Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barack Obama Hits It Out Of The Park. Again.

Last night, President Obama seized the middle ground in the health care debate, effectively casting his opponents as liars and delayers. In an address to a joint session of Congress, he outlined a set of proposals to regulate the health insurance business, a business that has gone virtually unregulated until know. Most important, he offered a ringing defense of mainstream liberalism, even going so far as to use the word, a word that has been generally verboten in Democratic party parlance since the heyday of Ronald Reagan.

His reading of Teddy Kennedy's posthumous letter left few dry eyes as he promised to carry on a tradition driven by big-heartedness and an empathy for the experience of others, not some icy technocratic love of big government. Obama recited such past liberal successes as Social Security and Medicare while challenging Republicans to put themselves on the right side of history this time. At this same time, he made it clear to seniors just who historically has been their friend and who has stood in the way of their best interests.

For nearly an hour, we watched one of the great counterpunchers in political history in action. The hatreds and lies of August dissolved in front of his onslaught, so much fodder for Obama's rhetoric. Republicans sat glum and discomfited, props that he managed to invite aboard and talk past simultaneously. It was a tour de force, and they knew it.

Was it the speech I wanted to hear? No: I'm a single payer guy and this definitely was not an appeal for a single payer health plan. In fact, he specifically ruled it out. The president has made the decision that that would be too disruptive and -- I suspect -- politically impossible. Instead, he offered insurance companies a grand bargain: More customers with the tradeoff of greater regulation and a public option. The insurance companies will no doubt try for a condition of more customers with less regulation, but last night the president virtually committed his party to a greatly regulated insurance business. It's hard to see him approving legislation -- much less signing it -- that achieves anything less...

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) called the president a liar at one point during the speech, over Obama's correct assertion that illegal immigrants would not be covered under any of the plans in Congress. The outburst earned him a rebuke from John McCain and Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" designation. But I found myself siding with Barney Frank (D-MA), who thought it was no big deal and well within an American tradition of heckling. Anyway, if the President of the United States ought to be able to handle one looney tunes heckler from the state that gave us Mark Sanford...

A Louisiana congressman named Bouscany gave the (yawn) official Republican response to Obama's speech. Predictably, he called for starting from scratch and, as a doctor who -- according to Keith Olbermann -- has been sued three times for malpractice, tort reform. Bouscany is apparently a birther as well. This combined with Bobby Jindal's dismal performance last winter begs the question: What do the Republicans have against Louisiana? Who will they put up next? David Vitter?


willow said...

Excellent post, K.

Foxessa said...

I do wish we could learn how they expect to handle this mandating that every person in the country must buy health insurance.

I read the speech's transcript in the NY Times. I couldn't find any details for anything. Just these broad declarations.

sussah said...

I was wondering why the Republican response always has to come out of Louisiana! thanks, sp, n.o.

Annette said...

Great post.. wonderful break down of the high points.. I think most of us would love single payer.. even the President would..but at this time, both politically, look how much trouble we are having getting the public option through Congress, and economically, number of jobs it would cost the insurance companies, money it would cost to transition everyone from insurance to single payer.. it's just not feasible..

The only reason it worked in Europe is because of WWII when everything was basically destroyed and the structure had to be rebuilt, we just aren't at that point.. and the best we can do is start with the public option and work forward.. It is a great start.. something if we pass it, we can build on in the years to come.

Yeah, just what the rethugs are afraid