FIRED UP IN OHIO…. It’s unlikely that President Obama will deliver the same kind of speech to a joint session of Congress as he did to union members celebrating Labor Day in Ohio. There are contextual differences.
But if the president brings the kind of passion for health care reform to his national address tomorrow that he brought to Cincinnati, the reform effort may get a much-needed kick in the pants. As the Washington Post noted, “In abandoning the cool, patient tone he adopted at health-care town hall meetings over the summer, Obama signaled that he is ready to take a hard-line approach on Wednesday.”
At a minimum, we saw a president with some fight in him. Indeed, straying from his original text, Obama said, “I’ve got a question for all these folks who say, you know, we’re going to pull the plug on Grandma, and this is all about illegal immigrants — you’ve heard all the lies. I’ve got a question for all those folks: What are you going to do? What’s your answer? What’s your solution? And you know what? They don’t have one.”
He added, “The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months. And debate is good, because we have to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point it’s time to decide, at some point it’s time to act. Ohio, it’s time to act and get this done.”
And what about the phrase many reformers are waiting to hear? Obama specifically noted, “I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs.”
Of particular interest, the president used a three-word phrase — “security and stability” — several times in his remarks, suggesting we’re likely to hear it again. In his summary of what reform is all about, Obama said, “I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. They also have to be accountable. Security and stability for folks who have health insurance; help for those who don’t. The coverage they need at a price they can afford. Finally bringing costs under control. That’s the reform we need.”
The presidents also strayed from the prepared text to tell a story from the campaign about the origins of “fired up, ready to go.”
If this was the White House’s way of putting the summer behind them, and kicking off a new phase of the debate, the post-Labor Day period is off on the right foot.