I know there's some debate over whether the president fully supports the public option and we know that the gang of six in the House of Lords is trying to derail it. Fox News is telling us that the public option is dead and the do-nothing Republicans are calling for it to be gone, but in a huge speech Saturday that took place to a fired-up campaign-style crowd in Minnesota, Obama was as strong on the public option as I've ever heard him.
President Obama: I think one of the options should be a public insurance option. (Loud cheers) Let me clear. It would only be an option, nobody would be forced to choose it. No one with insurance affected by it. But what it would do is provide more choice and more competition. It would keep pressure on private insurers to keep the policies affordable, to treat their customers better. I mean think about it. It's the same way the public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students. That doesn't inhibit private colleges and universities from thriving out there. The same should be true on the health care front. Minnesota I have said I'm open to different ideas on how to set this up we're going to set this up but I'm not going to back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage we're going to provide you a choice.
Listen to the crowd cheer wildly over the idea of a public option. If he's so against the public option, then why did he stand as strong as he did in this speech? The bottom line is that if the president wants it, then he can get it done.
Although Obama said he favored a bipartisan plan, he cautioned that he would not negotiate with Republicans who displayed bad faith. That may have been a reference to Republican negotiators in the Senate.
The White House has made plain its annoyance with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who was part of a bipartisan group negotiating a health care compromise. During that effort, Grassley put out a fundraising letter pledging to defeat "Obama-care." "I will not waste time," the president said, "with those who think it's just good politics to kill health care."
He also sought to imbue the debate with a sense of urgency.