Not to be too much of a downer, but I found Obama's speech tonight a big O-bummer. Really, other than his very important reminder that "we're all in this together," it was disappointing (although that's probably not the right word, because it implies I expected something more). And remember, while I have at times been critical of Obama, I've been very supportive of him on health care...up until tonight. Here's a list of my basic problems:
- Why do Republican presidents and politicians never bash "The Right," but President Obama uses a joint session speech to bash "The Left?"
- Obama felt the need to tell the country that he's devoted to making sure the wildly unpopular private insurance industry at the heart of the health care meltdown remains profitable. He also made sure to forget that Americans love Medicare and hate private insurance when he went out of his way to reiterate his support for "market" economics (shocker - this was the line both parties stood up and gave a thundering round of applause). Awesome.
- Completely unclear why Obama promised to "call out lies," and then proceeded to embrace the Right's most dishonest narrative about tort reform being a major vehicle to fix health care (not surprisingly, the "don't negotiate with legislative terrorists" lesson was reinforced when the GOP response called Obama's bluff and pushed to work with him on tort reform).
- The wavering on the public option would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious. Really - his insistence that he supports it but might also support removing it reminded me of a Saturday Night Live skit parodying wavering and waffling Democrats. Obviously he just had to listen to pundits insisting he must abandon the public option, when a huge majority of Americans continue to support it, and he has a huge legislative majority in Congress. He obviosuly just HAS to compromise on it because...well...just because - and he certainly can't use reconciliation like President Bush did because...well, again, just because. And, of course, those of us who don't expect him to compromise away an already compromised yet still wildly popular public option are obviously on the radical fringe regardless of polling data. Obviously!
- Though he didn't draw a direct equivalence, he implied there was one between the progressive push for single payer and the ultra-conservative push to destroy the entire health care system. Sick.
In sum, when you couple this with the speech's fawning praise for lunatics like John McCain and Chuck Grassley and add to it the news that the White House is holding closed-door compromise meetings with corporate Democrats tomorrow, I felt like I was listening to a parsed screed by President Rahm Emanuel, not a call to arms from the Barack Obama who actually ran for president. There was lots of passionate talk about the problem, and little courage to demand a serious solution.
I mean, I seem to remember an election just a few months ago that resulted in a Democratic president, and huge Democratic majorities in Congress - and I seem to remember there was a Barack Obama who only a short while ago said geting those electoral results was the only obstacle to a full-on single payer health care system, much less a weakened public option. But again, I guess it's just too bad that after that election, President Emanuel now rules America.