KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘A President Set To Fight’ And A Speech That Argues For ‘A Collective Turn’

Editorial pages react to President Barack Obama's second inaugural speech.

The Wall Street Journal: Speech Signals A President Set To Fight Over New To-Do List
On Monday, there was a clear sense that a pent-up Obama agenda had begun to tumble out—along with a clear willingness to engage in more and new partisan battles with Republicans in pursuit of it. Yes, he said, there will be an attempt to reform the tax code—a bipartisan idea if ever there was one—but also a real attempt to address climate change; more efforts to control health costs without eroding the benefits enjoyed by the elderly or disabled; efforts to advance gay rights and gender equality; a push to overhaul the immigration system; and an attempt to curb gun violence (Gerald Seib, 1/21).

The New York Times: President Barack Obama
In every sphere of life — improving education, building roads, caring for the poor and elderly, training workers, recovering from natural disasters, providing for our defense — progress requires that Americans do these things together, Mr. Obama said. That applies, he said, to "the commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great" (1/21).

The New York Times: The Collective Turn
The president then described some of the places where collective action is necessary: to address global warming, to fortify the middle class, to defend Medicare and Social Security, to guarantee equal pay for women and equal rights for gays and lesbians. During his first term, Obama was inhibited by his desire to be postpartisan, by the need to not offend the Republicans with whom he was negotiating. Now he is liberated. ... We have to engage his core narrative and his core arguments for a collective turn (David Brooks, 1/21).

The Wall Street Journal: We The Government
On that theme, the speech was especially striking for including a specific defense of the federal entitlement programs that everyone knows must be reformed. Mr. Obama cited "Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security" by name as "the commitments we make to each other." Typically, such programmatic specificity is reserved for State of the Union speeches. Mr. Obama almost seemed to be elevating them to Constitutional rights (1/21).

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