Opinion: How Obama’s basketball picks imitate his presidency


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In politics, President Obama is playing long ball -- going for a historic reform of the nation’s healthcare system that could cement his legacy as the president who finally broke the back of well-financed business interests that used fear to whip up public opposition.

In basketball, Obama is playing it safe. On ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday, he filled out his NCAA Tournament brackets (misspelling Syracuse, only to correct the mistake with the concern that daughters Sasha and Malia would tease him about it later.) Anyway, POTUS picked Kansas, Kentucky, Kansas State and Villanova to make the men’s Final Four. He also picked the Final Four in women’s college basketball, choosing Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee and Notre Dame.


But the most revealing aspect of Obama’s picks was his reasoning. In the second-round matchup between Michigan State and Maryland, the president said, ‘Maryland’s got a great player (guard Greivis Vasquez), but Michigan State’s got a great coach (Tom Izzo).’

It is an apt metaphor for a president trying to win a historic legislative achievement. No matter how brilliant the senator or powerful the congressman, no matter how influential the insurance company lobbyists or how angry the tea-party activists, his worldview is that it’s the president who rescues victory from defeat.

Equally telling, Obama picked Kansas to win it all. Asked by ESPN’s Andy Katz whether he liked Kansas Coach Bill Self‘s intense love of the game, Obama said, ‘I could use him. I could send him up to Congress to vote for healthcare.’

-- Johanna Neuman

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