I thought the president was very good Wednesday night and his speech has seemed to change the media's dynamic on health care as well as start to bring
September 11, 2009

I thought the president was very good Wednesday night and his speech has seemed to change the media's dynamic on health care as well as start to bring people back to reality on this issue. He was more forceful combating Republican lies than ever been before and that was much appreciated.

It did freak Karl Rove out a little bit on FOX. On The Factor, he was upset that the president debunked the phony "death panel" lies that conservatives and teabaggers have been yelling about every since they discovered Isakson's amendment. (Isakson is a Republican, I might add.) Karl said that conserva-teabaggers were only upset about the living will option and never brought up death panels, so he tried to call Obama a liar, but that's the lie.

Rove conveniently forgot Sen. Charles Grassley talking about "death panels," or Betsy McCaughey doing same. And of course there's the wacky Sarah Palin Facebook post that was promoting the idea that Obama wants to kill grandma. Rove basically lied by pretending that conservatives were only upset about Isakson's language.

Still, I thought Obama was too nice to the Republicans all night. I know it was more theater than reality because he still wants America to believe that there's hope for bipartisanship, but it bothers me. All they have done is spread lies about health-care reform the entire time, but the president just isn't going to be as partisan as I'd like him to be. I have to accept it.

I actually didn't think he would mention the public option at all since the Queen, Olympia Snowe, asked him not to, but he had to because of us. We can still battle to have it included because he's still talking about it and has campaigned on it.

He wasn't as forceful about it as I wanted, but he's talking to many people that have been lied to for months by Republicans, so I kind of understand his phrasing of it. He did open up the possibility of other options which made me shudder, but we'll keep pushing. We're his base and the base will help save him in the long run.

Sen. Tom Harkin had another take on it today on MSNBC. He said that because Obama said the public option was only a small part of the solution for health care then that would force many others to vote for the bill even if a public option is included. By downplaying its significance he believes it strengthens the chances that it gets passed. I hadn't looked at it that way before, but with Rahm and his Blue Dogs trying to undo the public option I don't have as much faith in his premise. There's still a long way to go and we'll keep fighting.

One of the best writers on health care has been Jonathan Cohn of TNR, and he writes:

Looks like there's some news in the speech after all. Quite a bit.

On the policy front, President Obama tonight endorses, clearly and unambiguously, a requirement that everybody obtain insurance--that is, an individual mandate. He has not done that before, not this explicitly.

He also says employers will have to provide insurance or bear some of the costs. That's not news exactly; he's said that before. But it's part of the same package.


Also of interest: A promise to provide low-cost, bare-bones policies right away--merely as a stopgap, until full reforms kick in. (This is an effort to make sure Americans see at least some benefits right away.) Elsewhere, Obama talks about malpractice reform--again, more explicitly than he has before, presenting it as an effort to reach across the aisle.

And the public plan? He gives a lengthy, strong defense of the idea. It could have come straight out of the literature of groups like Health Care for America Now -- or the writings of Jacob Hacker. But he also makes clear, to left as well as right, that he's open to compromise.

Those seem like the major developments on the policy front. The tone is pretty striking, too. Obama reaches out to Republicans in several places. But he also comes down hard--very hard--on opponents who are merely out to defeat reform.

And I wish he would have mentioned more liberals to the nation that have been working hard to reform health care instead of praising John McCain, but he did close with a nice ode to Ted Kennedy.

The Kennedy passage was beautiful. He even used the dreaded "L" word, which I haven't heard in that setting without a sneer for ... well, ever. I don't know how many people can hear that plea for empathy and community, but I hope some did.

By the way, FOX had their news scroll running during the entire speech and it highlighted as many crazy stories as it could. And then the first ad they broadcast after the speech was one where a Canadian woman said Canada's government-run health care almost killed her. That was timed just right for the teabagger audience.

Some things never change.

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