Thoughts About the Speech

(Transcript at the New York Times)

Three take away thoughts. First, the most objectionable part of the speech is this:

It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

Translation: A strong majority of Americans want this, but it’s still expendable. Not happy. Without this, we’ll all be forced to buy insurance from the private insurance companies.

Second, Obama says his plan incorporates ideas from Republicans. For example:

This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can’t get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it’s a good idea now, and we should embrace it.


I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

There’s your “bipartisanship.” From here on the President and the Dems in Congress should stand firm and not give away anything else (unless hell does freeze over and the Republicans get serious). If the righties complain, point to these two elements and say the bill is “bipartisan” without them.

Finally, if the President follows up this speech with some arm twisting, and the Dems rally around the policy proposals outlined in the speech, I’ll think it was a great speech. If the Blue Dogs are unable to pull the bill further to the Right of what was presented toinght, I will think it was a great speech. If Congress falls back into squabbling about nonsense, it will not have been a great speech.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts About the Speech

  1. I think your conclusions about the speech’s success being judged by what it accomplishes are right on the mark. This makes two subtle points: 1) that Obama gives great speeches, and 2) that his administration has remarkably little to show for all the votes it received. It is as though someone (Rahm?) thought that political clout could and should be set aside and saved for a rainy day. Or never tested, for fear it come up short.

    But then, you always come up short.

  2. I pretty much agree – Obama still hasn’t realized that you can’t negotiate with someone who is criminally insane. That is what the hard right-wing is these days. You steamroll the bastards and bloody their noses every chance you get. The very few moderates, Olympia Snowe maybe, you talk to but don’t let them steer the boat.

    This nonsense about tort reform is a red herring – it might represent 5% of health care costs – a rounding error. It is just a hot button for the right-wing because they hate trial lawyers, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

    We’ll see about this public option business. Without a vigorous, robust public option, this is all window dressing and doesn’t mean shit.

Comments are closed.