If there’s one question I hate the most, and which is most often repeated by the cable chatterboxes, it is: “What does [fill in name of pol or candidate here] have to do tonight?”
I just don’t subscribe to the school that a single speech by a candidate or a President usually makes that much difference.
There are some exceptions, of course. Like Obama’s great speech on race last year in the heat of the Rev. Wright kerfuffle.
I also think that the President’s speech tonight is, unfortunately, one of those exceptions.
Frankly, after more than a half-year in power, the White House and the Democratic Congress have failed to present a convincing, clear and compelling narrative on health care reform. Or is it health insurance reform?
There was a glimmer of hope this past weekend when Obama, liberated from the beltway, gave a rousing, impassioned campaign-style speech of the sort that won him the Democratic nomination. He sounded, once again, like the Obama who stormed Iowa and upended the Democratic establishment.
So, while I hate the prescriptive formula of saying this is what he’s gotta do… this is what he’s gotta do:
He has to NOT bore us to death with wonk-speak about public options, one-stop exchanges and triggers.
He has to remind us that he isn’t going to reform anything but rather he’s going to remake history.
He has to give his proposal the same importance given to the Civil Rights Bill.
He has to explain clearly and simply two things: how am I going to get coverage if I can’t afford it now. And how I am going to get coverage for the less than $13,000 a year I have to pay now if I already have a policy.
Period. The rest is all trivial by comparison: even the insurance companies now support no pre-existing conditions, more portability, lifting of lifetime caps. Of course, the insurance companies support the current proposals floating around for insurance “reform” as it is likely to create some millions of new paying customers for them. I’m worried about the other tens of millions who are about to be cast aside.
I often quote Lenny Bruce (or at least paraphrase him). And now I will again.
There’s a great bit from “The Sick of Humor Lenny Bruce” which was originally issued on translucent red vinyl in which we eavesdrop on then-Pope John XXIII talking business with his sleazy Hollywood agent. The agent compliments the Pope on his new Marlboro as (“That puff of smoke knocked me out, baby”). And then the agent mildly scolds the Pope for waffling around on civil rights. “You gotta just come out and say it,” he tells the Pontiff. “You’ve got to say ‘Let them go to school with them!’”
That’s the clarity we need tonight from Barack Obama. I promised you health coverage. Here is how you’re gonna get it. Period.