Posted by: Joe Eds | October 7, 2009

President on the ropes

In his latest column, Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman argues that President Obama’s health care overhaul strategy is similar to Muhammad Ali’s famous “rope-a-dope” maneuver. For those not familiar, this strategy means while boxing drift towards the ropes in the early rounds and let your opponent tire out throwing punches, then go in for the K.O. In order for the maneuver to work, though, you have to withstand those early rounds (i.e., Tea Parties, Congressional cowardice, death panels).

I don’t entirely disagree with this idea. However, the president is not on the ropes taking punches. The Democrats submitting the bills are. Could explain why Congress’ approval rating is so low (even for Congress). However, it should be pointed out the big arguments are all on the Dem’s turf. Should we have a public option? Should there be a mandate? You don’t hear much “Malpractice Reform” talk.

Fineman’s final paragraph hits the main point I think both sides are feeling right now.

“No matter what procedure his allies use, and how many votes he ultimately needs, Obama is going to have to get off the ropes and into the middle of the ring at some point — soon. When he does we’ll see whether he has what it really takes to be The Champ.”



  1. The ‘rope-a-dope’ analogy is one that many of us on the left have been hoping for, as it’s the only excuse that we can think of for Obama’s lack of action on so many things. Be it ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, climate change, or a more strident regulation of wall street, we keep perhaps deluding ourselves that Obama is just trying to hustle his opponents. But for me, the disapointment of Obama is not what he hasn’t done (one could argue that he’s holding everything off until healthcare reform passes), but what he has done, from giving in to the GOP on various issues to basically adapting much of the same unconstitutional anti-terror war strategies as Bush. He was never the most liberal and he was never my favorite, but I fear that he either lacks the courage to undo much of the destructive polices of the last eight years or may in fact be a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. We’ll see…

  2. On the question of Obama’s domestic agenda, I’m kind of the odd leftist out in that I think what we’re getting is about the best we could have realistically expected. I really don’t think most people, left or right, appreciate how impervious the design of our legislature is to large-scale reform. Add to that the descent into complete insanity of the only other party in our 2-party system, and gridlock is basically assured.

    So my take is that Obama is acting like a bystander because he IS a bystander. He doesn’t write the bills or pass them. Congress does, so that’s where the action is.

    However, foreign policy is another matter entirely. The legislature is much less involved there, and as far as Obama’s almost total failure to roll back the Bush-era policies go, I think we’re all on the same page.

  3. It’s funny you mention DADT Scott, I was working on a post (now posted) on that very subject.

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