Abroad, the fruits of the president's policy of "engagement" have been meager: Witness Iran continuing its nuclear program and China being difficult about carbon emissions. Here is a history lesson for an administration which, considering itself the culmination of history, is interested only in the last eight years of it:
At the Vienna summit in June 1961, President John Kennedy, fresh from his Bay of Pigs fiasco, was unnerved by the brutal disdain of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who considered Kennedy callow. Britain's Prime Minister Harold Macmillan astutely noted Kennedy had "met a man who was impervious to his charm."
A person can only be a novelty once, and only briefly, and charm, like any commodity, when used uneconomically becomes a wasting asset. All this is pertinent to the Senate health care debate, now coming to a curious climax amid another glut of careless grandiosity.
Supporters of the Senate bill say it will insure the uninsured. The Congressional Budget Office says 24 million of the 46.3 million uninsured will remain so. Supporters say it will lower aggregate and individual health care spending. The government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says the nation's health care spending and insurance premium costs will increase.
Today there are more independents than Democrats, more independents than Republicans, and according to a recent Gallup poll, independents' approval of the Democratic-controlled Congress (14 percent) is lower than Republicans' approval (17 percent). This is partly a function of the majority party's health care monomania. Consider what happened recently in Kentucky.
There a Republican candidate succeeded in nationalizing a state Senate race. Hugely outspent in a district in which Democrats have a lopsided registration advantage, the Republican won by 12 points a seat in Frankfort by running against Washington -- against Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their health care legislation.
A CNN poll shows 36 percent of the public in favor of what the Democratic Senate is trying to do to health care, 61 percent opposed. It is clear what the public wants Congress to do: Take a mulligan and start over.
So Republicans can win in 2009 by stopping the bill, or in 2010 by saying: Unpopular health legislation passed because of a 60-40 party-line decision to bring it to a Senate vote. Therefore each incumbent Democrat is responsible for everything in the law.