It's WH vs GOP on Health Care as Obama Tries to Convince Dems His Loss Would Be Their Defeat

Add another GOP senator to the list of Republicans the White House is assailing for stalling health care reform in the name of politics. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, trashed President Obama’s efforts on two different radio shows this week, implying that the GOP’s attempts to stall health care reform will bring about Obama’s “demise.” “We are plotting the demise on a week by week basis of where Bill Clinton was in 1993 and where Obama is today, and his demise ratio is greater than Clinton’s was in 1993,” Inhofe told the conservative Janet Parshall radio show on Wednesday. That same day, Inhofe went on the Hugh Hewitt show saying essentially the same thing. “I just hope the president keeps talking about it, keeps trying to rush it through,” Inhofe said. “We can stall it. And that’s going to be a huge gain for those of us who want to turn this thing over in the 2010 election.” Both clips surfaced late Thursday on the site Think Progress, a non-profit liberal group founded by John Podesta, who ran Obama’s White House transition committee.

How will the White House use these latest comments? Look for administration officials to suggest Inhofe and Jim DeMint, he of the now infamous “Waterloo” comment, are reflective of the mainstream within the Republican Party--that the GOP is playing politics with the process, while Obama is trying to help the American people. In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advanced this argument, telling host Steve Inskeep he “actually appreciate(s)” what Inhofe and DeMint said. “I’m different than everybody. I’m not going to criticize them. I complement them. They’re honest,” Emanuel said. “They’re being honest about what they see the stakes. And what I find interesting, I haven’t heard a lot of people in their party criticize them.” Talk about a backhanded compliment.

Of course, as your Gaggler has written all week, the problem with this argument is that Democrats are Obama’s real issue. Democrats hold enough seats in Congress that Obama could push health care reform through without the support of the GOP, but Obama’s party is not united behind him. He continues to face significant opposition among other Democrats, including the conservative Blue Dogs in the House—a caucus Emanuel spent hours negotiating with on Thursday. But the White House needs a boogie man, and Obama doesn’t want to trash other Democrats. It just doesn’t look good. But going after Republicans doesn’t get Obama to where he needs to be. He’s not likely to pressure other GOP lawmakers to break with their own party. Plenty of GOP moderates, especially in the Senate, are already friendly to the White House’s proposals. But it does allow Obama to politically save face, and it buys him some time to whip Democrats into supporting his plan. One reason Emanuel is probably not joking when he says he appreciates Inhofe’s honesty is because it backs up an argument he and other administration officials have been making to Democrats privately: That an Obama defeat on health care won’t reflect well on other Dems, particularly those up for re-election in 2010. So far,  Democrats aren't buying it.

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