The President did a great job last night on selling the country on the need for health care reform. He made the moral case, and every metric indicates that people were overwhelmingly moved to support his plan. That's the good news for the White House.
The not so good news: the White House has been trying to get out from under the burden of supporting the public option for weeks. The trouble is, every time they try to do it, the President's numbers take a huge hit. And so last night he came out and indicated that a public plan would be a part of his reform package.
Nick Morgan of Public Words Inc.:
Last night, President Obama proved that he is still the master of rhetoric we saw during the campaign by delivering his first unambiguously excellent speech since those halcyon days on the stump.
One good speech rarely ends discussion and there is still much legislative work to be done. But the President accomplished as much as an address of this kind can, and his remarks deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect he showed all the other serious participants in the health care debate. It was an excellent speech.
Todd Gitlin at TPM:
He sounded like a winner. Like all great preachers, he started methodically and built to crescendos. The Republican responder, Charles Boustany of Louisiana, sounded like a whiner, crying, Deficit, deficit, and government-run, government-run, and built toward nothing. Obama charged the Republicans with specific lies. He made the obligatory gestures toward bipartisanship, including the unexpected shout-out to John McCain, who had campaigned in favor of mandatory catastrophic insurance--and I don't want to be cynical about those gestures, even though I think he's naive about the other party's intentions--but that's not where his stresses fell.
Brad Hicks at "The Infamous Brad":
To be honest, I had a hard time paying attention to anything President Obama said Wednesday night after he said this, let alone taking him seriously on the subject.
Contrary to what he claims, the reason that medical expenses in the US are skyrocketing is not inefficiency and waste. Nor, contrary to what the Republicans are claiming, is it malpractice insurance; this was solved at the state level two years ago, and malpractice insurance rates are down across the board. The main reason that health care costs have skyrocketed is honest-to-gods scarcity. And that scarcity is entirely artificial. And his approach does nothing to address the artificial scarcity of doctors, or the artificial scarcity of newly (wrongly) patented drugs. And the other reason why health care costs have skyrocketed is flagrantly corrupt profiteering in both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
Matt Welch at Reason Online:
It is telling that so many people who claim to be speaking on the side of Truth, Justice, and the American Way of Journalism have consistently focused their outrage-o-meters at individual townhall attendees, political broadcast entertainers, and the lesser lights of a lame (if resurgent-by-default) opposition party, while letting walk nearly fact-check-free the non-irrelevant occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If calling out lies and misrepresentations about a significant policy proposal is such pressing journalistic business—and it should be!—you'd think the watchdogs might start with the guy doing the proposing.
There was one line in the speech last night that pointed to an alternative, more promising future: "My guiding principle," Obama said, "is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition." Unfortunately, the president evinces zero understanding of how increased regulation can reduce consumer choice, even or especially when the government joins the competition. And even if he did see the connection, we'd have good reason to suspect that he wouldn't talk about it openly with the American people. That, ultimately, worries me more than a senior citizen who wants to keep the government out of Medicare.