Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | September 10, 2009

Commentary on President Obama’s Health Care Speech

Barack Obama gave what was supposed to be a very important speech about health care reform last night. Sadly, as I lack cable just as keenly as I lack health insurance, I was not able to watch his speech in real time. However, I was able to use the powers of the internet to catch up on what I missed today.

In some ways, I was very impressed. The President certainly lived up to his reputation as a great orator. No matter what party affiliation, no one can deny that he is a powerful speaker. Long-winded, perhaps, given that it took 12 minutes just for him to get around to introducing “The Plan”, but still talented. In other ways, I was sorely disappointed. Apparently Candidate Obama was neutered when he became President Obama. Since his election, he has wavered on mandates, fines, and the public option. Then, in a speech designed to clarify his stance on these issues, he took the safe road.

I came away from this speech with the feeling that Obama hopes to go down in history not as a great liberal President, but as a great compromiser. This is, in many ways, an admirable goal – who doesn’t hope for bipartisanship and peace across the political spectrum? But at some point, compromising becomes nothing more than giving in, and I fear that President Obama may not recognize how near he is to that point.

In his speech, Obama continued his support for a public option – but he did not demand one. He should have. Obama gave support to the idea of mandating health insurance coverage – but did not address the issue of fines or who would really pay them.

I had hoped that this speech would lay out exactly what Mr. Obama wants to see on his desk. I had hoped that this speech would signal exactly what is and is not acceptable to Mr. Obama. Instead, I saw a President so intent on compromising with the minority party – a party that is home to one member who rudely and inappropriately heckled the President of the United States by calling him a liar during a nationally televised speech – that he doesn’t even recognize how many of his most ardent supporters have lost faith in him.

I am one of those supporters.

One of my favorite movies, Primary Colors, contains a quote that perfectly describes my interest in politics: “You had Kennedy. I didn’t. I’ve never heard a president say ‘destiny’ and ‘sacrifice’ without thinking, ‘bullshit.’ Okay, maybe it was bullshit with Kennedy, too. But…but people believed it, and I guess that’s what I want. I want to believe it.” Al Gore was boring, and he was a known quantity. You couldn’t believe it. John Kerry was even more boring, and more than a tad ridiculous. You couldn’t believe in him, either. But Barack Obama…he was something else. And whether I fully agree with him or not, at the end of the day I truly believed that he would be able to affect some kind of change in a country that has been slowly unraveling for years. Now I’m not so sure.

Yes, I want my President to make overtures to the other side, I want him to reach across the aisle. But if that doesn’t work, if the people across the aisle still insist on calling him a “socialist”, a “liar”, and a “racist”, if the people across the aisle still insist on working against absolutely everything he and the Democratic party stand for, then stop reaching. Some people are impossible to compromise with.

So, to our dear President: Stop compromising and deliver what you promised before you were elected. Clearly the majority of Americans wanted what you said you would deliver, or you wouldn’t be in the White House. So deliver on your promises. Reach down, find some balls, and stand up to Congress. Otherwise, not only will you never succeed in pleasing the Republicans, but you will also lose everyone else.


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