WaPo's Ceci Connolly Bows Before the Almighty Charisma of Obama on Health Care

Washington Post health care reporter Ceci Connolly appeared on PBS's Tavis Smiley show on Wednesday, plugging the Post's new account of the battle, titled "Landmark" -- and suggesting the media was scatter-brained, and really needed President Obama to reel the country back in:  

But when it came to the proposed solutions that's where it started getting complicated, and the White House, if you especially think back, Tavis, to last summer, just about a year or so now, a year ago, June, July and into that really rough August of '09 period, that's when the White House lost control of the message.

Part of the reason that it did was they let reporters like me write endlessly about the inside-Congress -- really minutia -- tedious process kind of story, and it took President Obama coming back and reengaging in September of '09 with that joint address to Congress which was really a speech to the whole nation to kind of get it back on track a little bit.

Then, of course, fast-forward to this January, when again, it took the president and his own articulate message to really get it back on track.

Does Connolly realize how much she's bowing like a courtier? "Oh, Mr. President, we are such flibbertigibbets. We are so grateful you can cut through our clutter with your charisma!"

Her account seems to ignore the conservative forces that were "derailing" or delaying Obama's agenda. She was also impressed by his lack of cynicism -- or stubborn naivete, or overconfidence in his charisma -- that he thought he would get bipartisan support:                         

SMILEY: You and your colleagues, Ceci, argue in this book that the president was the only one in Washington who thought that this bill really was going to be passed with bipartisan support.

CONNOLLY: Yes, it's an interesting trait about President Obama, and I'm sure you've watched this in him over the years as well. He doesn't like partisanship, and I think that he genuinely believes in his ability to convince people, often on the merits of whatever case he might be arguing, because he is very smart and he is very articulate, and he thought that that's what he was going to do on this issue.

Now, many people will suggest it was naVve of him to expect that at all, and certainly very late in the game, but he held out hope that Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine, maybe Chuck Grassley from Iowa, Susan Collins, also from Maine, all Republicans who he courted for a good length of time, but in the end he could not get the vote of a single one of them.

Then Smiley and Connolly concluded by awarding medals to the biggest liberal winners:

SMILEY: I know if any of these three persons, finally, were on this program tonight and I would ask this question, I can tell you what their answer might be, but let me ask you. Who's the biggest winner here - Obama, Pelosi, Reid - and I'm asking inside the Beltway, because I know they would say the American people are the big winners here. But inside the Beltway, who's the big winner here, now that this thing has passed?

CONNOLLY: Well, I guess I'm going to call it a draw between Pelosi and Obama for somewhat different reasons, but Pelosi achieved what no Speaker of the House has been able to achieve; Obama, the same goes for, like so many presidents who tried before.

I think in the case of Obama, what it did inside the Beltway was it made people realize he's a big tougher and he is more perseverance and more patience than maybe people expected, and he was able to pull this off.

For Pelosi, just sheer force of her ability to marshal the troops in the House, not once, but twice. That was, politically speaking, no matter how you feel about the actual contents of the bill, politically speaking it was an amazing achievement for her.

Tavis Smiley
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