Where do I begin with President Obama's speech tonight? Here are The Brody File takeaways.
1. The President may want a public option but he backed away from it big time Wednesday. Let's be real. If you're a liberal Democrat Congressman listening to that speech what are you thinking when you hear the following line:
"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."
After hearing the President tonight on the public option, if you're a liberal Democrat you've got to be thinking that the public option isn't just on life support. It needs serious End of Life counseling because it's death is right around the corner.Look, President Obama is a smart guy. He gets it. Nancy Pelosi may have the votes in the house to deliver a bill with a public option but it's got no shot in the Senate so move on right? Does anybody really think a pure version of the public option is going to make it in the final bill after what the President said Wednesday night? I'm not saying a Public Option "Trigger" might not surface in some sort of compromise bill but the President made clear tonight that his non negotiable is the "Choice Exchange" not the Public Option.
2. I was struck by the line in the speech where President Obama said, "If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out." That seems to be inviting danger. The President himself was called out by Congressman Joe Wilson during his speech when the Congressman from South Carolina yelled out to Obama, "You Lie". The President was talking about how illegal immigrants won't be covered under health care reform. You see this is the problem with that line Obama delivered. Now what the President may have done is give his critics a line from his speech that they can play back to him and say something like, "Well, Mr. President, we are going to call you out because you are misrepresenting your plan on (Insert issue here...abortion? Immigration? etc) I can just see conservative groups starting a new campaign called, "You Lie". I'm serious. This moment with Congressman Joe Wilson has the potential to do serious PR damage to the President while at the same time you can bet the Congressman will be hammered hard by those who say he crossed the line and gave a black eye to the President's critics. Congressman wilson issued a statement late Wednesday saying,
"“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.”
Still, the statement probably won't stop special interest groups from using the line. I envision YouTube videos.
3. After reading through Max Baucus's Senate Finance Committee proposal and now listening to the President, I was struck with how similiar they both were. You get the sense that it's the Senate Finance Committee bill that may be the real starting point for health care reform. Read the Baucus plan here.
4.The President was definitely more specific tonight but those specifics really zeroed in on the relatively non-controversial items. That's the 80 percent the President is talking about.
5.The President needed to speak directly to seniors and he did when talking about scare tactics and Medicare cuts. We'll see how effective it is. He also needed to speak to fiscal conservative Blue Dog Democrats and Independents about the cost control issue which he did. He also needed to address liberals about the public option.
6. Clearly, the President was throwing the Republicans a bone on medical malpractice reform. I'm not convinced he'll get anywhere with that but by doing it the President can say that he's trying to work with Republicans. he also singled out one of John McCain's health care proposals as a "good idea". I'm not saying Obama doesn't believe that Republicans have some good ideas but it was smart politics to make it a part of his speech.
7. During the speech, President Obama said, "And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need." Umm..one question. How can you really promise this? To that end, President Obama also defended a more hands-on government approach at certain times. I'm not sure that tactic will help with skeptics.
So bottom line? The speech was delivered powerfully and smoothly. We have come to expect that from this President. The speech also didn't disappoint in that he presented a better idea of what he wants to see in a final bill. (the 80 percent) As for the controversial Public Option, it appears that he's ready to get rid of it if he has to so it seems like the President hit all the right notes Wednesday night. Now The White House waits to find out if it is music to the ears of Congress.