The angry August that brought out thousands of protesters to town hall meetings across the country is no longer just about whether or not healthcare reform lives or dies.
The outpouring of fury over healthcare, often expressed in the crudest of terms, threatens to marginalize President Obama's reform agenda across the board.
That's because conservatives and others who oppose Obama's policies broadly see how a month of outrage — both real and manufactured — has brought a major piece of reform to the brink of defeat. That has Obama's adversaries hoping to replicate the wrath of the town halls and aim it against any Obama proposal they wish to defeat.
Don't believe me?
Consider just a couple of statements issued this week against other signature Obama priorities: clean energy and financial regulation reform.
On the question of his energy policies, someone named Karl W. Miller, and identified as "a senior energy executive and institutional investor," put out a press release claiming that "the Obama administration Energy Plan has become completely unhinged and is now threatening the long term stability of the U.S. energy market."
(That later in the statement Mr. Miller associates himself with Enron, the epitome of corporate greed, ought to call his entire thesis into question, but that's an argument for another time.)
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement of its own assailing the "So-Called Consumer Financial Protection Agency" that Obama wants to create to prevent future financial and foreclosure meltdowns, giving consumers added economic protection.
What do these two statements have in common? Each one uses overheated rhetoric to make their points. One accuses Obama of offering a policy that is "completely unhinged," while the other attempts to dismiss out-of-hand Obama's intent to create a financial protection agency by applying the term "so-called" to it.
Both work to paint Obama as the one who is the extremist (and both seek to dovetail with the anger that led to the Obama-as-Joker posters with the caption "Why so socialist?").
With such fierce opposition to deal with, Obama would do well to turn to the last Democrat in the White House to be accused of being out of the mainstream: Bill Clinton.
It's no secret that Clinton and Obama aren't exactly pals. They were adversaries themselves when Hillary Clinton faced off against Obama last year.
And the ethics of the 42nd president are certainly open to question.
Yet Clinton survived, and sometimes thrived, in an atmosphere of intense opposition that often was mixed with outright hatred. Indeed, the Republicans threw impeachment at Bill Clinton and he was not only able to laugh it off, but afterwards Democrats bucked the historical trend and actually picked up House seats in the 1998 midterm election.
Even Clinton's enemies — and they were enemies — would marvel at his political gifts.
Those are gifts that Obama could probably find of use right about now.
Although much hoopla was made when Obama brought Hillary into his administration, she's been surprisingly low profile. Who knew it would be help from the other Clinton who might end up saving Obama's presidency?
At least the president knows who to call to get his phone number.