Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Daily Strike-9/2/09-Prime Time

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Only 6 days until Congress returns, and one week until they'll be joined by a special guest.

ADDRESS TO CONGRESS: The President has been invited to speak to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday evening to discuss health reform, and he has accepted the invitation. This is a very important opportunity for the President re-frame the debate, fire up reticent Democrats, and get past the doldrums of August. Speaking in front of a joint session of Congress is the ultimate "Presidential" thing to do. He will be speaking in front of Congress, and in front of millions watching on TV. He'll have Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Biden behind him, and he'll have the pagentry involved in all of the customs (like the giant cheer when the clerk says "Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States"). The speech will also come at the perfect time. It will be right after Labor Day, Congress will have just come back into session, and Americans will be paying attention again after a holiday weekend.

I've been hoping that Obama would take this step for some time, but simply agreeing to speak in front of Congress isn't enough to convince me that he's effectively changing his strategy. He will have to do a number of things during the speech. First, as we've mentioned, he has to talk about health care as a moral issue. It's an injustice that people don't get the coverage they need because they can't afford it, or they've been sick. He needs to convey that message. He also has to lay some out some very specific parameters so that people know what "Obamacare" actually is. It might help to dumb it down to a series of bullet points. He also needs to harness some of what he said in his inaugural address, about how our problems are too big to be distracted by "childish things." He should make the speech decidedly anti-inside-the-beltway-process. By that, I mean he should call out the Congressional wrangling, deal-making, distractions and delays. Only in a setting like this can he frame the debate as "Me and the American people" vs. "the special interests and doubters." No media talking head will be close enough to cut him off.

Anyways, it's a good sign that the President and his advisers see that he needs a change in strategy to get this debate back on track. We are closer than we've ever been to getting this done, and we have to do whatever is necessary (reconciliation, public intimidation etc.) to make it happen.

NEGOTIATIONS: News out of the White House tonight is that the President is in serious negotiations with the one remaining sane Republican in the so-called "Gang of Six," Olympia Snowe of Maine. Apparently, the discussions center around a compromise that would exclude the public option from the bill, but have include a "trigger" that would enact a government-run plan if private companies weren't controlling costs and improving quality of care effectively enough. I'm skeptical of this idea, as are most of the policy analysts I've read, because we need the competition of public plan to force insurance companies to change their practices. Tangible competition is not the same as the "threat" of competition. In the end, I would accept a bill with a trigger, but we should save that concession until we absolutely need it. The White House appears to, like the rest of us, have realized that Senators Grassley and Enzi are not negotiating in good faith.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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