WORST. ANALOGY. EVER…. Independent election analyst Charlie Cook believes House Democrats are going to have an extremely bad election cycle this year. He’s hardly alone in that regard. But as analogies go, this is awfully foolish.
Cook has, of late, been extremely down on Democrats’ chances — an attitude born, he argued in the interview, of “fundamental, total miscalculations from the very, very beginning” by the White House about the direction to take the country. Cook added that the White House’s miscalculations in terms of their agenda were “of proportions comparable to President George W. Bush’s decision to go into Iraq.”
This wasn’t just some off-the-cuff rhetoric gone awry — Cook seriously believes the decision to pursue health care reform is comparable to the decision to invade Iraq.
I just don’t understand this kind of thinking. President Obama took office and began doing exactly what he told voters he would do. Cook believes this represented a “miscalculation” on the White House’s part. But what is it Cook would have encouraged the White House to do? Obama was elected by a wide margin to pursue the agenda he presented as a candidate. The president’s numbers have dropped in the face of congressional dysfunction and a still-struggling economy, but as of today’s Gallup tracking poll, Obama’s approval rating is still 51%.
Cook is apparently of the opinion that the president would have been far better off focusing all of his attention on the economy. But this advice that doesn’t really mean anything.
The Iraq analogy, though, is what really rankles here. The president was elected, at least in part, to deliver on health care reform. The initiative stumbled in the face of an intense misinformation campaign and conservative obstructionism, but the underlying goal is and has been worthwhile. The truth and policy merit has consistently been on the White House’s side.
Conversely, the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary, ran counter to America’s interests, and was sold to the public through deception and demagoguery.
To hear Cook tell it, Obama should have never tried to fix a dysfunctional health care system, just as Bush should have never gone to war against a country that wasn’t a threat. But that’s crazy — the health care system really doesn’t work, and Americans have long demanded a change. Iraq, meanwhile, really didn’t have WMD. Is there not a qualitative difference between bringing coverage/security to Americans and invading a country under false pretenses, followed by badly screwing up the occupation? Does it not matter that Bush created a crisis, while Obama inherited one?
Cook has responded to criticism on this by insisting that since the reform push hurt the president politically — and Iraq hurt Bush politically — the comparison is sound. Perhaps in an amoral calculation, there’s something to this.
But Obama saw a crisis and pushed for a reasonable and effective solution. Bush saw a crisis and made one of the worst, costliest, and deadliest decisions any modern president has made. The former is positioned to improve the nation’s interests; the latter undermined them.
Cook sees a superficial similarity. I see a terribly flawed analogy.