President Obama's Health Care Speech
Thu, 09/10/2009 - 10:16am
There was a lot to like in Obama's speech for Democrats and a few surprises, including a letter from Ted Kennedy, a pledge to look at reducing instances of "defensive medicine" that had Republicans alternating between applause and shock, and a present from the Republican party, in the form of South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson having the chutzpah to interrupt the President's speech.
During a myth-debunking run in the President's speech, Wilson cut the president off from explaining that the bill would not provide health care for illegal immigrants with, "you lie!" This gross breach of congressional decorum was, expectedly, greeted by boos from the chamber. Of course, Obama happened to be correct in that the bill has explicit prohibitions on spending federal money on health care for illegal immigrants, and a number of Republicans interviewed afterward, including Obama's general election rival, Arizona senator John McCain, were forced to admit on television that indeed, the bill doesn't have any provision permitting that — we won't say here that Congressman Wilson was himself lying, as he accused the President of doing, and will just chalk his outburst up to Hanlon's Razor.
But the clearest message coming from the President's speech was: We will no longer suffer this foolishness. Obama gave possibly the clearest defense of the health reform bill he's given to date, putting insurance industry reforms ensuring consumer protections and the establishment of the collective bargaining "insurance exchange" front and center before giving an impassioned defense of the need of a public option to assure competition in the marketplace, and following that immediately with the debunking of the most vitriolic myths about the public option.
The letter from Ted Kennedy led into Obama's closing, which was what MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called:
...the only full, basically formal, at length defense of liberalism and defense of the idea of government for the people's good, in ideological terms.
All in all, the speech was a powerful reminder of who won the 2008 elections. There was a good deal of divisiveness coming from the Republican party over the August recess, and this speech is basically a well-defended carte blanche to Democrats to move forward without having to try to "negotiate" with those in the Republican Party who want only to kill reform altogether. Already, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has said that he will be releasing the committee's health care bill by next week, with or without Republican support. This would finally clear the way for the proposals to be heard by Congress in full, and for a final bill to be ready by perhaps as soon as by Thanksgiving, according to Joe Biden. For one, I hope he's right — though I'd be happy to wait longer if it meant getting a public option included.