you hear the word “intervention,” as in: “So-and-so tried an intervention with the president and it didn’t work.” So-and-so tried to tell him he’s in trouble with the public and must moderate, recalibrate, back off from health care. The end of the story is always that so-and-so got nowhere. David Gergen a few weeks ago told the Financial Times the administration puts him in mind of the old joke: “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one. But the lightbulb must want to change. I don’t think President Obama wants to make any changes.”

…What accounts for Mr. Obama’s confidence and certainty?

Well, if you were a young progressive who’d won the presidency by a comfortable margin in a center-right country, you just might think you were a genius. You might not be surprised to find yourself surrounded by a cultish admiration: “They see him as a fabled figure,” said a frequent White House visitor of some on the president’s staff.

…All this contributes to a second problem, which is a growing credibility gap. In his speech Wednesday, demanding an “up or down” vote, the president seemed convinced and committed—but nothing he said sounded true. His bill will “bring down the cost of health care for millions,” it is “fully paid for,” it will lower the long term deficit by a trillion dollars.

Does anyone believe this? Does anyone who knows the ways of government, the compulsions of Congress, and how history has played out in the past, believe this? Even a little? Rep. Bart Stupak said Thursday that he and several of his fellow Democrats won’t vote for the Senate version of the bill because it says right there on page 2,069 that the federal government would directly subsidize abortions. The bill’s proponents say this isn’t so. It would be a relief to have a president who could weigh in believably and make clear what his own bill says. But he seems to devote more words to obscuring than clarifying.


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