8 a.m. ET: 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?
As Obama works on his address, Max Baucus sought to move the ball forward on the Hill Monday by circulating a draft of the Finance Committee's proposed legislation. The Washington Post reports that Baucus' proposal "sets forth provisions that have already gained the [Gang of Six's] unofficial support and adds nothing that the group has not already deliberated," though Democrats still fear that Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi will back away from making a deal. David Rogers writes that Obama "might want to rethink how he uses the House" to move the legislation forward, and that while the Senate has grown increasingly "dysfunctional" and partisan, "the real House — with a much expanded, more diverse Democratic Caucus after the 2008 elections — offers the better testing ground for the president as he tries to reassert himself on health care." Roll Call reports that some House liberals say they are willing to consider a "trigger" approach if they can't get a full-fledged public option, a key concession.
Today, meanwhile, Obama will deliver an address to the nation's schoolchildren urging them -- brace yourselves -- "to persevere in their studies, stay in school, discover their passions and wash their hands," the Washington Post writes. (Obama also plans to pass them a note in study hall asking, "Do you like me? Check yes or no.") After Obama's planned speech (and a mistake by the Department of Education) sparked an odd round of controversy, the White House released the text of his remarks Monday. Jim Greer -- the Florida GOP head who helped drive the story by warning that children might be exposed to Obama's "socialist ideology" -- now says, having read the text, that "it's a good speech" and he has no problem letting his own kids watch it. Several school districts had yet to decide over the weekend whether to air the speech, though perhaps the release of the text will make that decision easier.
With Congress back today and so much other news brewing, the White House surely hopes the Van Jones story has passed. Newsweek asks,
"Jones’ comments were indeed inappropriate, but did he really need to resign?" Given the number of different fronts on which the administration is currently battling, the answer has to be yes, right? Byron York notes how long it took the media to latch onto the Jeremiah Wright story in 2008, and wonders why the mainstream media -- particularly the New York Times -- paid so little attention to the Jones controversy.
In Massachusetts, Joseph Kennedy II has decided not to run for the Senate seat of this late uncle, a move that throws the field open to more entrants and all but ensures a competitive Democratic primary. The Boston Globe writes that Kennedy's move "probably end[s] the family’s half-century of political dominance in Massachusetts." Martha Coakley and Stephen Lynch are now in the race (and would have been regardless of Kennedy's decision), while Ed Markey, John Tierney and Michael Capuano now have decisions to make. The Fix points out that "Coakley is almost certain to have two 'onlys' going for her in the Dec. 8 Democratic special election primary: she will be the only statewide elected official running and she will be the only woman in the field." On the Republican side, Kerry Healey has decided not to run, leaving Scott Brown as the most likely GOP contender unless a higher-profile name (Andrew Card?) gets in.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.
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