A Tale of Two Speeches
Bill Clinton gave a speech on health-care reform to a joint session of Congress. Barack Obama is giving a speech on health-care reform to a joint session of Congress. Bill Clinton subsequently failed to achieve health-care reform. Ergo, Barack Obama will fail to achieve health-care reform. At least, that's how some of the coverage is playing out.
But as PBS's timeline of the 1994 reform fight describes, "despite an initial snafu with the wrong text being loaded onto the TelePrompTer, the speech [was] a smash. The President's delivery [was] superb, powerful, and compelling. Response [was] overwhelmingly favorable." Clinton's poll numbers shot up. Pundits talked about reform as a done deal. The speech worked. But the process dragged on for another year. And that failed.
Clinton's speech effectively kicked off the beginning of his engagement with Congress. He presented them with his bill two months later. Obama's speech comes nearer to the end: Four of the five relevant committees have passed their bills, and the Finance Committee is currently circulating its plan. And that's been the point of Obama's strategy: Hold the president in reserve until the final stages of the fight, when he can use the power and prestige of his office to push health-care reform over the goal line. That's very different from Clinton's approach, which centered the process in the White House for the first year or so, then came to Congress only to be rebuffed.
September 8, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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