obligatory reaction post on Obama’s healthcare address
To start things off, I should say that I’m not particularly sympathetic to the Dems’ lackluster efforts at healthcare reform. I’m willing to be persuaded that a robust public option would promote healthier outcomes and control costs better than the status quo, but it seems to me that a plan wholly dependent on subsidizing massive insurance companies to make up our health coverage shortfall will a) do nothing to limit costs and b) is extremely vulnerable to regulatory capture. That said, a major political speech demands mindless political commentary, not actual analysis, so here’s my two cents:
Obama always manages to come off as a very reasonable guy. Even his verbal tics – the “uhhs,” the “you knows” – help add to the impression that he’s a smart, earnest fellow who’s genuinely interested in thinking things through and finding the best possible solution. This aura (for lack of a better word) is particularly effective because his opponents spend so much time demonizing him as a radical Afrocentric Marxist (or something), which is wildly at odds with the calm, sensible persona he projects on national television.
Tonight, Obama leveraged this public persona to good effect. He came off as genuinely informed, eminently reasonable, and concerned only with making incremental changes to the current system. Anyone bracing themselves for a full-throated defense of a radical agenda that exists only in the minds of the World Net Daily crowd must have been reassured to hear a president who seems so calm and collected.
I think this dynamic is unfortunate, not least because there are plenty of substantive criticisms worth airing against Obama’s healthcare agenda. But instead of shaking our heads in amazement at the sheer chutzpah of the president’s claim that reform won’t add one dime to the deficit, the next few weeks will probably be spent talking about death panels and socialism. This will have the effect of encouraging everyone who is already against healthcare reform to redouble their efforts to sink Obamacare while persuading approximately no one else that handing over gobs of money to the health insurance industry under the guise of “reform” is a bad idea.
N.B. – In the interests of full disclosure, I spent the last half of the speech splitting time between Obama and FIFA 09.