Barack Obama’s speech before Congress (full text here) keeps health care reform alive , reversing the gains made by Republicans with their campaign of distortion which dominated the news in August. While Obama kept the door open to working with Republicans, he directly confronted them:
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Obama addressed several of the lies being spread by the right wing about health care reform. He also responded to the idea held by some on the left that health care reform is not worth supporting without a public option:
It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.
Besides those aspects of health care reform which has frequently been discussed on the left, Obama also expressed support for malpractice reform. While conservatives greatly exaggerate the effect of malpractice on health care costs, this does remain an area where we can achieve some meaningful cost savings without compromising medical care.
Obama noted that those supporting health care reform include some who were opposed to it in the past:
Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors’ groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past.
Demonstrating the support for health care reform among doctors, the American Medical Association sent out an email expressing their support (copy here).
A CNN/Opinion Research poll found, “Two out of three Americans who watched President Barack Obama’s health care reform speech Wednesday night favor his health care plans — a 14-point gain among speech-watchers.”
It comes as no surprise that liberals are praising the speech. While the conservative movement will undoubtedly repeat their usual lies about health care reform, at least one more sensible conservative has expressed support. Andrew Sullivan concluded his live blogging by writing:
A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton’s mastery of policy detail with Bush’s under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country’s ability to tackle pressing problems. This was why he was elected, and we should not be swayed by the old Washington and the old ideologies and the old politics. He stands at the center urging a small shift to more government because the times demand it.
And he makes sense. And this was not a cautious speech; it was a reasoned but courageous speech. He has put his presidency on the line for this. And that is a hard thing to do.
Earlier Sullivan wrote, “It is a defense of limited but strong government. It is not anti-conservative” and “This is a liberalism most centrists can live with.”
With these comments Sullivan demonstrates the difference between rational conservatism and the anti-intellectualism dominating the conservative movement. The conservative movement takes a knee-jerk opposition to any government action which does not involve killing, torture, or imposing Christian fundamentalism. There are some functions which the market cannot handle without some government action or oversight, and this is a centrist program, not any form of socialized medicine or a government take over of health care.