Sacred cows
During the 2008 election cycle, I was repeatedly struck by voter frustration, all along the partisan and ideological spectrum, with the apparent inability of Congress to act in the face of the nation's large problems. The seemingly eternal health-care-reform drama has rekindled that feeling. But in the end, Obama will have finally accomplished it — which will seem all the more impressive for the obviously difficult battle it took to get there. The same will likely hold true for upcoming legislation on energy and climate change, and on regulating financial institutions.

Since these laws won't result in the immediate horrors prophesied by the Republicans, any public anxiety about the bills should dissipate quickly.

In short, Americans are — in time— going to have good reason to feel that Obama has taken the seemingly deadlocked and frozen government, and actually made it work. That, more than any specific provision of a bill or executive order, is going to make him popular.

The question is, once Obama solidifies his power and popularity, what will he do with it?

My guess is that he disappoints the liberals and confounds the conservatives, by tackling the sacred cows of the national deficit: serious entitlement reform, health-care cost containment, paring of popular but inefficient programs . . . all the things that never get done because there's no political gain in it. I bet Obama tries it — and has enough popularity to get much of it done.

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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