The healthcare debate across America seems to be reaching a crescendo. Angry town hall meetings and brilliant, pithy sound bites from the opposition (“Death panels”, “Kill Grandma” etc.) appears to have cornered President Obama. He could very well have refrained from stirring a public debate and stream rolled his plans relatively drama-free through the largely Democratic Congress (with some serious challenges in the Senate). But an inherent community organizer that he is, he chose to seek bi-partisanship. His team did their homework and tred their best to avoid the mistakes of the Clinton administration. Rather than drive the plan (like Bill Clinton tried), they issued some broad guidelines and let Congress iron out the details. An interesting and different approach. Yet, today, the health care reform plans are in a state of crisis. If it fails to go through, the chances are that healthcare reform will never see the light of day for years to come.
His support for the “public option” will be the part of his speech that will be of most interest to anyone who has been closely following the debate. It is next to impossible for him to mollify all the sections of his party and still achieve bi-partisanship. If he settles for Sen. Snowe‘s plan of a “trigger-based” public option, the left wing of the Democratic party is going to be deeply disappointed. On the other hand, this approach ensures that he and his team have their best shot of getting health care reform (for whatever its worth) passed with token Republican support, and ultimately claiming victory.
One speech can’t fix the healthcare woes of America. But it will be a good test of President Obama’s ability to forge consensus to whatever extent possible, and will provide some deeper insights into his political acumen. Clearly, the stakes are high for his party, for himself and the country as a whole. When in trouble (or when you are desperate as his critics would like to infer) you draw on your best skills. This explains why President Obama has chosen to do what he does best — give a good speech!