Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama to address Congress, nation Sept. 9

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos is reporting that President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The report comes on the heels of signals from the White House that Obama was prepared to try a different approach in the battle over health care reform, ptoentially even a new, more specific message.

While the specifics of what Obama will tell Congress aren't yet known, I'm glad the President will finally be speaking up once more. I think Obama has done a poor job of handling the message in this debate so far, not adequately addressing the lies and distortions that reform opponents have been using to disturbing effect. The majority of Americans might support health care reform, but the opposition has been so loud, and the media spotlight on them so bright, that it would appear otherwise.

It's time for reform supporters to take back the message, and it starts with Obama.

Top advisor David Axelrod said the administration was entering a "new season" and that Obama would likely be more hands-on. To this point, the President sat back and let Congress handle the bills, trying to avoid what many perceive as the mistakes made during the Clinton administration, when Hillary Clinton drafted a bill and told Congress to pass it.

As we all know, that didn't exactly work. Thus far, Obama's approach hasn't looked much better, though that might be a matter of perception, due to the opposition's insistence on turning the debate up to 11.

Obama is not expected to introduce new proposals, but be more specific on his priorities for legislation. At this point, anything that clears up the ambiguity and confusion inherent in this important yet complicated issue would be appreciated; in a recent CBS News poll, 67 percent of Americans from all political backgrounds said the health care reform issue was confusing.

Which is one of the reasons the opposition has had such an easy time misleading everyone.

I stand by my assertion that the public option is the cornerstone of reform. Getting rid of pre-existing condition discrimination and ending policy recission are important, vital parts of reform and I'm not saying we shouldn't have them, but without the public option to curb costs and introduce competition in a market that is decidedly lacking in it, the other proposals will ultimately mean little.

At least 60 members of the House have said they will not vote for a reform package that does not include a public option. Will Obama heed those words and realize he won't be able to mathematically get a bill through without the more progressive members of that chamber, or will he drop the polarizing issue and risk a showdown with his own party?

If Obama and the Democrats want to still be around in 2010 and 2012, they better keep hold of that public option. We didn't vote these people into office for a bailout of the health insurance industry; we voted for reform and true change.

Mr. President, it's about time you gave that to us.

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