David Brooks as usual, is wrong on just about almost everything that comes out of his mouth in this segment. Health care reform is popular. This mess that looks like it's going to be a sell out to the insurance industries is losing popularity. Obama's numbers are going down among his base and with independents as this thing plays itself out and it appears that not only was single-payer not on the table, but the public option wasn't either. It's not losing popularity because the President didn't look like he showed enough love to the Grassley's and Blue Dogs of the world.
And the democratic process has not made Chuck Grassley do anything. Chuck Grassley is out to destroy the chances of anything meaningful being done with reforming our current system, and listening to his constituents at town halls has not changed that one way or the other.
From The Newshour with Jim Lehrer Aug. 21, 2009.
JIM LEHRER: What would you add to that or subtract?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I'm not sure it was inevitable.
JIM LEHRER: You don't think it was inevitable?
DAVID BROOKS: No, I mean, he's lost the independents, a group I don't think he had to lose. If he had taken a stimulus package of $400 billion instead of $787 billion, I think he would have held the independents, held a lot of the Republicans.
If he had taken sort of a more moderate version of health care reform, I think he could have held on to -- there's a Wyden-Bennett plan that he, I think, would have held on to some of those independents.
I mean, the major reason he's falling down now -- the secondary reason is the economy is still not -- you know, unemployment. But the major reason is health care reform. His major domestic initiative is unpopular. The majority -- a slight majority of the American people disapprove of it, and there's no sign that that's let up.
And so he really is in a sort of not freefall, but a serious slide. You know, Charlie Cook, who knows more about congressional elections than just about anybody, has a memo out today saying there's as much of a chance the Democrats will lose more than 20 seats in the next House elections than fewer than 20 seats, and that's a pretty serious thing. That's a terrible climate in which to try to enact health care.
JIM LEHRER: But on health care reform specifically, is it the president's failure to sell it, or is it just a bad idea to begin with that he has latched on to?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it has some serious problems, some of which I've enumerated. To me, the problem I care about is costs. It doesn't control costs. And I think there's an element of the American people that are objecting to that.
There's a very large element, a larger element objecting to the fact that it's government takeover, and that comes -- or at least perceived government takeover on the heels of the takeover of AIG, on the heels of the takeover -- perceived takeover of the auto industry.
JIM LEHRER: Too much government?
DAVID BROOKS: And then the final thing -- and this, I think, the administration is doing the right thing -- is in some of the Medicare cuts and taking benefits away from people. There are a lot of people who say, "I don't want my Medicare cut to pay for universal health coverage." And so they're doing the right thing, but it costs them with seniors.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of the Republicans, Charles Grassley, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, very much involved in the big bipartisan thing with the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus, Montana, now suddenly he's gone away, it seems like, or has he? How do you read that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, there are two Chuck Grassleys. There's the one who -- he was here in Washington, who's negotiating some deal, but then there's the one who went home. And I gather some of the town hall meetings that are happening in Iowa, and Iowans are good at this sort of thing, are triple the size of normal.
And he goes home and listens, and he gets threatened we're going to defeat you in 2010. He's up in this coming election. And he doesn't want to get defeated.
And that's been, I think, the overall effect of this August, which is a lot of people -- in parts of the country, the health care reform is reasonably popular, but in the Midwest in particular, and some areas of the South and places like Florida, it's quite unpopular.
And so he has to face the fact, do I really want to lose my seat over this? And so I just think it's, in some sense, a democratic process that's creating the other Chuck Grassley.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it should always be said that only in Washington can the word "reconciliation" mean a polarizing ramming through of something without any reconciliation. But that is the phrase we use.
It will be mostly Democratic, but that doesn't solve your problems.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
DAVID BROOKS: I mean, the public plan -- there are many -- there are many Democrats in the Senate and in the House who hate the idea of a strong public plan. There are many Democrats who love the idea of a strong public plan. So the split has always been within the Democratic Party.
And I really feel -- and when it's unpopular, how do you pass the major Democrat domestic initiative of your administration when the American people don't want it, even if you do have 60 votes? That's just a tough thing to do, especially when you're split six different ways. It's not an easy split.
There are a million different issues floating around here. And for the first time, I've really begun to think it's at best a 50/50 proposition that something passes, something major passes.