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Michael Sean WintersSeptember 10, 2009

If eloquence was the only measure that mattered in assessing political speeches, President Obama hit a home run last night. But, the President does not wish to be remembered for giving an outstanding speech to a joint session of Congress. He wants to be remembered as the President who finally achieved universal health care for all Americans. And, it will take a few days to find out if the speech helped him to earn that label.

It is now obvious that, with the exception of Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins from Maine, Obama and the Democrats have given up on gaining significant bipartisan support. (Maine voted for Obama last year by a margin of 58-40 percent.) When the President reached out to Republicans rhetorically, by praising an idea that Sen. John McCain proposed last year and calling for studies on limiting medical malpractice lawsuits, he was not really speaking to Republicans. The GOP has made it clear that they will not back reform so why did the President make the concessions? Because Independent voters want bipartisanship. They are the voters who say they "vote for the person not for the party," which makes them the definition of a swing voter. So, when they see the President praising his former rival and embracing the most central idea in GOP reform efforts, they see Obama doing exactly what they want.

Independent voters were even more likely to swing towards Obama after the rudeness that has characterized the town hall meetings nationwide worked its way into the House chamber last night. In a virtually unprecedented outburst, Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted "You lie!" at the President, evidently hoping that the murmur of his fellow Republicans and the applause of the Democrats, would drown out his words. Instead, the entire hall had just gone quiet. Obama looked to his left. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s jaw dropped. Post-speech coverage did not mention a single Republican idea, only this Republican boorishness.

The first poll after the speech showed a 14 percentage point swing towards the President’s position among those who watched the speech. That means one-in-seven voters changed their mind about health reform as a result of the speech. That is a huge switch, and CNN admitted to a worry that the poll might have over-sampled Democrats who were understandably enthusiastic about the President’s efforts. Seventy percent of those polled said Obama’s policies were moving the country in the right direction. Those are numbers that will stiffen the spine of conservative Blue Dog Democrats. Additionally, and as urged yesterday, the President's willingness to employ explicitly moral language in making his case provides these conservative Democrats with a language their constituents understand. This very wonkish President was not very wonkish last night.

More important than people’s actual reactions to these speeches are the pundits’ reactions. Time after time, focus groups and instant polling registered one verdict, but after the pundits registered a different one, voters aligned their opinions with those they heard on television. Last night, except for Fox, most of the commentary was intensely favorable so the instant polling numbers should solidify. Now, the President needs to turn his public relations triumph into a legislative one by cajoling and corralling every single Democrat and get them to vote for this bill. He strengthened his hand immeasurably last night.

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12 years 9 months ago
Certainly didn't gain my support.
Empty words packaged in mildly pretty phrases are still empty words. Hollow & trivial was my impression of the speech.
12 years 9 months ago
Gabriel, The USCCB would disagree with you, as would B16, as well as most polls that say health care reform is still favored by the majority of Americans.  Frankly, in a time when small business is squeezed (that being the engine of recovery) we can't afford not to act.
In 2012, when most people note that the restrictions on their care are gone, who do you think they'll thank?  Not Joe Wilson.
12 years 9 months ago
at least Mary didn't yell liar. Lets face it,  Cons want to insure a health care defeat so they can bury Obama. They don't care how many un-insured suffer in order to 'get their way'. When the promise  'no death panels' ;'no federal funds for abortion'; 'no insurance for illegals' is not enough for the wacky fringe, forgetaboutit.
The left and conservative Dems need to be forced marched into a positive vote, Obama must say to some..  'if you vote against this I will get the most prominent Dem in the state to defeat you in the primary'
12 years 9 months ago
The independent, third party organization FactCheck.org has verified and confirmed that it was Obama who was guilty of fabrication.  Sometimes, I feel apprehensive when faced with a talented opponent who can obfuscate with such panache and with a well organized network to disseminate his deceptions.  It worked to get him in power and it can still work to galvanize the position of the abortion industry in this country.  I look at the heavens and cry, "From where shall come my help?" And I am consoled by Church history that has shown it it weathered far greater evils in the past.  So, I am confident and unafraid.  Thet truth will set us free.
12 years 9 months ago
Joe Wilson at least apologized, however he did not recant the view in his heart.  This is a pity and the Republican attitude about immigrants will haunt them out of existence in the end, as newly legalized Latino voters remember who hate them.
I disagree, as do some of the Bishops, regarding covering undocumented immigrants.  I am not sure the exclusion passes the equal protection test of the 5th and 14th Amendments.  I am sure it does not pass muster in either the Ancient Law (do not molest the alien) or the New Law (I was a stranger and you welcomed me).  Obama likely cannot go as far as we want him to, which is a pity.  That the opponents of immigrants grandstand on their hate is beyond pitiful to loathsome.
12 years 9 months ago
There are numerous other plans and suggestions out there for reforming health care. Obama's plan (whatever it is) is not the only one.  They are proposed in legislation, are being studied by congressional staffs, being talked about in think tanks and op-ed pages and on the internet.
It would be nice to be able to discuss these varied plans without resorting to ad hominem and scare tactics like you and the President have done.
MSW, this was *not* a home run.  Even the AP has affirmed that Joe Wilson was, well, correct. Obama was not telling the truth.
It's nice to see that the number of uninsured has already dropped, though. from 47 million to ..what did he say last night? 30? Sweet.
12 years 9 months ago
Dear Ricky Vinez,
Does Medicaid pay for abortions?
12 years 9 months ago
Could you indicate where you found the Factcheck.org assessment?  I was looking at their page and did not see any postings more recent than 7:00 PM yesterday.  Am I missing something on their web page?
12 years 9 months ago
Kris, you say the AP says Obama lied in the speech? show the link.. You say I use scare tactics..???Dems who don't vote for health reform should be defeated in their primary,  is scare tactics? have you Cons no shame?
Ricky says FactCheck says Obama was quilty last nite of 'fabrication' I cant find that .. show the link.. have you no shame??
12 years 9 months ago
Actually, factcheck.org supports Obama's statment concerning illegal aliens.  See this article quoted below, which explicitly quotes HR 3200: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability
credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the
United States."
Here's the link: http://factcheck.org/2009/07/misleading-gop-health-care-claims/
12 years 9 months ago
With all due respect, our democracy needs less partisanship and more objectivity from you. Your adulation of President Obama does not advance the cause of universal halth coverage. Let's not hear of "home runs" and "public relations triumph" in ephemeral polling, but let's get more critical analysis. Most Americans support some form of universal health coverage, but they also want tort reform and not "studies on limiting medical malpractice lawsuits."  Americans don't trust Washington when it comes to complex and delicate issues like health. Moreover, they do not believe that the federal budget can afford such a costly undertaking at a time of slow economic growth and steep deficits.
12 years 9 months ago
Here is the analysis from the Pulitzer-winning St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times fact check page:
Some of what was said (speech and heckling alike) is true, some is false, some is partly true ... but certainly they would strongly differ with Ricky and Kris above.
12 years 9 months ago
I found the tone of the president's speech to be both hopeful and challenging. I was also pleased that he at least touched upon the moral implications of universal health care. My belief is that opposition to health care reform comes from three distinct groups: 1. those who profit from the current system; 2. those who are opposed to the concept of according access to health care the status of a human right; and 3. those who will oppose anything and everything proposed by this president for reasons relating to fear and racial attitudes. My only disappointment was with his consent to the exclusion of illegal immigrants from the benefits of reform. But I also recognize that there are political realities with which he must contend.
Much of the opposition has been expressed in terms of economics. However, the truth is that we have always found ways to finance those programs which we deem essential. I confess that I wholly fail to understand the view that citizens of this country should not be entitled to basic health care. I wish that the hierarchy of the Church would assume a leadership role in addressing the moral issues involved in the debate, but I fear that its focus on the problem of abortion has almost blinded it to other important moral concerns.
12 years 9 months ago

The House bill doesn't give anyone free health care (though under a 1986 law illegals who can't pay do get free emergency care now, courtesy of all us premium paying customers or of hospitals that have to eat the cost). Will they be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance? The House bill says that "individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States" will not be allowed to receive subsidies.

The claim that taxpayers will wind up subsidizing health insurance for illegal immigrants has its origins in the defeat of an amendment, offered in July by Republican Rep. Dean Heller of Nevada, to require those enrolling in a public plan or seeking subsidies to purchase private insurance to have their citizenship verified. Flecksoflife.com claimed on July 19 that "HC [health care] will be provided 2 all non US citizens, illegal or otherwise." Rep. Steve King of Iowa spread the claim in a USA Today op-ed on Aug. 20, calling the explicit prohibition on such coverage "functionally meaningless" absent mandatory citizenship checks, and it's now gone viral. Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen?

By the way, illegal immigrants can and do now buy healthcare insurance from private U.S. insurers.
As to the current practice of providing medical care to illegal aliens via Emergency Rooms, well, that’s what a civilized society does for human beings.
Joe “You Lie” Wilson’s childish behavior last night was yet another example of the rightwing temper tantrum that’s been building since last November.  Miller is Wilson’s 2010 Democratic opponent.  As of 3:00p EDT today, ActBlue reports 10,100 individual supporters from all over the U.S. have contributed $368,387.00 to Miller’s campaign since Wilson’s outburst last night.  

12 years 9 months ago
In last night's speech President Obama called his detractors liars and Senator Wilson called President Obama a liar, in an inappropriate fashion.  Perhaps we should consider the charges in both cases.
President Obama maintained that those who have used phrases such as "death panels" or "pull the plug on grandma" to characterize his version of government healthcare are liars. If we use Oregon's public healthcare as an example, recently it was reported that a 54-year-old Oregon cancer patient applied for a cancer procedure which both he and his doctor approved.  The bureaucratic body (panel?) that reviewed the request denied the procedure (but did offer the patient assisted suicide at the state's expense instead.) England and other countries use similar processes. Opponents of Obama's plan perceived that that was where the plan was headed.  "Death panel" may be dramatic, but not necessarily an inaccurate characterization of such a process.
In the case of Wilson's claim, Obama made the clear and certain statement that his plan would not cover illegal aliens within the country. I believe this is technically correct. The plan does not directly provide for illegals within US borders, but importantly the democratic plan does not require medical providers to verify that applicants are legal residents of the US. Thus by waving verification, the proposal facilitates illegals in their attempt to receive treatment at taxpayers' expense by making it easier for them to falsify their status and go undetected.  This is quite similar to the infamous "liar loan" process whereby lenders were not required to verify the borrowers' stated income with any documentation, contributing to the financial mortgage meltdown and default disasters we currently are experiencing.
So Wilson's comment, "You lie," is not accurate. "You deceived" might be a better characterization. And it such slick slight-of-hand, gradually becoming apparent to the American people, that played a large part in the rapid decline in the public's opinion of President Obama the last month or so.
12 years 9 months ago
Per your inquiry
12 years 9 months ago
To the contrary, I support universal health coverage and support B16 and the Catholic bishops. Yet, I think that America Magazine should conduct objective analysis and not become a cheerleader. On such a complex piece of legislation, which we've yet to see, the President needs not adulation but constructive critique. That's how democracy prospers.
12 years 9 months ago
Additional reference from FActCheck.org
per your request.
12 years 9 months ago
Ricky, the movement is never going to gain any protection for the unborn by demonizing Obama, or in rejecting his economic policies.  The economic policies he is advancing are in line with the Magisterium, while those of the Republicans are not.  Even a quick glance at Caritas in Veritate, where his Holiness bemoans the decline in social services bares this out.  Additionally, clinging to the overturn of Roe is only good for electoral politics, especially as Catholic justices Kennedy, Alito, Roberts and Sotomayor all considered Roe settled law - and Scalia considers the jurisdictional issue more important than the life issue (only Thomas is really pro-life as you would define it).
If you quit demonizing the President, you may be able to work with him on his promise to extend legal protection during the third trimester through federal legislation.  In time, consensus could build to extend this to assisted viability at 23 weeks - and possibly even to the commencement of the second trimester.  You might even get consensus to get to the point when the fetal heart begins to beat  (given a more conservative President and Congress), which provides a symmetry with the main marker of death, the cessation of cariac activity.  Of course, you still must contend with arguments about what power the state has to enforce such restrictions, especially in the first trimester.  Legal recognition is far different than the pre-Roe status quo, where abortion was fined as bad gynecology rather than prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.  Changing the context in which abortion is restricted is a serious question.  So far the movement has not given serious answers.  Such a debate would be valuable.  It won't even get started, however, as long as you continue to demonize the President.
12 years 9 months ago
Americans don't want tort reform. Bad doctors and insurance companies who are forced to pay for botched medical care after wrecking and in many cases ENDING lives want tort reform. The whole issue is a red herring and for Obama to even bring it up shows he is bought and paid for by the ins companies.
Med mal judgements don't drive up costs, horrid medical mistakes WITH NO DOCTOR PENALTIES drive up costs. Medical malpractice suits are the only checks and balances the public has on the industry. Meritless suits rarely even make it to a court room, there is something called prima facia - which is the basis for a claimant's legitimacy - that prevents a meritless case from going forward. It's the dirty little secret that insurance companies don't want you to know as they'd prefer to hang onto their billions of dollars vs. paying for their clients' medical mistakes. Just ask my wife of nearly 10 years. Oh wait, you can't...she died from medical malpractice.

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