It looks as if President Obama is reluctantly getting more out in front of the health care debate. Many have been urging a more active role in recent weeks as the congressional recess dramas play out on the 24-hour cable channels. The task has been to clear confusion, allay fears and dispel misinformation. And there is nothing like the written word to do that.
So President Obama wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times Saturday telling the nation “Why We Need Health Care Reform.” Retaining the most frequently made points from his speeches and town hall gatherings, the President laid out his main arguments in what sounded like his own “voice.” He used familiar phrases and stories about people he has told before, Steve Benen notes in his excellent analysis describing what will be the strongest elements of the new op-ed. (Hat Tip to Memeorandum and Mark Knoller’s tweets for this information).
Reinforcing the apparent let-Congress-lead stance of the administration, Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, according to Reuters, has revealed what we always suspected, that the government-run health insurance option is not an essential to health care reform. She added that the non-profit member-controlled cooperatives being considered by a Senate Committee could also fulfill the goal of creating robust competition for private health insurers, probably to the utter dismay of liberals.
Sticking to enunciated principles, rather than sending up an administration bill to Congress, has made President Obama’s leadership open to question by the chattering class. But he seems determined to stick with the legislative process and, typical of his leadership style, is looking to a less immediate time frame for his strategy to succeed. He seems truly confident that something useful that he can sign will pass. He is using his bully pulpit to give credit for small successes to others, to remind the big stake holders of the obligations of their agreements, and to teach the public what they must learn about complex issues.
As if to emphasize the health care reform issue as front and center, an LA sports arena hosted a health clinic of last resort for thousands seeking free health care. The clinic housed in an old sports arena will continue through Tuesday. The clinic, Reuters reports, is run by the nonprofit Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps as part of its mission to provide free health, dental and eye care in needy spots around the world.” RAM is best known for its work in Third World countries. People have waited in line for days to attend.
The President’s bully pulpit will be used as necessary to do what Mr. Obama sees as his unique role in the political process. He is well advised by his people and he won the presidency by being good at politics. I remain optimistic about what will happen, even if it is less than the 1000% we assumed it had to be.
Bonus Reference: TPM Photo Gallery carried “Behind the Scenes: Summer 2009 at the White House.”