President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid will be all smiles as the president arrives at the Capitol for his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, but the happy faces can’t hide relationships that are fraying and fraught.
The anger is most palpable in the House, where Pelosi and her allies believe Obama’s reluctance to stake his political capital on health care reform in mid-2009 contributed to the near collapse of negotiations now.
But sources say there are also signs of strain between Reid and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and relations between Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate are hovering between thinly veiled disdain and outright hostility.
This is par for the course, and the Republicans went through a similar crisis at the beginning of the year. There was a public and bloody war between the conservative wing of the party and moderates like Lindsey Graham.
The problem here is that health care reform is dead and some of the party refuses to acknowledge it. Beyond that, no one wants to be blamed for its demise and so everyone is blaming everyone else. The embarrassment and shame from this defeat is impossible to quantify. This was topic one,two, three, and one hundred for months. The president staked everything on this bill and now he won't get anything.
The ship is sinking and no one wants to be blamed. There's a few differences between this and the Republican civil war. The main difference is that the Republicans had theirs in the aftemath of an election. This one may occur in lieu of an election. That's simply deadly.
I don't know how long this circular firing squad will continue but the Democrats are dealing with a ticking time bomb. They need to right the ship quickly. The longer they continue firing shots at each other the less time they will have to stop the electoral avalanche coming.
At this point, their losses will be unprecedented. The only question is just how bloody it will be. They could lose as many as one hundred seats in the House. That's how bad things look in the House. Ten seats in the Senate appears more and more likely as well.
So, the key to this story is just how long it will be a story.