Will Obama be the last president to tackle healthcare reform? - Macleans.ca

Will Obama be the last president to tackle healthcare reform?


“I may not be the first president to tackle health care reform,” Barack Obama told Congress on Wednesday, “but I intend to be the last.” Pretty powerful words if you intend to bank your domestic record on one issue. Obama needed to send a message to counter concerns over his ability to lead on this issue. He needed to show determination, clarity and focus. His audience was beyond the walls of Congress. It was independents who have so far declined to support him and have put the reform project in doubt. He also had to convince his own party that it must be united and willing to compromise if it is to produce a much-needed reform bill.

While he made some laudable overtures to the Republicans, their support remains unlikely and will have little impact in the end. Given their performance over recent weeks, there was no better way to show bipartisan spirit than by including some GOP ideas in a primetime national address. To have a Republican congressman hector the president, yelling “you lie,” only made it a sweeter night for Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod.

The speech was forceful, well-delivered, and had the right tone of emotion. It was classic Obama—sufficiently pedagogical on the details, but long on the values and the principles underlying his reform proposal. His reference near the end to Teddy Kennedy hit an appropriate emotional note with the Kennedy family members present in the audience. This blog has asserted that this speech was as important to Obama’s presidency as the speech on race was to his campaign for the Democratic nomination. A failure to achieve significant reform will compromise Obama’s promise of transformational change. This is what happened when Bill Clinton failed in his bid back in 1993. Obama has made it clear that he is ready to stake his presidency on getting a meaningful package through Congress.

The Democrats were told to find common ground with the GOP and Obama has shown the way by endorsing a John McCain campaign idea about emergency catastrophic care and by offering the possibility for some malpractice or tort reform, a GOP favourite. It will not appease the Republican party, but it represented some movement. At the same time, Obama stuck to his guns on the public option, proposing to make one available from a pool of insurers within an insurance exchange mechanism. It was short of the expectations of the left, but it kept the idea alive. This was no time for Obama to back off on a proposal that was repudiated from the outset by the Republicans on ideological grounds, but otherwise supported by a majority of Americans. Obama appeared to be subtly conceding that his policies were not the real problem with voters. It has been his handling of the issue that is causing a part of the unease. He also showed a willingness to do battle and counter the swiftboating tactics of the Sarah Palin types. This was long overdue.

Obama will now shift his focus to applying realpolitik principles to the issue and start putting pressure on his party within the halls of Congress. It is time for a modern version of LBJ-style persuasion that produced landmark legislation in the 60’s—a dose of charm mixed with a big heap of tough love. The bully pulpit is still a powerful instrument in a communications world. Early polls may be encouraging, but it is premature to predict the outcome of this debate. My take is that the big loser last night was the status quo. Change is back on the agenda and there will be some significant reform this fall. It will have to be if Obama is indeed the last president to tackle health care reform.


Will Obama be the last president to tackle healthcare reform?

  1. It was a great speech. It is indeed the start of a change process which I beieve he will carry on through his Presidency. The Joe Wilson incident played right into his favor. He had lectured about civil debate and Wilson was uncivil to put it mildly. He remained aloof and accepted his apology this morning. In a typical reaction to a big change process this morning the Republicans ran around like chickens without heads and said stupid and even more extreme stuff. Incidentally, no one is commenting that the President called Sarah Palin a liar and is not being asked to apologise. Boehner said this morning he had heard nothing new in the speech. Last night when the camera was on him he looked as if he had wet himself or worse. I had a lot of fun watching some of this today. One for the Bam!

  2. I thought Obama hit a home run with his speech . Forget the republicans . They give life to the phrase about the Ugly American . As for Palin , she is a LIAR and not just about politics . You will see in the weeks ahead -stay tuned!

  3. If you believed every word Obama spoke, then yes it was a good speech.

    But even left leaning journos couldn't avoid noting how the speech was repleat with falsehoods.

    Take the one issue that Wilson got upset about – immigration: the dems specifically gutted provisions to track and enforce non coverage of illegal immigrants, thereby ensuring they will be covered.

    If one believes in utopia: more for "free", pain fee coverage for all with no trade offs,

    from a man who promised to go "line by line" with a pen striking out every bit of waste in legislation only to pass the most bloated spending bill in the history of the US without as much as batting an eye,

    then yes. It was fantastic.

  4. Obama's numbers have been falling like a rock for the simple reason that the public is realizing more and more the vast gulf that exists between his soaring rhetoric and reality.

    • Indeed. The colossal arrogance of intending to be "the last" to address an issue was a new rhetorical high/low.

  5. "the vast gulf that exists between his soaring rhetoric and reality."

    Mission Accomplished… colossal arrogance. Worked for Bush. It's going to be a long eight years for you folks.

    • Actually Bush was known to be precisely the opposite. He rarely if ever used the soaring rhetoric, certainly nothing befitting the new messiah that Obama employs. Nor did he personalize the position. He was viciously attacked by the partisan left and virtually never took it personally, certainly didn't call his critics in public addresses "liars" ect.____Nor in modern history has there been such a divergence in what is promised and what is delivered, nor with such brazenness. To think in the very speech where he professes to go beyond partisanship to bridge the political gap, he gibly belittles the very real concerns of others views as being wholly without merit.____His speech failed in its purpose for this very specific reason: A majority of the public had very legitimate concerns and rather than respecting them and addressing them, he belittled them, cast them as illigitimate, and instead offered utopic platitudes as the tonic. ____The days of it being so because he says to to be so had passed by weeks ago. And Obama simply doesn't believe that has happened.

  6. Joe Wilson spoke on behalf of many . Cannot be ignored.

    • Joe Wilson had no right to do so. There is a decorum in Congress. Even if you do not agree with the President's idea, you've got to respect the institution.

      Joe Wilson apologized.

      • Decorum , schmerorum . The voice of the people must be heard , Nicholas.

        • Joe, you are completely right. The voice of the people must be heard.
          However, there is a proper way of saying things. Shouting that the President lies, in (and to) Congress, is not how you get the people’s voice listened to.

          It is normal and completely understandable to have different political opinion than the President’s, but it is a complete lack of respect to the Institution when you act like Joe Wilson’s.

          • the people do not want this reform , nicholas . They are afraid of death panels, true or not ? I'm confused. Covering illegals ?true or not ?i'm confused . So Joe Wilson was just telling calling the obama out . true or not ?

          • There are no such thing as ''death panels'', Joe. No need to be confused.
            Now, I would like to know what you intend when you are saying ''covering illegals''. This reform would assure healthcare coverage for the American citizens… Illegal immigrants are not, to my knowledge, American citizens.

          • "Illegal immigrants are not, to my knowledge, American citizens."

            Something that few people are commenting on, so far, is that Obama changed the number of people who don't have coverage but need it. Up till Wednesday, we heard a lot about how 45 million people don't have insurance but on Wednesday Obama said 30 million. I assume Obama removed illegal immigrants from his number of uninsured but who knows.

            Regardless, illegal immigrants are going to continue getting free medical coverage just like they do now.

  7. If Obama thinks he is going to be the last president to reform healthcare, he has another thing coming. I read on another blog somewhere that one of the biggest problems with his plan is that it is "confusing and fuzzy." I really agree with this; no one seems to know the fine details of this plan and how it will help different people, whether it is the seniors, emloyees/employers, and even the health professionals, like doctors and nurses. No one is certain which makes it difficult to actually agree on the reform.

  8. I'm partisan to a president that can lower my taxes and fix what the housing market “greed” created…

  9. Illegals .That was what Joe wilson was saying and why he yelled .Get my point ?

    • What I get is that Joe Wilson contributes to the wide spread misinformation on healthcare reform.


  11. it’s very hard for canadians to appreciate what is going on in america right now regarding the issue of health care. i have always been inspired by the canadian health care system, but it’s not going to work here in america, we’re not the same as canadians.