Obama won’t abandon reform

OBAMA WON’T ABANDON REFORM…. We won’t know exactly what President Obama has to say on the subject until tonight — from what I hear, the speech is still being tweaked — but it looks like the White House isn’t going to abandon health care reform.

In a conference call today with Congressional staff, the White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, said that President Obama will reiterate his commitment to a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s health care system in his State of the Union speech on Wednesday night.

Mr. Pfeiffer said that the president will share “additional details” but that the thrust of his message will be that he remains as resolute and committed to revamping the health care system as he was when he gave a speech to a joint session of Congress in early September.

Politico quoted a White House aide saying the president’s “commitment to addressing this challenge in a comprehensive way is as strong today as it was when he stood in the same spot in September to address the nation on health care.”

Greg Sargent, who had a similar report, added, “As for how strongly Obama will signal is preferred way forward on reform, the devil will obviously be in the ‘additional details’ he offers. But if his speech does in fact reaffirm his commitment to comprehensive reform as strongly as his September speech did, that could reassure a lot of people.”

Quite right. These reports suggest President Obama intends to do the right thing tonight. He probably won’t get too deep into the weeds on legislative procedure, but he is apparently poised take a stand in support of comprehensive reform. That’s undoubtedly a good thing.

There is just one angle, though, that gives me pause — I hope “comprehensive” means what I think it means. If you ask some of those advocating a watered-down, scaled-back half-measure if their plan constitutes “comprehensive” reform, they’ll say, “It’s close enough.” They’re mistaken.

Post Script: Paul Glastris, the Monthly‘s editor in chief, will be on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” in a few minutes, talking about this and other issues related to the State of the Union. (Paul served as President Clinton’s chief speechwriter, and offers a great perspective on this.)

When I talked to Paul earlier, he told me the line he’d like to hear the president say tonight: “Health care reform is the Super Bowl of issues, we’re on the one yard line, and the other team has walked off the field. Let’s pick up the ball and walk across the goal line.”