Obama: ‘I am not going to walk away’

OBAMA: ‘I AM NOT GOING TO WALK AWAY’…. I’ve obtained an advance text of the remarks President Obama will deliver in Elyria, Ohio, this afternoon. The emphasis on the remarks and the town-hall event will be the economy and jobs, but the president will address the health care issue.

“…I had no illusions when I took on health care. It was always going to be hard. I knew from the beginning that seven Presidents had tried it and seven Presidents had failed. But I also knew that insurance premiums had more than doubled in the past decade, that out-of-pocket expenses had skyrocketed, that millions more people had lost their insurance, and that it would only get worse.

“I took this up because I want to ease the burdens on all the families and small businesses that can’t afford to pay outrageous rates. I want to protect mothers, fathers, children from being targeted by the worst practices of the insurance industry.

“Now, we’ve gotten pretty far down the road, but I have to admit, we’ve run into a bit of a buzz saw along the way. The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests, their armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done. And the longer it’s taken, the uglier the process has looked.

“I know folks in Washington are in a little bit of a frenzy this week, trying to figure out what the election in Massachusetts the other day means for health insurance reform, for Republicans and Democrats, and for me. This is what they love to do.

“But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. I didn’t take up this issue to boost my poll numbers or score political points — believe me, if I were, I would have picked something a lot easier than this. No, I’m trying to solve the problems that folks here in Elyria and across this country face every day. And I am not going to walk away just because it’s hard. We’re going to keep on working to get this done with Democrats, Republicans — anyone who is willing to step up. Because I am not going to watch more people get crushed by costs, or denied the care they need by insurance company bureaucrats, or partisan politics, or special interest power in Washington.” [emphasis added]

The remarks did not point to a specific course of action the president prefers — though that may come up during the Q&A — but it sounds as if Obama remains committed to finishing the job.

I’m torn about whether the White House has dealt with the issue appropriately this week, in part because I haven’t gotten a strong sense of exactly how much work has been done behind the scenes.

There may be some value to the president taking a hands-off approach for a few days, letting lawmakers calm down and giving the process some breathing room.

That said, if the House is going to pass the Senate bill — as it should — and end the reform debate on a positive note, the White House is going to have to play a major role in making that happen. Letting the “dust settle” is fine, but the clock is ticking. The faster the president and his team step up, the better off we’ll be.