President Obama seems to like highwire acts. Once again the president used a very visible speech to try and regain the upper hand in a situation that had seemingly gotten out of control. (Remember his speech on race last fall.)
His speech last night to a joint session of Congress on the need for health care reform was, in my opinion, another example of the president successfully doing what he needed to do. He made his case for health care reform and he made it forcefully.
The health insurance industry took its licks during the speech, but the president came nowhere near demonizing the business. He criticized health insurers, for sure, but in that he has lots of company across this country.
What he did was lay out the necessary elements of reform as he sees it without getting mired down in the itsy-bitsy details that would have become the targets for anyone wanting to take potshots at the entire reform effort.
I also thought the arc of the speech was just what it should be—going from policy elements to invoking the moral necessity for reform as embodied in the lifetime work and dream of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The speech end on a high emotional note and a call to conscience as Americans that was stirring—and refreshing.
Of course, this being America, the land that seemingly flees from substantive matters at the merest hint of the bizarre, the major story on the online news sources this morning is not the subject of the speech, but the hideous spectacle of a South Carolina representative shouting “You lie” at the president during the speech.
This outburst may actually work for the president’s benefit, so reprehensible was it and so universally condemned. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., may have apologized quickly, but that should not be the end of it. The House needs to take some kind of disciplinary action against him, just as it would if he said it on the House floor while the chamber was in session.
Another thing that bothered me, although it only fleetingly came across the screen was a Congressman–I think it was Rep. Eric Cantor–texting while the president was talking.
It makes me mourn for the loss of civility—not to mention the most basic good manners–in politics and public life. Maybe the solution is to elevate Miss Manners to a high government position where that very prim and proper lady could knock some bad-mannered heads together.
In any case, President Obama is back in the game after a summer of watching from the sidelines. He laid out some pretty clear lines of thought and said he was willing to consider ideas from across the aisle, but also made clear he was going to do whatever he had to in order to get reform accomplished.
September and October should be really interesting.