Barack Obama is a politician who likes to follow through on long-term strategies and avoid making course corrections. That's how he believes he won in 2008, and since then he's shown that he's not much into details.
So he was happy to let congressional appropriators fill in the blanks in the 2009 stimulus package, and to let congressional leaders know he would be happy whether there was or wasn't a public option in the 2010 health insurance legislation. Whatever. In the long run, the big things would work out his way.
Except right now they aren't. And his partisan and petulant speech last Wednesday is unlikely to move things in the direction he wants.
Even as he was speaking, Congress was moving toward passing the fiscal year 2011 appropriations agreed to by congressional negotiators with only occasional input from the White House. The deal will substantially reduce spending below levels what he and leading Democrats used to call unacceptable.
Speaker John Boehner was criticized by some on the right for not pressing for deeper and more permanent cuts in spending than the $38 billion he claimed. But the deal nonetheless passed both houses by wide margins, and it contains some details that threaten to undermine the policies of the Obama Democrats in the future.
Most important, it requires the General Accounting Office to conduct an audit of the waivers from the Democrats' health care bill that are being issued in large numbers by the secretary of health and human services.
This will raise an uncomfortable question. If Obamacare is so great, why are so many trying to get out from under it? And, more specifically, why are so many Democratic groups trying to get out from under it?
The fact is that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has granted more than 1,000 waivers from Obamacare. Many have been granted to labor unions. Some have been granted to giant corporations like McDonald's. One was granted to the entire state of Maine.
By what criteria is this relief being granted? That's unclear, and the GAO audit should produce some answers. But what it looks like to an outsider is that waivers are being granted to constituencies that have coughed up money (or, in the case of Maine, four electoral votes) to the Democrats.
If so, what we're looking at is another example of gangster government in this administration. The law in its majesty applies to everyone except those who get special favors.