Analyses Of Obama Speech Generally Agree: He Reframed The Debate Without Specifics
President Obama used his speech to highlight the major themes of his push at health care reform, but in reframing the debate, he also left out the specifics of his preferences according to a number of news stories analyzing the event.
The Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's spirited defense Wednesday night of his broad healthcare goals avoided making concrete commitments on some of the most contentious issues, reflecting a guiding principle of his legislative strategy: to put off the most controversial decisions until the very last moment." The coverage included a photo from the event of Republicans waving copies of their own proposals (Levey, 9/10).
The Associated Press: "For Clinton, the my-way-or-the-highway approach backfired. The legislation died, Republicans won control of Congress just 10 months later and health care fell from the public agenda, though Clinton himself recovered to win a second term. For Obama, his strategy and presidency are intertwined in a gambit where voters who want pragmatism and bipartisanship - or at least the appearance of them - outnumber those, particularly from his liberal political base, who want the instant overhaul of the U.S. health care system Obama promised last year" (Fournier, 9/10).
The New York Times: "But there was a key difference between Mr. Clinton in 1993 and Mr. Obama today. For Mr. Clinton, it was the beginning of the process; Mr. Obama was ushering in what he hopes to be an endgame, at a moment, as he noted, when four Congressional committees have already reported out bills. In a recognition of the current political atmosphere, Mr. Obama used his speech to ease away from what had been another defining aspect of his candidacy: the promise to transcend the partisanship in Washington" (Nagourney, 9/9).
The Washington Post: "There was a sense of urgency in Obama's voice - in apparent recognition of the problems he has encountered through months of congressional dickering, hostile and sometimes false claims hurled by opponents of reform, and the degree to which he has gambled his political fortunes on the outcome. It is rare for a presidency so young to have so much on the line. No single speech can create consensus on health-care legislation, and in that sense this was not the make-or-break moment described by some commentators. But Obama has staked his presidency on this issue, and his advisers knew it was long past time for him to assert himself in a more demonstrable way or risk seeing the entire enterprise slip away" (Balz, 9/10).
The Associated Press/Boston Globe in a second analysis on the feasibility of including a government-run public plan: "It was vintage Obama, the political realist who knows it's not worth going to the mat for something when the votes aren't going to be there. It was Obama the conciliator, using soaring rhetoric to try to get warring sides to come together around common sense. And it was Obama the ever-willing negotiator, unfazed by abandoning many specifics on the road to a larger goal" (Loven, 9/10).
Kaiser Health News has a panel of outside-the-Beltway experts who analyzed Obama's speech, including on Medicare's and Medicaid's role in reform: "Carol H. Steckel, commissioner, Alabama Medicaid Agency (said), 'The president had some powerful messages in his speech outlining the need for changes to our current health care system. However, there were very few details. For those of us that carefully manage the scarce resources we have at the state level, it was extremely frustrating to hear that the changes proposed in healthcare reform will be paid for through fraud and waste in our current government programs Medicare and Medicaid'" (9/10).
The Hill: "Still, while the speech once again illustrated the president's extraordinary oratory skills, it was not a game changer and appears to leave the president with the same quandary: Healthcare has become the pinnacle legislative issue of his first term, but has divided his party in Congress and run into almost universal GOP opposition" (Youngman and Cusack, 9/10).
The Washington Post offers an explainer on what Obama said "yes" to, and what he said "no" to (9/10).
Politico: "And in the end, a speech meant to reset the health care debate ended up sounding in large parts like speeches Obama gave before, raising the question of whether the public heard anything Wednesday night to calm their nerves" (Budoff Brown, 9/9).