Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ten Reasons Why Obama's Speech on Healthcare Was a Dud!

To be fair, there probably was nothing Obama could have done last night to save his healthcare plan - whatever that is. The problem is that support plummeted for the bill that is currently on paper during June and the August Town Hall anger was indicative of that loss of support. But in a tight spot, Obama failed to help his cause in any significant way. What went wrong?

1. He still has not got a plan. Should one assume that the 1000 page monstrosity (HR 3200) is his plan? It would seem not, since it includes a public option and Obama indicated last night that the public option might or might not be in the final bill - but everyone should support it rather than getting all worked up over a detail like that. Confusion. Why didn't he release a streamlined plan of his own to replace HR 3200 yesterday?

2. Sarah Palin sure has the ability to get under his skin and he showed it again last night. He showed no class by referring to her "death panels" comment explicitly and accusing her of lying without actually mentioning her name. (He didn't need to!) First question: why did he single her out? She is just a woman in Alaska with a Facebook account, isn't she? So why is she such a threat? Second question: why not explain why the death panel comment is wrong? He had the bully pulpit and a terrific audience. Rather than just stamping his foot and saying she is wrong, she is lying etc., why didn't he use reason and argument to unpack the issue and discuss how she might have been honestly mistaken? Clearly, she can get him off his game pretty easily.

3. He did not address the abortion issue - except to call anyone who disagrees with him a liar. Well, somebody is a liar here, but many people are beginning to see suspect that the reason he has not been able to satisfy the Catholic bishops, the Evangelicals and the pro-life groups is that he is trying to slip FOCA through under the radar. It isn't working.

4. He gave absolutely no plausible explanation of how the whole thing would be paid for. Nobody - and I mean nobody who is not on the payroll of a Democratic Party organization or a special interest group with a financial stake in the outcome - believes that 1) there is that much waste to be cut out of the system or that 2) the federal government would be capable of doing it even if there were. This fails the giggle test. If they giggle at you when you say it, you are losing the debate.

5. He did nothing to alleviate fears that one man's "waste" is another man's "critical care." He just said "You can trust the government to appoint experts," which is pretty much the worst possible way to win people over. Obama completely failed to grasp the point that trust is the primary issue here. This raises another question: "Does Obama understand America?" Or does he think that Chicago Daley machine politics brings you into contact with the essence of America? Mistakes like this make you wonder.

6. Speaking of winning people over, he did absolutely nothing effective to accomplish that. (Hint: to win people over, a politician should not accuse them of lying, imply that they are stupid and then tell them to just shut up and pass the bill. Why? It doesn't work and it only makes you feel good for a short while.)

7. He made two attempts to accept a non-partisan suggestion, one of which was muddled and one of which came across as slippery. On the issue of a pool for hard to insure people, he accepted a proposal made by McCain in the campaign. It is difficult to understand, however, why such a proposal needs to be hitched to 1000 page bill that nobody can understand. I really believe that if Obama proposed a few clear initiatives on health care such as this one, that he could rally non-partisan support and get it through. What everybody is wondering now is why he didn't do that in the first place. He intended that the HR 3200 be passed before the congressional recess, when there had hardly been any public debate on it. He gives every indication that he is trying to slip one by the American people and his speech last night did nothing to dispel that feeling.

8. By appealing to "St. Edward of Boston" he certainly played to the base. The problem is that the base is not who he needs to convince. And a lot of people would vote against anything they thought Ted Kennedy would have wanted. So much for building support across the aisle. Now he will blame the Republicans for playing politics with this bill. No, wait, he did that too in the speech!

9. The issue of tort reform was mentioned, which is interesting. Sarah Palin has made two main interventions in this debate this summer. The first was her "death panels" remark, which drew attention to the rationing of end-of-life care issue and the euthanasia counselling mandated in the bill. This resulted in ammendments to the bill and has caused a lot of embarassment for those trying to ram healthcare reform through. The second was her call for tort reform, which is almost a no-brainer if you want to bring costs down. Howard Dean is on a You Tube clip admitting at a Town Hall meeting that the reason the original bill didn't tackle tort reform is the Democratic Party's decision to pander to a powerful special interest group - trial lawyers. Obama made some rather weak and vague comments that looked like a last minute addition in which he suggested that a trial might be made in a few states to see how this would work. But it has already been implemented in Texas with spectacularly sucessful results. It isn't the whole answer, but it is part of the answer. Why did Obama not just sieze that issue and demand that his party run with it? It looks like he wants to appear to be in favor of tort reform, without actually doing anything about it.

10. Finally, what was the purpose of the speech? This is not a good question for people to be asking the next day. If the purpose of the speech was to rally the base it failed to do that by placing a big question mark beside the public option. If the purpose was to clear up misunderstanding, he said nothing new that he hasn't said a dozen times before and most of it was sheer assertion. If the purpose was to reach out to Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, it failed to address their real concerns. If the purpose was to get back at Sarah Palin by showing that he gets to speak in Congress and she only gets to post on Facebook, so there, than it was a great "success." Unfortunately, this speech was supposed to be about health care.


Nathan said...

I'm always fascinated when non-US-citizens get so excited about US domestic politics.

Craig Carter said...

As I often say, when the Elephant and the Mouse share a bed, the mouse is most attentive to every break in the elephant's breathing.

Besides, (I can't resist): America is the last hope of the West so it matters to us all.

Joe said...

I might imagine that Nathan is fascinated about most anything.