Thoughts On Obama’s Address
That was said within the first 3 minutes of his speech Wednesday night. Indeed, it was a sign of things to come. This speech was President Obama’s best since his January 20th inaugural speech. An address to the Joint Sessions of Congress is a rare occurrence, and its significance was not downplayed by anyone. Not by the media, Congress, or even the White House. With the lights at their brightest and the stakes their highest, I think Obama stepped up and once again showed why he is the best communicator of our generation. The White House clearly got the message; they have lost control of the debate, and it would take the oratory prowess of the president to reclaim that control. I believe he did that.
Tonight, Obama made the case to America that health care reform is not something to be viewed at by its political expediency, but rather it’s moral imperative. Tonight, he was smart to target the people who have been the most susceptible to blatant misinformation about what health care actually means for the country. Many with health insurance, for example, have been targeted with lies intended to scare them into thinking the value of their care would be diminished should reform be enacted, or that they might lose the freedom of choice they have over their care altogether. To them, Obama remarked:
…the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.
To those who are uninsured, he had this to say:
Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.
We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.
Those are poignant words to two primary groups of people paying attention to the health care debate. I thought he was wise to address them, and bat back some of the ludicrous propaganda being fed to them. Speaking of ludicrous, he spoke to seniors and fired shots at the party claiming to be faithful defenders of the popular Medicare program they once vehemently opposed:
So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut – especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.
Get the picture?
I also liked what he said about the cost of reform, and how it related to the deficit. Obama adamantly proclaimed that he would “not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period.” He went on to say that “part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.”
There were many good parts in the speech. He vowed to end discrimination on people with preexisting conditions. He also restated his support for the public option, and I thought he did so rather strongly. He laid out why he thought it was a good idea, and perhaps more importantly, what it WAS. The overriding theme of this entire speech was getting correct information out there. Public option does NOT mean a government takeover of health care, and the president made that clear tonight. He did not go as far as some would have liked, though. There was no banging of the podium or the wave of the veto pen over the public option. He did not draw the proverbial ‘line in the sand’ over the public option. He remarked that “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.”
Those are some of my thoughts that I could muster at this late hour of the night. It was overall a tremendous speech.
Full transcript where I pulled the excerpts from here. Read it if you didn’t watch the speech tonight.
Oh, before I go, shout out to Minority Whip Eric Cantor for texting during the speech. Also, SPECIAL shout out to Rep. Joe Wilson for heckling the President of the United States. You continue to represent your party exceptionally well. Stay classy, Republicans!