Monday, June 15, 2009

The Daily Strike-6/15/09-AMA

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. If you're joining us for the first time in awhile, make sure you catch up on some interesting entries from The Big Picture and myself. Also, keep those comments coming!

AMA: The President today spoke about health reform at the American Medical Association in Chicago. The AMA is a powerful interest group that has expressed skepticism about Obama's health plan, specifically the public option. The AMA is one of the main reasons, quite frankly, that we don't have comprehensive health reform already. They hired some young actor named Ronald Reagan in 1961 to rail against Medicare, saying it would lead us down the path to socialism. They were part of a large cadre of advocacy groups that torpedoed the Clinton plan in 1994.

Obama's task today was to go into hostile territory and make the case that inaction is not an option, and that his plan will make our health care system better. Overall, Obama accomplished these goals effectively. He reiterated the key themes he's been trying to drill into the American people's heads for weeks:

1. The system now is not effective. We pay a lot of money, and we're not getting quality care.
2. If you like your health insurance now, you can keep it.
3. If you don't, you'll have choices of insurance through regional health care exchange markets, which will include a public government-funded option.

In each of these speeches, he's been careful to mention that second point several times. It's easy to make people fearful if they sense that something they want is being taken away. That's part of why this reform effort is so difficult. I don't think I've ever seen the President give such a forceful defense of the public option. He railed against critics who said this would lead to government-run care or rationing, and explained that the public option will help lower prices and keep private companies honest. He told the AMA that "the public option is your friend, not your enemy." He also sent a good subliminal message to Congress. People, Obama said, are skeptical that reform can't get done, that people think the devil they know is better than the devil they don't. He is recognizing the complicated political situation lawmakers find themselves in, but he wants them to get with the program.

He also was very effective in making the stakes of this fight clear. He called our current system a "ticking time bomb" that will bring down our economy in the long-run. He called health reform the single biggest step we can take to put our fiscal house back in order.

The biggest applause line came when Obama suggested that he's open to some sort of medical malpractice reform. The hot shot doctors apparently get most animated about not being sued! Obama assured them that he will not go as far as capping malpractice awards.

Obama, as usual, was personally appealing and convincing in his arguments. Even in front of this tough crowd, he stayed true to his positions and unlike his Congressional allies, was uncompromising. As The Big Picture said, let's hope he does this every day for the next six week. I think we can safely say that if Obama is out there making the case, it's a good day for advocates of reform.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: The President today met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The scandal-tarred leader was at the White House to discuss a variety of topics, including Guantanamo detainees. In a minor victory for the President, Italy has agreed to take three Guantanamo prisoners. Hopefully more countries will follow suit.

The big news this afternoon was Obama's statement on the disputed Iranian election. Obama said that he is deeply troubled by the violence in the streets in Iran, and said that the American people won't accept violence against those who dissent peacefully. He told the Iranian people that the world is watching. Conservatives have been lambasting Obama for not getting more directly involved in assisting the moderate candidate Moussavi. The truth is, there is not much Obama can do at this point besides condemn the violence. The international politics are just too complicated.

CONGRESS: No votes today in the Senate; they get started on the foreign travel bill tomorrow. (see our Weekly Strike for details!). The House considered a bunch of suspension bills today, including one to help keep students safe on school-sponsored field trips. 60 Republicans voted AGAINST this. The House moves on to legislative business tomorrow, and we will have full coverage of it for you!

That's it for today. See you tomorrow evening!

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