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Democrats have dodged some bullets, Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan told the West County Dems on Monday. Just imagine the trouble they’d be in if they’d elected John Edwards and all this illegitimate child stuff broke while he was in office. And we came close, McClellan thinks. If Jack Ryan hadn’t gotten a divorce, with all the dirt about his sex life surfacing, Obama would never have been elected senator and had a chance to run for president. Edwards would have been the only anti-Clinton candidate running. At a time when Americans might not have been willing to keep the dynasties going–Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton–Edwards would have been the alternative.

McClellan didn’t seem to consider that Clinton might have buried Edwards, but, whatever. He has a point: the problem with dodging the Edwards bullet is that we’ve gotten a president who’s not delivering on the change he promised. He just nibbles around the edges.

Not that Republicans have anything to offer. McClellan, who is no died in the wool Democrat, panned pretty much everything Republicans did during their eight year reign. Oh sure, some of it sounded good–until you tried it. Invade Iraq, the neocons urged. Instead of swatting mosquitoes, drain the swamp. That sounded appealing on that side of the Iraq invasion. But from this end? Sheesh. And they took us from paying down the debt to deepening the debt. They were regulating scientists when they should have been regulating bankers.

How can it be, then, that the Republicans are gaining traction? How is that even possible?

Part of the problem, McClellan thinks, is that Obama has been naive. Yes, he’s from corrupt Chicago, but he didn’t hang around there long enough to know how crooked politics works. McClellan, on the other hand, having been raised in Chicago, remembers that as a child he simply accepted police corruption. Everybody liked it.

Instead, Obama, who was accustomed to associating with people willing to discuss issues rationally and compromise where necessary, overestimated the possibility of bipartisanship in D.C. Hey, even G.W.–the “uniter not the divider”–did that. In Texas, Dubya’s folksy style generally worked with people on both sides of the spectrum. Not in Washington.

I’m not so sure I agree with McClellan about Obama’s naivete. He did spend longer than it made sense to, trying to enlist Republicans in health care reform. That was naive. But it looks to me like Obama knows how to placate the big money boys (see Geithner and the bank reform we’re not getting). It strikes me that Obama would know how to get along in pay to play Illinois politics.

In any case, Obama took office in a hyper partisan city, says McClellan, and made the mistake of trusting Congress with a health care bill. Everybody knows how campaign finance contributions rule our rulers. That was never going to work.

So McClellan has a better idea. He thinks–and believes it’s still not too late–that Obama should have appointed a task force to come up with a health care reform plan, which could then be put up for a national referendum. That’s what Switzerland did. The new plan barely passed there, but now the Swiss love their health care system.

Even here, we’ve sort of done that on another issue. When military base closings had to happen, everybody knew that every congressman with a base in his district would fight reason in favor of his own constituents, so a task force was appointed to settle the matter.

McClellan maintains that his solution at least makes real change possible instead of this half baked solution we’re getting. As it is, health care costs will continue to rise, and Obama will have the Obamacare albatross hung round his neck.

McClellan has a point there, but unless Obama gets wind of the idea via this blog posting, I don’t see his idea taking off. We’re going to get a “nibble around the edges” bill and be forced to work on improving it. I will say, though, in the face of the legalized bribery we know as campaign contributions, that it’s tempting to appoint a task force to deal with every major piece of legislation. Then we could fight about who got to be on the task forces. But if we went that route, could we still call ourselves a democracy? Far as that goes, can we now?

After tackling the health care issue, McClellan regaled us with his take on capitalism and socialism. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about it.