“Here’s a new president who, after 13 months, didn’t let the system defeat him and has this major legislative accomplishment. Rather than restarting or recalibrating, in many ways it establishes his presidency in historic terms and also gives him momentum,” he said. “Obama can now move forward. There’s no reason he can’t tackle other issues.”
But like Cummings, Berman believes the president must become more of a “communicator-in-chief” and use the bully pulpit to explain the historic significance of the legislation and how it will provide insurance coverage for all Americans.
Smith said Obama must now turn his attention to financial reform and apply the same level of tenacity he did to healthcare reform. “The House has passed a pretty good bill that puts in place regulations to prevent the things that brought about the near collapse of the economy. Obama has to fight for as strong a bill as possible, otherwise there will be a repeat of the economic crisis in 10 years.”
Berman agrees. Success for both Obama and Congressional Democrats will depend on how successfully the economy rebounds: “He’s got to get jobs for Americans, and that’s how he wins independents back. If jobless numbers go down, that helps him in crucial key states. But if he doesn’t turn around the economy, whatever happens with this bill, it will be disastrous for him.”
Still, he adds, for Obama, healthcare reform passage will likely all have been worth it. “He believes in it,” says Berman, who thinks Obama would rather be a one-term president who didn’t compromise his principles. “He’s no different from George W. Bush when it came to foreign affairs, doing what he thinks is right, no matter the consequences.”