Ted Bobrow

Health Care Reform Full Court Press

By - Jul 24th, 2009 01:34 pm
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We know from the campaign that Barack Obama can’t bowl. And we also know from that pathetic attempt at a pitch at the All Star Game that the president isn’t much of a baseball player.

But when it comes to basketball, it was obvious when he sank that three-pointer in Kuwait that the president can play. And, most importantly, when it comes to policy, this dude’s got game.

Unlike GOP Chairman Michael Steele, who totally embarrassed himself and his party when he declined to suggest a Republican alternative to health care reform since he, and I quote, doesn’t “do policy,” Obama knows his, err, stuff.

Many were skeptical when Obama made his pledge to urge Congress to enact comprehensive health care reform legislation this year. We’ve been down this road before and President Clinton’s attempt to reform health care went nowhere partly, some feel, because he pushed for it too hard and too fast.

President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who was given the role of leading the health care reform effort, attempted to ramrod their plan through Congress with little regard to the egos and legislative acumen of their own party mandarins. And we know how that turned out.

By any measure, Obama has learned much from the Clinton HCR debacle. Obama is allowing the key Congressional Committees to do the heavy lifting on the drafting of the legislation while he makes his priorities clearly known.

Perhaps most importantly, Obama has passionately taken the case for reform to the public using all of the tools he employed during the campaign, including town hall meetings and the internet, and adding the powerful weapons of mass communication at his disposal as president, such as the prime time news conference.

The president’s strategy appears to be working amazingly well. One bill has already been endorsed by three committees in the House of Representatives and one of the key committees in the Senate has passed a bill of its own. The greatest difficulty is in the Senate Finance Committee where Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is attempting to collaborate with Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Ultimately, the final product will have to emerge from reconciliation, the process by which leaders of the two chambers of Congress work together on a compromise bill.

So far, so good, you might say. Yet the professional handwringers and controversy junkies in the news media are raising all kinds of red flags that health care reform is in danger. It seems to me that laborious legislative deliberation is just too boring for these nattering nabobs of negativity.

Wednesday night’s nationally televised presidential news conference was a case in point. Obama maintained his focus on the reasons why health care reform is important and returned time and time again to the key elements by which he would measure if the bill produced by Congress was worth signing.

What attracted the media’s attention, however, was the president’s passionate, some might say angry, response to the question about the arrest of Harvard Professor Gates for badmouthing a police officer who questioned whether he had a right to be in his own home.

I get why this story is a major distraction but it’s not more important than health care reform. After staying so disciplined in his message on health care reform, President Obama may have dropped his gloves, to use another sports analogy, and left his chin open to his opponents. The media rabble often turns away from issues of substance to watch the circus go by.

But, in the end, there is good reason to suspect that a bill will emerge from Congress that President Obama is comfortable signing. The ball is in his hands, the clock is running, he has the whole court in his vision and I wouldn’t bet against him.

Want to support health care reform? There’s a good old-fashioned rally at Serb Hall on Sunday at 4 pm. Be there.

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