Even most Republicans have quit pretending that they are going to either repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act -- but that didn't stop David Brooks from fantasizing on this Friday's PBS Newshour that not Republicans, but the Democrats are going to make the health care law "go away" now that the Obama administration agreed to ease some of the rules on the individual mandate for those with canceled insurance policies, by getting rid of the mandates altogether.
Never mind that it doesn't make an ounce of political sense for the Democrats to do this and that even Brooks admits just a little later in the interview that he doesn't have a stinking clue how things are going to pan out and whether all of this is going to just be "teething pains" and the law will work, he's just sure the law is going to take them down in the mid-terms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Talk about today's news conference by the president. David, it's been a rough year for the president. He was asked a lot of questions about what went wrong, especially when it came to health care. He acknowledged some problems, but he kept saying, I did the right thing.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. On health care, it's going to be political. It's going to be, let's say, the confluence of the politics and the messy implementation.
So, what happened last night was, they announced this delay -- or this delay in some of the -- really wiping away some of the internal mandate, the individual mandates for people who have hardship exemptions. And that came about as a bit because of political pressure from Democrats.
And the thing to look forward to in the -- really the months and years ahead -- or especially the months ahead, as the midterms approach, is, are more Democrats pressing the president to sort of weaken the individual mandate further, further, further? And if it becomes politically unsustainable, for a lot of Senate Democrats in particular, then the individual mandate begins to look weaker, possibly goes away.↓ Story continues below ↓
And if that goes away, then the health care law goes away. So, they don't have a long time to implement the health care, because the political pressure may interrupt their effect to really implement the change and reform to make the thing work.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, how much leeway does the president really have to change impressions about health care right now? And how much does his legacy hinge on all this?
MARK SHIELDS: It's beyond packaging, and it's beyond speeches, Judy. It's now performance.
This going to be judged by how in the next year people's lives are either improved, and they feel more secure and better, and their family members and friends and neighbors are better off because of this law, or they're not. And I think that's -- that's -- we have moved beyond can we make another speech, can we do an event to really performance.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they just stand back...
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it's sort of hard to know where it's going to wind up. It's either teething pains, in which case we will just get through this period and it will work in a little brief period, or it's a dissolution of the whole thing.
And at this point, none of us can really know which is true. One of the thing that strikes me is, in an era of high distrust, high cynicism about Washington, the losers seem to be a lot more louder and more powerful than the winners. And so you could have a situation where you have more winners, but they're a passive, less political power. The vocal minority of losers has much more political sway.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's one of the things. I was talking about with Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: She was saying, there are a lot of people that may be having a good experience, but we're not hearing from them.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, and no -- but that's got to be it.
I'm not as worried as David is about the dissolution. I mean, I am still hopeful and believe that it will work. But this is the whole ball game. This is the whole presidency. Everything else, Judy, you can -- you know, you can talk about State of the Union address. You can talk about legislative initiatives, and we will.
But this is what the Obama presidency will hinge on, and history's judgment of it.