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Why It's "Limbaugh Redux" Time

President Barack Obama speaks on health care reform in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
As Congress nears its annual August break and the outcome of President Obama's health reform proposals still remain undecided, this much is clear: you can declare the presidential honeymoon to be officially over.

Some might argue that Barack Obama never truly enjoyed the political grace period that new presidents traditionally enjoy early in their first terms and that Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" soliloquy in January was a telling harbinger.

"I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here," Limbaugh said on his radio talk show.

At the time, his comments kicked up a mini-controversy on the blog and cable gabfests with commentators on the left dunning him for being unpatriotic.

But Limbaugh's was an honest reflection of conservative suspicion about a decidedly liberal administration taking power in the midst of one of the worst economic and financial crises in the country's history. When Congress approved the administration's $787 billion the following month, the grumbling started in earnest. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) predicted in a statement that "the flawed bill the president will sign today is a missed opportunity, one for which our children and grandchildren will pay a hefty price."

In one shape or another, Republicans have been making that argument ever since. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn concludes that, contrary to the advance billing, Obama is not a "post-partisan" politician.

"It may be because on almost every big-ticket legislative item (the stimulus, climate change, and now health care), Mr. Obama has been pushing a highly ideological agenda with little (and in some cases zero) support from across the aisle," writes McGurn.

But now, as the opposing sides sharpen their arguments about how to deal with health care, there are emerging signs that the verbal pounding of Mr. Obama by the right is resonating beyond the Beltway. A Washington Post-ABC poll released this week found that while most Americans still like President Obama personally, public support for his policies is dropping.

The timing was purely coincidental, but only a few days earlier, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said during a conference call organized by the group, Conservatives for Patients Rights, "If we're able to stop Obama on (health care), it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

The president didn't waste an opportunity to paint a bulls eye on DeMint.

"Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy. And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time, not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake."

In other words, let's get it on.

Former Clintonites in the Obama administration - including Hillary - are experienced enough not to label this as the second coming of the great right wing conspiracy. But they don't run away from the suggestion that Republicans have made a political calculation. The GOP's best chance for a good showing in the 2010 elections rests upon the failure of the president's agenda (Call it "Limbaugh redux.")

Further ammunition was supplied courtesy of the Huffington Post which published details of an internal Republican National Committee memo outlining the script the party plans to follow to derail Obamacare. To wit:

* President Obama and Democrats are conducting a grand experiment with our economy, our country, and now our health care.

* President Obama's massive spending experiments have created more debt than at any other time in our nation's history.

* The President experimented with a $780 billion dollar budget-busting stimulus plan and unemployment is still rising. The President experimented with banks and auto companies, and now we're on the hook for tens of billions of dollars with no exit plan.

* Now the President is proposing more debt and more risk through a trillion dollar experiment with our health care.

* Democrats are proposing a government controlled health insurance system, which will control care, treatments, medicines and even what doctors a patient may see.

* This health care experiment will have consequences for generations, but President Obama and Democrats want to ram this legislation through Congress in two months.

* President Obama's health care experiment is too much, too fast, too soon. Our country cannot afford to fix health care through a rushed experiment.

* Americans want health care reform that addresses, not increases, cost or debt.

* Government takeover is the wrong way to go - health care decisions should remain between the doctor and the patient.

There's nothing here that should make Republicans blush. It's what they believe. And if, as New York Times' columnist David Brooks suggests, the Democrats have fundamentally misinterpreted the 2008 election results, then the "liberal suicide march" won't need much of a helping hand to reach its inevitable denouement.

We'll only know the real answer six to twelve months from now. To be continued.

By Charles Cooper