President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress was masterful on several levels, the first being political.
That doesn’t mean it was a triumph for those (like me) who want to see every American have access to quality healthcare. That, however, wasn’t the President’s purpose.
He wanted to make his position on reform clearer to many people who spent the summer being whipsawed by reports of death panels and socialism.
Whenever politicians speak these days, I try not to watch cable news coverage of what they’re saying. That means I was one of the few people who was happy Fox News chose not to cover President Obama’s speech. In fact, two minutes before it was scheduled to begin, I turned on C-Span, the one place where I didn’t have to listen to the endless spin that has become virtually all cable news these days.
Once the niceties were out of the way, I saw an extraordinary performance by this President. There was a point when he was describing the insurance exchange component of his plan that I thought to myself (with some dismay), “He’s throwing the public option under the bus”. But he didn’t. Instead, he looked to mollify those who oppose it by saying only 5% of Americans will use it.
Downplaying the importance of the public option wasn’t my favorite part of the speech, but if your goal as a progressive is in fact to see progress, that President Obama made Wednesday night. His invocation of everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy to John McCain to Chuck Grassley was brilliant.
Brilliant, that is, if you want to get a bill passed.
Sad to say, the Grassleys, McCains, and other Republicans will likely avoid the hand of bipartisanship as extended by Barack Obama. They’ve got an election to contend in 2012, and a healthcare reform bill championed by Barack Obama and passed this year would all but doom their chances at running a competitive race. They still think they can channel all that rage they saw at town hall meetings last month into something that will maintain the status quo. That’s why Cong. Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie!” in response to Obama’s assertion his plan won’t cover undocumented immigrants. Universally condemned, this fool couldn’t apologize fast enough.
So what does President Obama’s speech mean to hard working Americans who worry about health coverage for themselves and their families? Hope, I would think, not the hope that comes from advocating a universal, single payer plan, but hope nonetheless.
As for Republicans, don’t expect more than two or three to back the Obama plan in the Senate. I think he’ll still have to play hardball to get it passed, but pass it and sign it he will.
What do you think?