Representative Barney Frank, who is not seeking re-election, gave a memorable exit interviewthis week to New York magazine suggesting that President Barack Obama “underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the health care with poor people.”
The Democratic Party “paid a terrible price for health care,” Frank said. “I would not have pushed it as hard.”
Frank’s take is self-serving. He argued that Obama should have proposed financial reform first, which is convenient considering that he was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee at the time and would have loved all eyes on his bill.
But the question remains: Is Frank right? We know what Republicans unanimously think. What’s surprising is how many Democrats, with the benefit of hindsight and speaking sotto voce, agree with Frank. Although they support the substance of the law, they are appalled by its political fallout and wish they had a do-over. Their thinking was summarized this week in the National Journal by Michael Hirsh, who wrote that by embracing health care reform amid the economic crisis, Obama confused his priorities and took his eye off the ball, much as PresidentGeorge W. Bush did when he invaded Iraq instead of worrying more about al-Qaeda.