And Presidents aren't omnipotent.
Larry Wilmore had a great bit on the Daily Show (Jan 19, 2010) where he chastises a disappointed Jon Stewart for thinking Obama was a "magic negro... you know like your Bagger Vances, your Green Mile guy..." Wilmore also says that Obama is just suffering from the "hard bigotry of high expectations."
That's pretty cogent for a comedy routine. A lot of Democrats - especially on the left - thought that Obama's election combined with big Democratic majorities would turn the USA into Sweden over night. The left wing of the Democratic party's childish intransigence over health care reform is wrapped up in this. As is the left wing's disappointment that Obama hasn't "done more" to get the Blue Dogs to accept one of the more left wing versions of the bill.
But where is the problem? Is the problem that the White House hasn't done something in its power to get health care passed? Or is the problem that the Democratic party is genuinely divided on this issue and Harry Ried (up for reelection in a state that isn't exactly a liberal bastion) is loath force Blue Dogs on the issue (if indeed he could if he wanted to). The one thing that Ried could do would be to coordinate with Pelosi to pass the bill by "reconciliation" which would circumvent the ability of the Republicans to filibuster. For some reason (I suspect related to his reelection chances), Ried does not want to do that.
Pelosi could whip the left too but doesn't want to. Pelosi could threaten committee positions of the leaders of the left wing of the party if they don't accept the Senate version of the bill. But she doesn't want to. Perhaps because she is part of the left wing of the party herself and they are her power base within the House. They got her elected Speaker.
If you ask me, the greatest sin that led to this problem was the Democratic Party leadership's failure to stand up to Lieberman when he ran as an independent back in 2006. If the Democratic Party had supported the Democratic nominee and won, they would have passed the bill in September. If they had supported the Democratic nominee and a Republican had won they would have the prospect of defeating that Republican with a unified Democratic candidate in 2012 instead of facing an indefinite future of Lieberman's crap.
But really, in the end, all of this comes about because of three things. First, the electorate is not left leaning as the left wing of the Democratic party would like. Second, the Democratic party becomes more ideologically diverse as it wins more seats. A third complicating factor is the institutional structure of the US government. Rural (read conservative) interests are over represented at the expense of urban (read liberal) interests. All of these problems are structural - that is, they can't be circumvented by a single politician just because he wishes they weren't true.
And that is the basis of my annoyance at the "blame Obama" mood on the left these days. The implicit assumption is that the only reason we don't have a public, single payer health care system in place today is because the Obama administration wasn't sufficiently aggressive. This view does not take into account the diversity of the American electorate, the diversity of the Democratic party, or the institutional structure of the US government.