Can Health Address Cure What Ails Obama?
By Ben Pershing
The president who essentially made his political career with a few well-delivered speeches has two on tap in the next 36 hours -- a seemingly minor education address that became unexpectedly controversial and an undeniably major speech on health care for which the White House has raised expectations to potentially unattainable heights.
Early previews of President Obama's address Wednesday to a joint session of Congress suggest two possibilities: 1) Obama really believes this speech can appeal simultaneously to all sides of the debate, shift public opinion and unstick the legislative gears all at once; or 2) Obama isn't quite sure what he's going to say yet. "Despite all of the setbacks and all of the missed opportunities -- despite this train wreck of a month -- the situation remains remarkably similar to what it was before the recess," Jonathan Cohn writes. "Significant health care legislation is likely to pass, particularly if Obama manages to give a good speech on Wednesday night." In its boldly-headlined story, "What Obama will say in his address," Politico predicts that Obama "will not confront or scold the left" but will also "make an overture to Republicans." He "will try to reassure the left about his commitment to a public option" but "without promising to kill health reform to get it." (How reassuring can he be, then?) And "he will lay out a specific 'President's Plan,'" though "the speech was very much in flux over the weekend, because key decisions are being hashed out."
The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama "will emphasize what he says the health-care system would look like without change," something he has done dozens of times previously. The New York Times says Obama "has been under intense pressure from Congressional leaders to lay out specifically what he wants. Aides said he will do so in the speech on Wednesday." But can he really be that specific without alienating one side or the other?
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