Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama’s Speech on Healthcare

My first response to President Obama’s speech on healthcare to a joint session of Congress is that if you still don’t know what he is offering, it’s not for his lack of explaining it in simple and straightforward terms. He did everything but haul out a Power Point. The main points:

– “It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.”

– He also proposed a version of co-ops and insurance exchanges: “It’s how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves.”

– “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.”

He also got off some good lines — “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last” — and some zingers at the crazies, including calling the “death panels” line a “lie, plain and simple.” As a sign that even the dignity of a joint session of Congress isn’t immune to the nutsery, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) heckled the president, shouting out “You lie!” when the president asserted that illegal immigrants would not be covered. You will be able to catch Mr. Wilson on Fox News in the morning, I’m sure. And Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), the poor schlub who drew the short straw and had to give the Republican response, sounded as if he was locked in a soundproof room during the president’s speech because it was clear he either didn’t know what he said or didn’t pay attention. How can you call that a “response” when you’re not responding to anything that was said?

The president ran the risk of getting maudlin by bringing up the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and his posthumous letter to the president. But Mr. Obama did a good job of reminding us what Mr. Kennedy stood for without going overboard with an appeal to “win this for Teddy,” which would have made Frank Capra roll over in his grave. Instead, he appealed to our better nature as a nation to reform healthcare as one of the things that this country stands for not just as good sense for the health and well-being of our citizens, but because it’s what we do best:

Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.


I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test. Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.

I think that by putting in those terms — making it a moral issue, just as JFK and LBJ did with civil rights — adds an element of rightness that has been sorely lacking.

HT to Steve Benen.