The talking heads love presidential analogies. Is Obamacare's rollout Obama's Hurricane Katrina or his Iraq? Is Obama's false promise that you could keep your health care plan like George H. W. Bush's "read my lips" pledge, or is it like Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"? Iran-Contra anyone?
These comparisons don't take you far. The president's troubles are unique to his particular vanities and blind spots.
Some of Obama's most devoted admirers are at pains to distinguish his current fall from grace from George W. Bush's. Chris Matthews, for example, argues: "The problem with Katrina was apparent indifference. One thing you can't hold against the president is indifference about health care. He's the guy that rushed in, pushed through a program with pure Democratic support and took all the risks involved in it."
The accusation that Bush was "indifferent" to the suffering caused by Katrina is to take as fact the slanders of Bush's detractors. Matthews also extends gracious allowances for Obama's motives (though his suggestion that Obama "took all the risks" might not go down well with the 63 Democrats who lost their seats in 2010).
This tendency to judge liberals and leftists only by their intentions is very old. At its worst, it has been offered as justification for the foulest crimes. "In order to make an omelet," Vladimir Lenin is supposed to have said, "you have to be willing to break a few eggs." Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, years later, replied, "I have seen the broken eggs, but no one I know has ever tasted the omelet."
The unraveling of Obamacare is a kind of poetic justice, not just for Obama, whose overweening and utterly groundless arrogance now stands rebuked, but also for liberalism. Until Obamacare, liberals had been able to boast of providing benefits to various constituencies while forever pushing the costs onto future generations. This time is different. Why?