National Journal's Ron Brownstein has two takeaways on Obama from this health-care fight. First: "Win or lose, Obama has pursued health care reform as tenaciously as any president has pursued any domestic initiative in decades. Health care has now been his presidency's central domestic focus for a full year. That's about as long as it took to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, originally introduced by John F. Kennedy and driven home by Lyndon Johnson. Rarely since World War II has a president devoted so much time, at so much political cost, to shouldering a single priority through Congress."
Second: "The key here is his 2008 campaign assertion that 'Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America' more than Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton did. The health care struggle suggests that Obama views changing that trajectory as the ultimate measure of a presidency's success. His aim is to establish a long-term political direction—one centered on a more activist government that shapes and polices the market to strengthen the foundation for sustainable, broadly-shared growth. Everything else—the legislative tactics, even most individual policies—is negotiable. He wants to chart the course for the supertanker, not to steer it around each wave or decide which crates are loaded into its hull."
"In seeking enough votes to overhaul the nation's health care system, President Barack Obama is telling nervous Democratic lawmakers that their political fates are linked to the bill's passage, discouraging the notion that they can save themselves by opposing it, House members say," the AP writes. "They also say the president's not asking lawmakers to save his skin either, while the White House insists that no special favors in exchange for votes are being offered or accepted."
And so the next great legislative fight begins. But can this be done seriously in an election year? The New York Times: "In carefully choreographed moves, the senators, Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, described their proposal in an editorial posted at midafternoon on the Web site of The Washington Post. President Obama immediately responded with a statement saying it 'should be the basis for moving forward,' and he pledged "to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year" around the bill."
"At a news conference with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after talks on a wide range of issues, [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton told reporters that Iran, while entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, must reassure the world that it is not trying to build a nuclear weapon," the New York Daily News writes. Clinton said, "In the absence of those reassurances, we think it would be premature to go forward with any project at this time, because we want to send an unequivocal message to the Iranians." But "Lavrov forcefully asserted that, whatever the U.S. concerns, his country will finish its work on the Bushehr nuclear power plant shortly."
The L.A. Times looks at the Rahm-Axelrod dynamic. Our favorite nugget: "Axelrod and Emanuel are star players in almost every discussion. That might be expected given the common portrayals of the two. Emanuel is the hard-eyed, salty-tongued pragmatist who counts votes and navigates the polarized politics of Capitol Hill. Axelrod is more relaxed and avuncular, more inclined to invoke the aspirational language that Obama used in his campaign. Years ago, when they played basketball with future Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, 'Axelrod shot three-pointers,' Quinn recalled. 'Rahm called a lot of fouls.' Now, with the healthcare battle apparently won, the two men insist that their friendship has not suffered. They're quick to challenge any suggestion that they regularly disagree, let alone argue."
And the New York Times on the Obama-Hillary relationship: "Sixteen months after Mr. Obama surprised nearly everyone by picking her as secretary of state, the two have again surprised nearly everyone by forging a credible partnership. Mrs. Clinton has proved to be an eager team player, a tireless defender of the administration, ever deferential to Mr. Obama and careful to ensure that her husband, the former president, does not upstage her boss."