Free Markets, Free People

Obama’s healthcare joint session may have been a sign of desperation

In any contest, you have certain assets, and your strategy is to use the assets in the most efficient and effective way you can find. In war simulations, for example, you normally don’t use offensive units for defense or vice versa.

But there is a point at which that breaks down. Anyone who has played war simulation games, such as Empire or Civilization, is familiar with the “edge of defeat” problem.

When it looks like you are about to be defeated, you use whatever assets you have at hand because your choices start to go away. Some people call this the use-it-or-lose-it point. If you are defeated, your assets don’t matter anyway, so you might as well use them to try and stave off defeat, even if your odds are not very good and you are using them in normally inappropriate ways.

Addressing a joint session of Congress is one of Obama’s assets. Using it ineffectively degrades the ability to use it again. If he did one once a week, or even once a month, then those speeches would get no more attention than the weekly radio address.

Looking at last night, I couldn’t help but feel Obama used that asset ineffectively. He got some juice out of it, but not much, and even the Democrats concede that it was not a game changer.

That asset is now gone for the purposes of the healthcare debate. If he tries to pull it out before sometime next year, it will be mostly ignored. So I’ve been wondering why he decided to commit that asset, even with a speech that didn’t break any new ground or attempt to dramatically change the terms of the debate in any way I can see.

The most likely possibility is that is that Obama’s overconfidence led him to believe he could get more mileage out of the asset than he did. He may be pretty out of touch with the real source of opposition to his healthcare wishes. He may think it’s just a matter of misunderstanding, and that if we all understood what he wanted better, we would just go along with it. I hate to think he’s that out of touch, but I have to rate that the most likely explanation.

But what if he understands that the opposition has hardened? What if he knows that the bill is in trouble, and he’s caught between the liberal caucus insisting on a public option and the Blue Dogs insisting they won’t vote for it, and just doesn’t know what to do? What if he knows that he’s at the edge of defeat on this, and thinks it will be the defining contest of his presidency?

In that case, it would make complete sense to use any asset at his disposal to try and salvage a win. Using the joint session asset to make a routine speech would be scraping the bottom of the barrel, but what other assets does he have that he hasn’t already used? He used up his strong-arming on many House members over cap-and-trade. He used up his high-pressure sales option in the summer. He used up all his influence with the industry to get concession from them, both monetary and that they would not publicly fight him. (I am wondering where that $150 million pledge by PhRMA went, though.)

If Obama is half as smart as his supporters say, the joint session last night could be a sign of desperation, an indication that he knows he’s losing on this and just can’t think of any other asset to use.

The preferred metaphor for his speech is “doubling down”. But you normally double down when you think you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning. I think a “Hail Mary” metaphor might be more applicable.

If true, that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to lose. Sometimes the Hail Mary works. It just doesn’t work that often.

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13 Responses to Obama’s healthcare joint session may have been a sign of desperation

  • Put a fork in it, it’s done. Overexposure. Fatigue. People have tuned out the HC debate. It’s too confusing, too much bickering, and seriously, no one with half a brain thinks more government involvement will improve anything.

    Oh, and as if we didn’t already know, Obama has no clue and he blew it with this HC debate. If he stuck to the simple (ignorant voter friendly) mantra of “Poor people with no HC are dying en masse, we must do something now!” maybe he would have had a shot.

  • Maybe this is why MiniTru is trying to make the story all about Rep. Joe “LIAR!” Wilson: they know TAO can’t win on the merits, so they’re trying to distract our attention from his desperation by doing another Joe the Plumber routine.

    • I think it is a good thing we are talking about Joe Wilson. Every time it comes up, it detracts from the impact of the speech and we are reminded “you lie”. It is almost as good as the Gates gaffe.


  • The fact is, our country is so far past broke it is sickening to anyone with even the slightest clue of finances. Yet our president wants to spend more. Where is this extra going to come from? Who pays these bills? That’s right — you, via your taxes.

    So, the government spends more, the government taxes more. Oh, yes. Only the rich will be taxed, right? And you believe that?

    In his inaugural ceremony, Obama played a video of JFK’s inaugural ceremony, wherein he stated “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

    Yet, Obama has the government doing for private business, and the government doing for private citizens, NOT the other way around.

    These will come back to haunt him if US citizens have any backbone left at all.

  • “Anyone who has played war simulation games, such as Empire or Civilization, is familiar with the “edge of defeat” problem.”

    Billy, the usual solution to this problem is to exit to main menu and start another game….maybe even at a lower difficulty level.

    I guess that means Obama will resign the Presidency and run for Senator again.

  • He may think it’s just a matter of misunderstanding, and that if we all understood what he wanted better, we would just go along with it. I hate to think he’s that out of touch, but I have to rate that the most likely explanation.

    For as long as I’ve been paying attention to left activism, I’ve noted one constant. They are lovingly blinded to the flaws in their own polemics,hopelessly enamored with their own rhetoric, and fully convinced that their uncompromising passions will lead to utopia. As a result, they are utterly incapable of understanding that others reject what they are trying to sell. This is why so many reek havoc on credulity by arguing that the media is conservative. In their minds, that is the only possible explanation for their lack of widespread success.

    Other than ought right intellectual dishonesty, how do you explain the likes of Erb?

    Or my Mother, my Sister, and a goon number of my friends for that matter? Ultimately their justifying arguments are always predicated on emotion rather than reason – hence the bold above.

  • sigh…

    failure to close tags (or open them properly in this case) is my mistake. But it would sure help if QandO could bring back the preview feature.

  • I don’t believe Democrats want to carry this past the 1 year or less mark to the next Congressional election. People have short memories, but not that short so they’ll want to be clear of this issue by November.

    But until then, I expect them to keep hurling themselves at this issue vigorously.

    Its far from dead, especially if the opposition starts to let up.

  • While Obama is on his magical medical tour, who is president?

  • You are in an alternate reality. Politico is reporting how Obama’s speech is stiching up Democratic support, reassuring the party of Presidential leadership. It also notes, as do others, how “Cranks” are defining the GOP these days. You are literally totally backwards on your read of this. Given how you talk about “memes” I suspect you’re trying to push a meme you want, dishonestly pretending its reality. But you are so far away from reality on this, it’s almost a caricature.

    • I’d just like to remind you that the Democrats have majorities in both the House and Senate, and if what you’re saying is true they should have no problem passing a legislative item that may be critical in defining Obama’s presidency. That the party continues to employ a full-court PR press that has drained significant political capital to date would imply that Obama’s concern is not ‘stitching up Democratic support’ nor does it have anything to do with how the GOP is being defined.

      He has a number of Democrats in traditionally conservative districts who are either reading their constituents correctly and recognizing that they do not want HR3200 or anything resembling it… or they are somehow unable or unwilling to properly represent their constituents, even though those constituents want them to support legislation that they would typically support themselves. It doesn’t make sense for a Democrat to battle his own party on health care reform, particularly if he’s in a normally conservative district that is actively in favor of such reform.

      If that is the case, and Obama’s speech is indeed stitching up intra-party support, then he’ll have no problems getting this bill passed into law right away. After all, he considers it critically important to pass it as soon as possible, and I see no reason why he’d want to wait and risk missing an opportunity to have it passed into law.

  • My advice, for months, has been for people to simply stop listening to Obama. I don’t mean to stop paying attention to his miserable plans, but to simply not listen to his speeches, his statements, anything that comes out of his mouth. It is a waste of time.

    Apparently there are a lot of people who are joining my new movement. I saw one number where the total audience for that speech to Congress was down 39% from the one he gave in February. At that rate, in another 14 months, no one will be listening to him.

    The guy is a baldfaced liar (see Thomas Sowell for details ), who makes Bill Clinton come off like an Eagle Scout.

    Turn him off.