Posted by: Jeff | February 26, 2010

Summiting Health Care Reform

I was unfortunately tied down at work yesterday and didn’t get a chance to join the 3.9 million people that streamed video of the bipartisan health care summit led by President Obama (for those keeping score, that’s how many watched the Michael Jackson memorial on the internet as well).  I have, however, managed to catch up on some of the video today, and have to agree with the sentiments of Jonathan Chait:

Lamar Alexander contradicts Obama, says that the Congressional Budget Office found that premiums would rise under the Senate’s plan. Obama points out, correctly, that Alexander is just wrong.

But most the time, this is like watching Lebron James play basketball with a bunch of kids who got cut from the 7th grade basketball team. He’s treating them really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. Nice try on that layup, Timmy, you almost got it on. But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already.

Maybe the bipartisan nice guy stuff matters, and he has to defer to the Congressional Democrats. I’d enjoy seeing more of him swatting Lamar’s weak jumper into the tenth row.

Rhetorically, Obama is clearly on a different level than the majority of Congress.  But what gets lost sometimes is that on a policy level, he also seems perfectly capable of circling the wagons around Republicans who vocalize objections to reform.

Now, this clear capacity to understand and breakdown policy issues with greater ease and clarity than the opposition might lead one to wonder why the President hasn’t been using every opportunity to do so publicly.  Could the President launch a nationwide campaign to push reform, denouncing mischaracterizations and untruths in an effort to win over the American public?  Perhaps.  But inevitably it would be seen as a partisan offensive, which seems to be exactly what Obama seeks to avoid.  Instead, like the talented athlete playing against inferior opponents, he seems intent on humoring those that oppose reform, allowing them to vocalize their opposition in increasingly strange and ineffective ways.

Perhaps this has been part of the game plan from the start.  The President has begun to reveal a lot of the opposition logic as faulty.  If he had pushed back too hard too quickly the populist backlash against a wonky do-gooder President (elitist!) could have jeopardized the placement of health care reform on the agenda.  Instead the President has taken his time, gradually become more assertive and involved, and in the end may be getting nearly everything he ever wanted.



  1. Good article and thanks for your information.

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