Jim Webb: Health-care law represents a leadership failure for Obama

Posted at 11:58 AM ET, 04/18/2012

Jim Webb: Health-care law represents a leadership failure for Obama

By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

President Obama’s new health-care law will be his greatest liability as he attempts to once again win the critical swing state of Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) warned Wednesday.

“I’ll be real frank here,” Webb said at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg News. “I think that the manner in which the health-care reform issue was put in front of the Congress, the way that the issue was dealt with by the White House, cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader.”

U.S. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gestures while talking to journalists during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (Khin Maung Win – AP)

Webb voted for the law, but also for more than a dozen GOP-offered amendments to it.

“If you were going to do something of this magnitude, you have to do it with some clarity, with a clear set of objectives from the White House,” added Webb, who opted not to run for a second term this year. “…It should have been done with better direction from the White House.”

He faulted Obama for playing too passive a role in shaping the legislation. Taking a lesson from Bill Clinton’s failed 1994 health-care overhaul effort–which was faulted for its micromanagement of the details of the bill–Obama opted to spell out a broad set of goals, and let Congress work out the details.

What happened in the end, Webb said, “was five different congressional committees voted out their version of health-care reform, and so you had 7,000 pages of contradictory information. Everybody got confused. … From that point forward, Obama’s had a difficult time selling himself as a decisive leader.”

Webb also said that if Obama had opted for a smaller measure, he would have stood a chance of winning the support of a significant number of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The White House had no immediate comment on Webb’s statement.

Webb added that he believes most Virginia voters–outside the staunchest partisans–have not yet begun to focus on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee.

“People are getting ready to pay attention to his message, the average person, rather than the nominating base,” Webb said. “Romney has a case to make. He has to make his case.”

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