President Obama's greatest success: passage of healthcare legislation in both Houses and ultimately into law. The president's greatest failure: passage of healthcare legislation in both houses and ultimately into law in its current, near-toothless condition.
If the president had totally committed himself to this healthcare legislation and had called in every wavering Democratic senator — and yes, the two or three Republican senators who appeared cooperative as well — they would have come along and the final legislation would now include anti-trust prohibitions aimed at preventing insurance companies from continuing to conspire to fix prices.
It also would include a tort-reform scheme that could have saved the government $54 billion over the next 10 years; authorization for insurance policy shopping across state lines; use of U.S. funds by poor women to pay for abortions; allowance of Medicare to negotiate volume discounts on prescription drugs that over a 10-year period could have saved a trillion dollars; and a government option that would have provided insurance companies with competition.
In my view, the president could have achieved all this by promising that in return for the senators' support, he would not only campaign for them in their re-election battles in November 2010 and the prior primaries, but if they lost, he would take them into his government with a high position recognizing their sacrifices for our country.
Instead, the president sold out to the insurance companies and the prescription drug companies. Why he took the less-idealistic course instead of reaching for the sky, historians will someday uncover and tell us.
With pride I point to an analogous, although not exactly the same situation in my third term as New York mayor, when I asked the City Council to pass a gay rights bill that prohibited the private sector from engaging in discrimination in employment, housing, and education based on sexual orientation.
I had previously prohibited such discrimination through executive order in the first month of my first term. In 1986, during my third term, I called in every frightened and wavering member of the City Council, Democrat and Republican, on the gay rights issue and told them I would support them in their primaries and general election if they were attacked by their opponents for having voted for the bill.
Most, not all, of the waverers voted for the legislation, counting on my support. There were some gay rights advocates who urged that I offer judgeships to the Criminal and Family courts to secure support which I refused to do for reasons of conscience, as well as legality. The bill passed with a majority of 21 to 14.
Had the president, with all of his popularity and high regard, done the same, he would have been in my opinion equally successful. Instead, he and the Democratic Party now have an albatross bill around their necks.
The current bill and the final legislation coming out of conference, which I support in the hope that if the legislation will be amended and improved in time, may lead to a shift to the Republicans in the next congressional election.
This half-baked healthcare bill, along with our continuing to remain in Afghanistan and the failures of the administration to go after the Wall Streeters who nearly destroyed the country financially, may result in a tsunami in the coming election that will, regrettably, bring back Republican control of both Houses.
The saddest aspect of such an outcome is that the voters will not be seeking to reward the Republicans, but rather, to punish President Obama and the Democrats, for these three major failures since they took office.
The gay rights legislation that I caused to be enacted in 1986 is no longer controversial, and has not been for years here in New York City. But 24 years later, there are still only 20 states that have enacted similar legislation protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination based on their orientation. New York is one such state, passing such legislation in 2002, effective in January 2003.
The lesson: Strike when the iron is hot. Opportunities do not always present themselves in a timely way. Mr. President, at best you have a maximum of eight years to execute your entire agenda. Tempus fugit.
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