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The Rundown

8 a.m. ET: How bad is President Obama's health-care message problem, and can it be fixed this late in the game?

The new NBC News poll paints a sobering picture for the administration. While the topline data is similar to what the same survey found last month -- narrow pluralities disapprove of Obama's handling of health care, and think his plan is "a bad idea" -- the numbers showed significant confusion over what the primary Democratic reform plans would and wouldn't do. "Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress," according to NBC. "Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly."

The persistence of those misconceptions about health-care reform and the White House's semantic dance in recent days over whether it wants a public insurance option illustrate the administration's dilemma going forward. Before Obama can rally support for his vision of reform, he has to make sure voters -- and the press -- actually understand what he's proposing. As of today, they don't. That explains why, as the Wall Street Journal writes this morning, Obama "will likely shift his pitch in September ... to talk more about the moral imperative to provide health insurance to all Americans." The revised approach reportedly will include more speeches, fewer town halls and redoubled efforts to sort fact from fiction.

The new message strategy may be accompanied by a new legislative strategy. The New York Times reports that congressional Democrats "are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks" rather than negotiating with Republicans, whom they view as unlikely to cut a deal. Whether the majority really plans to go it alone, or whether this story (note the Rahm Emanuel quote) is just a negotiating tactic remains unclear. The Washington Post notes that Obama, "in search of new momentum," plans to talk Thursday "with thousands of his most loyal supporters in a nationwide 'strategy call' hosted by Organizing for America."

But can a wholesale shift in strategy still work at this point in the debate? Jonah Goldberg argues that the administration has been "astoundingly incompetent" in selling health care, and that complaints about Republican tactics are "monumentally, incandescently lame coming from a party that controls Washington." Writing on the White House's apparent desire to de-emphasize "bending the cost curve" on health care in favor of more emotional appeals. Mickey Kaus suspects "they've already lost the public opinion battle for the near future. If they now need public opinion to pass the bill in the fall, they aren't going to pass a bill. It turns out you may only get one chance to roll out a giant legislative initiative." But Noam Scheiber is more optimistic, even making the case that liberals' complaints about the White House dropping the public option has helped the White House by pulling "the debate's center of gravity" back to the left, so "Obama now looks like the centrist voice of reason instead of an over-ambitious lefty."

If it's any consolation to Democrats, the public doesn't think any better of the GOP when it comes to health care. The NBC poll found that just 21 percent of approved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care, while 62 percent disapprove. That raises the question of whether the minority's current strategy of incessant criticism without offering a viable alternative will really accrue to its benefit. Jon Kyl defended Republicans' tactics Tuesday, explaining that Americans believe "no matter how bad things are, Congress can always make things worse."

By Ben Pershing  |  August 19, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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So what is Obama "proposing"? The only legislation available for anyone to read is H.R. 3200. There is NO proposal on the table from the White House, and administration officials including the President are out apparently selling H.R. 3200.

From a policy standpoint, there is a great deal to disagree with in H.R. 3200, and the President is making no counter-proposals. The "message problem" as I see it, is that President Obama and the administration are still selling vague concepts, whil the opponents are discussing the not very attractive, nuts-&-bolts details.

Posted by: pilsener | August 19, 2009 9:10 AM


The co-op alternative could prove to be an Obama master stroke -- a decentralized system of publicly-owned and operated health care that's not under the yoke of either Big Government or Big Business.

As a former disciple of Ralph Nader, President Obama understands the virtues of publicly-owned co-ops. No costly and unwieldy bureaucracy, no allegiance to hidden bureaucratic or corporate agendas.

Could it be that once again, the media pundits are underestimating the Obama savvy? This way, he can't be called a "socialist" because co-ops are owned by their members, not the government. And he's not surrendering to corporate interests because co-ops offer the benefits of a decrentralized mutualism, similar to the administration of a mutual fund owned by member-investors.

I hope I haven't given anything away to his political opposition... but I believe there's a sound methodology at work here. Keep the faith.


But President Obama also must dismantle the anti-democratic extrajudicial punishment "matrix" that he inherited from the Bush administration -- because "community stalkers" that comprise a grassroots American Gestapo appear to have infiltrated the health care system, jeopardizing the quality of care for their "targets."


OR http://NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | August 19, 2009 9:46 AM

If we let the government run our healthcare it will be another failure. They can’t run Medicare now and you want them to run everyone’s healthcare? That is so silly. This is nothing but another power grab by the Obama Administration. Just like the reports of a media consulting firm with ties to White House senior strategist David Axelrod has been hired to produce a multi-million dollar ad campaign touting the Obama administration's health care overhaul. How much corruption are we going to let happen before we stop it? Just like the Cash for Clunkers bill, how is getting Americans to turn in cars that are paid off and working fine helping Americans bottom line? This program is going to do the same thing as it did in the mortgage crisis and get people who can’t afford to buy something making payments that they were not making before.
This is the same thinking and policy making that decided that after a mortgage mess that the thing to do is offer people 8K to buy houses. How is that going to help? You are just tempting people to buy things that they can’t afford. Isn’t this how our economy got in this predicament anyway? We need to elect leaders that can make decisions and write legislation that makes since. Not dream up a cockamamie scam to stimulate the economy, not wreck it. It is time to elect leaders that have brains and that are not under the thumb of special interest and lobbyist. By the way, ask yourself this question..Why isn’t the Obama administrations putting the same effort that they are putting into the healthcare take over to putting Americans back to work? He did promise that he would do that. What is more important to you?

Posted by: mongo9584 | August 20, 2009 12:41 PM

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