Wednesday, September 09, 2009

“I Will Not Accept the Status Quo as a Solution”

After weeks of hatemongering and misinformation spread by right-wingers in and out of Congress, President Barack Obama got a chance earlier this evening to explain the details of his thinking of health-care reform to the American public via a televised address. I like something Steven Benen of The Washington Monthly wrote in his column: “I feared, going into tonight, that the president might be more cautious and understated in his pitch. He wasn't. Obama went big, sold the plan, and actually explained how this would work. It was as strong as I've seen him on health care--which means he came through with the right speech at the right time (Biggest Speech of His Career, Part VII).”

Obama did a good job of identifying Republican’ts as the principal roadblocks to honest reform of the nation’s ailing and economy-busting health-care system. Except when the president advocated “medical malpractice reform,” members of the GOP pretty much sat on their hands, looking grumpy, unable to advocate a health-care reform plan of their own--because the “Party of No” has no alternative to present. Oh, but let’s not forget that stupid outburst by Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), who shouted “You lie!” at the president when Obama assured viewers that reform won’t insure illegal immigrants. (It won’t, in fact.) Wilson later issued an apology, but it was too late. As Salon’s Mike Madden noted, “The outburst could only have helped convey the impression Obama was aiming for in his speech: that he was the reasonable one, working hard to find a solution to a problem that has bedeviled America for decades, and his opponents were simply not interested in joining the cause.”

In short, Obama restored the initiative to health-care reform tonight. And not a moment too soon.

UPDATE: It seems that Congressman Wilson wasn’t the only Republican’t behaving badly on Wednesday night. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has a piece up recounting numerous examples of petulance on the right side of the aisle:
But while the majority of both parties’ lawmakers behaved as adults, the insolence by House Republicans stole the show. There was derisive laughter on that side of the chamber when Obama noted that “there remain some significant details to be ironed out.” They applauded as he spoke of “all the misinformation that’s been spread over the past few months.” They laughed again when he said that “many Americans have grown nervous about reform.”

When Obama addressed the charge that he plans “panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens,” someone on the GOP side shouted out “shame!” The president went on: “Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical.” “Read the bill!” someone shouted back. Obama mentioned those who accuse him of a government takeover of health care. “It’s true,” someone shouted back.
Alex Koppleman of Salon spells out once more the cost Republican’ts--especially Congressman Wilson--just paid for such childish behavior in the House chamber:
All of this is a gift to the White House. All of it will serve to reinforce the impression, which reform supporters have been working hard to create and spread, that Republicans have gone around the bend, that they’re more interested in attacking Obama than in reaching across the aisle to work on reform. And it makes Obama look calm, bipartisan and presidential.

There’s some damage to Wilson himself, too. As of this post, his Democratic opponent for 2010, Rob Miller, had
raised about $50,000 since the speech.
It serves him right.

READ MORE:Obama Delivers” and “Liking What They Saw,” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly); “Aim of Obama Speech: Reigniting a Presidency,” by Adam Nagourney (The New York Times); “Olbermann Offers ‘Special Comment’ on Joe Wilson: ‘You’ve Embarrassed the Nation’” (The Huffington Post).

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