The Triumph of the Will (Wilkinson)


Will Wilkinson gets the sputterning, sneering Paul Krugman—arguably the leader of the left's pass-the-damn-bill crowd—exactly right:

Krugman believes in his bleeding heart of hearts that his furious white-hot laserbeam rhetoric at its maximum amplitude can induce a microstroke in the brain of an enemy from distances of up to seven-hundred miles. Just imagine what he imagines the President can do! Vaporize an armada with a whim? Suspend gravity within a square-mile? But Obama need do so little–merely to tell House Democrats to pass the Senate bill. He's THE PRESIDENT, for chrissake. If only he would tell them what they NEED to be told, instantly waffling Dems will become a zombie army able only to lurch to their doom. But, no. Obama will let his puppets be real boys and do what they like.

Obama: Not actually a superhero.

There's a great not-for-kids comic book series from the 90s called Preacher, about a guy who, after bonding with the superpowered spawn of an angel and a demon, can speak with the voice of God: Anyone who listens must obey.

Listening to progressives complain about Obama's failure to intercede in Congress during the health care reform fight, and his unwillingness to command them to move ahead with a vote for it now that it's flailing, I get the sense that they imagine Obama operating in a similar fashion (albeit without the whole supernatural-powers-bestowed-by-a-freak-merging-of-heaven-and-hell business).

But as anyone who's taken an elementary school civics class ought to remember, it's Congress that makes laws. The president obviously has a significant amount of influence, but expecting him to be able to speak his will into existence, superhero style, is the sort of absurdity likely to make Gene Healy's hair burst into flames. Just because a president, or his supporters, want something doesn't mean that it's possible to get. Even if they want it really, really badly. During the Bush era, liberals frequently mocked conservatives who claimed that America need only muster the will to finish and win the Iraq war—as if national will was some sort of fuel a country's military could rely upon. Well, the same is true of presidential will.

Krugman might respond that this is different, because in this case, the procedure to pass health care reform exists! The problem, though, is that the votes don't. And no amount of cajoling presidential melifluence is likely to bring them into existence.

Indeed, I'd say Obama, in choosing a hands-off strategy, was likely far more effective than if he'd been up in Congress' grill: Remember that when Bill Clinton took office, he also tried to overhaul the U.S. health care system. But rather than give Congress a broad target (in this case, universal coverage and deficit reduction) and tell them to come up with a solution, he handed them a detailed plan and micromanaged the process. The bill never even came to a floor vote.

Obama's strategy was risky, but it pushed liberal health care reforms further than they've ever gone before. If I were a diehard health-reform supporter like Paul Krugman, I'd be thanking Obama for a year of dicey, difficult work. But instead, Krugman's complaining that Obama hasn't done enough. It's revealing, I think, about the ultra-broad view Krugman and other folks of his political persuasion take of the scope and power of the federal government; but the fact is, there are limits—even for Obama.

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  1. “Bob, your excuses mean as little to me as a foreskin filled with stale brie.”

  2. Krugman and his ilk hate Democracy. If Obama declared Marshal Law and gave them single payer health care they would applaud it.

    1. Hey, leave me out of this!

    2. Which Marshal would this be John, Matt Dillon perhaps?

      Or were you channeling John Marshall maybe?

      Or perhaps this Marshal Law.


      1. Or Wilbur Marshall Law.

        1. No, they meant the bizarre and twisted way in which “I” interpret the law.

        2. I believe it is marshall law what do you think?

    3. It’s stunning, but the other day Jim Lehrer openly called for Obama to essentially become a full-fledged dictator and start enacting his full agenda by executive order.

    4. OK, I’ll tell him.

      John, it’s “martial” law.

    5. “That’s why I am declaring MARTIAN LAW!”

      “Mars is wild, untamed. I’m forming a cadre of martian knights, charged with upholding martian law. Now who’s ready to beat some ass?”

      “I dub thee Sir Phobos. Knight of Mars, beater of ass.”

  3. “The Democratic mission statement speaks of health care ‘reform’ leveling mountains and laying waste in entire regions. A party that carries HCR before it…is invincible.”

    1. That is what they think. But sadly for them, we are not Venezuela. They are close, but they haven’t quite succeeded in creating a majority underclass that is dependent on the government. They keep importing millions of Mexicans for the role, but the dumb bastards keep getting jobs and starting businesses.

      1. I think you missed the reference, John. For which you should be ashamed.

        1. I got the ROTLA reference. And I think it was an apt one. That is exactly how Democrats view health care reform. They have really convinced themselves if they pass it, there will be a eternal liberal majority in this country, no matter how unpopular their shitty bill is.

          1. “Snakes…..why did it have to be snakes????”

            (Said by Indy right after unearthing the Well of Souls)

          2. “Snakes…..why did it have to be snakes????”

            (Said by Indy right after unearthing the Well of Souls)

    2. Wait. Health care reform is the spear of destiny? Does Constantine know about this?

      1. “Oh…and you have to ask for absolution to be forgiven….asshole”

        1. I was raised baptist, bitch. What the fuck is “absolution”?

          1. Absolution is asking forgiveness for your sin of not supporting public healthcare.

          2. Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

            Explained here

            Loved the movie Constantine and was merely quoting my favorite line. Apologies to you.

            Besides, I could see that approach applied to HCR implementation and dispersal.

            1. Ah. Sorry bro. I just now noticed the quotation marks.

              1. Alles gut 😉

  4. Reference to Preacher, +2

    1. The reference needs to be expanded.
      Who among the dems is Herr Starr, and who is “serving” him?

      And who is Arseface?

      1. Chony is arseface. In that he has arse all over his face.

  5. Indeed, I’d say Obama, in choosing a hands-off strategy, was likely far more effective than if he’d been up in Congress’ grill:

    The most effective part of this for Obama is his ability to lay the blame for failure at the feet of Congress. I guarantee you, as a rabid passive-aggressive and recovering advocate of political egalitarianism, that he knows exactly what he’s doing when he stays out of their grill.

  6. (albeit without the whole supernatural-powers-bestowed-by-a-freak-merging-of-heaven-and-hell business)

    Short memory? His campaign, and the press campaign on his behalf, were fucking nuts. The Preacher-style “divided soul” narrative white people impose on charismatic black guys (Prince, MLK, Marvin Gaye, etc.) was imposed on Obama too. By Obama, too. Or Axelrod, at least.

    You really don’t remember? How his gene-level straddling of every two worlds (black/white, Southside/Harvard, NBA/ABA, East/West, even West/Islam when convenient) made him our naturally endowed moral and political superior? He said it himself, about ninety times.

    And his aufhebung-y history-erasing All-Being-ness was often given an explicitly supernatural spin?that “lightworker” shit, for example. His own campaign themes were eschatological (“waiting”), post-political, post-racial, post-everything.

    So no. Not albeit. Beit.

    1. Obama was billed as the ultimate magic Negro. In am sure Krugman thinks he can just take recalcitrant Dems aside and explain the ways of the world to them like Will Smith in Begger Vance.

      1. Then Krugman needs to go back to the KrugCave(tm) and keep on polishing that Prize of his because the Pragmatic One as Bagger Vance is way too much of a stretch.

        And the One’s golf game sucks anyway.

        MATT DAMON!

      2. I bring this message to my colleagues in Congress today:

        The market is Shit.

        Universal Coverage is Shinola.

        That is all.

  7. …can speak with the voice of God: Anyone who listens must be obeyed.

    If I listen to Preacher when he uses the voice of God, everyone must obey me? That’s the oddest superpower I’ve ever heard of. Do I have ‘listen’ listen, or can I sort of tune him out if I’m getting the gist of it?

  8. You know, MattJ, it was always a little unclear. For example, people who didn’t understand English were immune. But what about someone who was, say, playing a video game and was totally distracted? Couldn’t say, though I only read about half the series, so maybe this was all cleared up by the end.

    1. Peter,

      I think his point is that you said “Anyone who listens must be obeyed.” It should be “Anyone who listens had to obey.”

      1. Winnah winnah chicken dinnah.

      2. Guh. I, clearly, am not very good at listening/reading/typing. Fixed.

    2. I keep a pic of Lobster Girl around for just this sort of emergency distraction.

      1. I know I’d obey anything Lobster Girl said.

    3. Never really cleared up. Or how God could make someone immune to The Word, but he himself wasn’t immune.

      1. During Jesse’s peyote trip confrontation with God, Jesse hypothesizes that the Word came back on its own in Angelville and God had nothing to do with it.

        1. Ah, yes. I remember now.


    4. I think I am going to travel back in time and destroy all comic books. Hell, I think I may have just saved the world.

  9. Odd how the liberals who complain everyone who disagrees w/ them is just mindlessly following their leaders instead of thinking for themselves complain when people on their side think for themselves (even if selfishly) instead of mindlessly following The Leader Obama.

    Almost like they’re projecting…..

  10. I don’t entirely agree.
    A major reason that the biil took so long to get through the House and Senate was because the Democrats spent so long wrangling over the “public option”, and never formed a united front on it. During this time, Obama took a hands off approach, refusing to say whether he favored a public option or not.

    If Obama, as President AND leader of the party had chosen a side, and thrown his weight behind it, he could easily have had a bill in his desk by Christmas.

    The hands-off approach may have worked fine for allowing the Dems to haggle out the smaller details, but the lack of party unity on the public option clearly delayed the process enormously.

    1. Hazel, I agree with you for a change. I need a vodka martini.

    2. Hazel, that was merely an extension of his “voting present” strategy whilst in the senate. By swinging a a huge verbal stick, but non-committal in action, he can point fingers and be both leader and victim at the same time. Essentially, “I voiced what I wanted and it was up to Congress to deliver.” (Without the benefit of direct specificity of what the bill should contain).

      And he tried this approach as president and it blew up in their collective faces.

      Brown was a timely coup de grace.

  11. The left is mad because Obamafuhrer is too moderate.

    1. Here’s the things about guys like Krugman and his ilk: no matter what they get, they can never possibly be satisfied, because their list of demands is endless. A grasping loser can never possibly be happy no matter what you give him.

  12. Peter,”Obama’s strategy was risky, but it pushed liberal health care reforms further than they’ve ever gone before. If I were a diehard health-reform supporter, … I’d be thanking Obama for a year of dicey, difficult work. But instead, Krugman’s complaining that Obama hasn’t done enough. It’s revealing,…but the fact is, there are limits?even for Obama.” Why do I get the distinct impression that these patronizing remarks are to placate the anger (and tone down the gloating) over lack of HCR and to discourage any further attempts. Your little league coach impression: “kids you did a great job but it’s ok you can’t win them all!” bores me.

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