Monday's collaboration by health reporter Robert Pear and White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg was headlined "Obama Strategy on Health Care Legislation Appears to Be Paying Off ."
After months of plodding work by five Congressional committees and weeks of back-room bargaining by Democratic leaders, President Obama's arms-length strategy on health care appears to be paying dividends, with the House and the Senate poised to take up legislation to insure nearly all Americans.
Debate in the House is expected to begin this week, and the Senate will soon take up its version. Democratic leaders and senior White House officials are sounding increasingly confident that Mr. Obama will sign legislation overhauling the nation's health care system - a goal that has eluded American presidents for decades.
Pear and Stolberg aren't the first Times reporters to declare an Obama victory on the health "reform" front. David Herszenhorn did the same back on September 10 , calling Obama's joint address to Congress on health reform "a clear turning point in the health care debate."
And back on June 19, Kevin Sack wrote :
In their heart of hearts, few in the Obama administration would have predicted late last year that they would be this well positioned by June to achieve a major victory on health care. As the economy faltered, and attention focused on Wall Street and Detroit, it seemed unthinkable that Congress would be ready to devote the summer of 2009 to the costly proposition of providing health coverage for all, a goal that has eluded presidents since Theodore Roosevelt.
The actual article from Pear and Stolberg contained caveats that somewhat undermined the optimistic headline:
The bills have advanced further than many lawmakers expected. Five separate measures are now pared down to two. But the legislative progress has come at a price. In the absence of specific guidance from the White House, it has moved ahead in fits and starts. From here on, the challenges will only grow more difficult.
The Times admitted obstacles remained - over abortion, and a possible revolt by liberals over the weakened government insurance plan. Pear and Stolberg argued that "Mr. Obama's hands-off strategy carries particular risks."
But they concluded that the White House's slow, incremental strategy was planned all along:
Indeed, that is exactly what White House officials were trying to do. They described their legislative strategy as a very step-by-step process, in which they kept intensely focused on the next specific goal: passing a bill out of this or that committee, resolving the doubts of particular lawmakers, like the liberals who met with Mr. Obama on Thursday.