Friday, September 11, 2009


Blah blah blah Obama blah blah blah health care reform blah blah blah “death panels” blah blah blah … That’s roughly how most Americans have been taking in the great debate on overhauling their health care system, a key objective for President Barack Obama and other key Democrats. They know there’s a lot of talk about it, they know he’s leading the charge, and they also hear some scary stuff being thrown into the mix by his opponents. So Wednesday night’s prime-time address to Congress was a high-wire act, being the first exposure that so many of those viewers (well, the one’s not watching “So You Think You Can Dance” anyway) to Obama’s pitch. As usual, he did many things right: he kept it fairly simple and straightforward – “No one should go broke because they get sick,” he said, adding later, “I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.” He also addressed negative attacks on his message, something we normally advise steering clear of except when, as in this case, the elephant is in the middle of the room – referring to talk of “death panels” by calling it “a lie, plain and simple.” Now, we all know Obama can give a great speech, but the ultimate question is, did the message get through? One overnight poll showed a shift on the issue by 14 points in his favour. That’s great, but whether it holds is another thing altogether. So a good job by the prez, even invoking the memory of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the longest proponents of major health care reform, without being gratuitous about it. But I also give points to the Republicans. They chose Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana to deliver their official response – since he happens to be “a heart surgeon with more than 20 years experience, where I saw first-hand the need for lowering health care costs,” as he put it in introducing himself. That credibility, combined with his message of agreement with Obama on lowering costs and increasing access, made for powerful stuff – and he skillfully included a number of references to “government-run health care,” a message with huge traction for reform opponents. This scrimmage is far from over, folks.

No comments: