"I am a pessimist by nature, which is why I have spent my life as a journalist instead of trying to be a leader, which requires optimism."
So wrote Robert Novak, who died Tuesday, in his 2007 autobiography, "The Prince of Darkness." Novak's voice was mostly stilled after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2008 -- he seemed to adhere to his longstanding practice of never writing a column in which he did not break news -- but he surely anticipated the problems now facing Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, optimists all.
Not that Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the only optimists who have been flummoxed by the obviously spontaneous outpouring of opposition to Democratic health care bills -- and to the whole package of Democratic programs, starting with the $787 billion economic stimulus, which threatens to increase the national debt from 40 percent of gross domestic product to a World War II level of 70 percent.
Among those optimists are almost all of the Washington press corps and a large proportion of the 53 percent of voters who cast their ballots for Barack Obama last November, as well as some nontrivial proportion of the 46 percent who voted for John McCain.
Foremost among their number are the netroots -- the young enthusiasts who flock to the Daily Kos blog and are ready to take direction from MoveOn.org. As my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York reported on Tuesday, the netroots, once almost totally preoccupied with the war in Iraq and suffused with hatred of George W. Bush, have now moved on.
They show little interest in Iraq, now that Obama is seeking (though carefully refraining from using the word) victory there, and little more interest in Afghanistan, where Obama has sent more troops and installed a new commander to pursue a new and, the president hopes, more successful strategy.
Instead, the netroots say their chief goal is "comprehensive health care reform." No. 2 is "working to elect progressive candidates" in 2010.
To me this looks less like conviction politics and more like team ball. I can't help doubting that these activists have given long and deep thought to "government option" health insurance or negotiating, as the Obama White House has, nonaggression pacts with pharmaceutical lobbyists and the like.