Deadline, What Deadline?
07-30-2009
I wrote a post last week, in which I argued that the legislative deadline story had so come to dominate the media’s narrative of health care reform that it was posing a real danger to the longer term viability of the reform process. President Obama had pushed hard for votes in both the full House and Senate in advance of the August recess, but he backed off once Majority Leader Harry Reid announced it wouldn’t happen in the Senate, and it is now clear that the House won’t make the deadline either.
 
The danger of the whole deadline missed narrative in the media is the potential for it to be interpreted as a broader statement about the increasing political weakness of President Obama on policy matters and the institutional weakness of the Democratic majority to act on the president’s agenda. When this sort of political narrative gains traction, it not only emboldens opponents to intensify their efforts to scuttle legislation, but it softens up public support in ways that can have negative consequences for a president’s future agenda.
 
Nonetheless, I was a little bit surprised to hear Reid and other Senate Democratic leaders blame the media earlier today for essentially fabricating the whole deadline issue. Reid claimed this hurt the process by obscuring all of the progress that has been made to date on reform legislation in both chambers. Given my own post last week, I of course agree with Reid’s assessment that the deadline story was posing a real obstacle for Democrats, but I don’t see how he can blame the media for creating it. It is true that the media has been fixated on it, but the original deadline narrative was driven by the White House.


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