Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:55 PM ET, 05/12/2009

Robert Pear writes in the New York Times: "President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda....For the health care and insurance executives, the savings initiative helps them secure a seat at the table where many decisions about their future will be made in the next year. They also ingratiated themselves with Democrats in the White House and Congress who are moving swiftly to reshape the nation’s health care system." But, Pear writes: "If history is a guide, their commitments may not produce the promised savings. Their proposals are vague — promising, for example, to reduce both 'overuse and underuse of health care.' None of the proposals are enforceable, and none of the savings are guaranteed."

Ceci Connolly and David Hilzenrath write in The Washington Post that "the industry's promises fell well short of the White House's expansive claims...Asked whether the groups were saying Obama could count on them to reduce the growth rate of health-care spending by 1.5 percentage points annually, Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, one of the six groups, said: 'I don't know if they can do that. What the groups have said is that they are stepping up to do whatever they can to bend the cost curve' and 'that they are committed to find cost savings in their own sector.'"

Robert Reich writes for TPM Cafe that all the reform proposals discussed yesterday have "been talked about for years. The reason none have been adopted is health providers and insurers can make more money without them. Only with a government plan that competes with private insurers, and offers Americans lower costs if the providers and insurers fail to reform themselves, will the system be genuinely reformed."

Jackie Calmes writes in the New York Times: "Struggling to find ways to pay for the president’s signature health care overhaul, the administration on Monday proposed to raise nearly $60 billion more over 10 years mostly from tightening rules for inheritance taxes affecting the wealthiest estates."

Robert Barnes and Michael D. Shear write in The Washington Post: "Justice David H. Souter's departure from the Supreme Court gives the first African American president a historic opportunity to break another barrier by appointing the first Hispanic to the nation's highest court."

James Oliphant and David G. Savage write in the Los Angeles Times: "As President Obama's search for a Supreme Court justice progresses, it appears the White House has locked in on two competing sets of nominees: those who have traditional judicial and academic backgrounds and another group that comes from what might be called the 'real world.'

Michael Slackman reports from Cairo for the New York Times: "President Obama’s decision to deliver a speech here next month has given significant encouragement to a once powerful ally that has grown increasingly frustrated over its waning regional influence and its inability to explain to its citizens why it remains committed to a Middle East peace process that has failed to produce a better life for Palestinians....Still, President Obama’s decision to address a deeply skeptical Arab audience from Cairo is fraught with potential land mines, according to political analysts, human rights advocates and government officials."

Josh Gerstein writes for Politico: "An initiative President Barack Obama launched to give the public more access to the inner workings of government is under fire for cutting the public out of the process...'This process is taking place in a black hole,' said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). 'I think it’s very distressing because of the subject matter.'"

William Kristol writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "Battling Barack Obama is an enterprise that offers better grounds for Republican hope than indulging in spasms of introspection or bouts of petty recrimination....Republicans should be making the case against Obama's policies now so that citizens know whom to blame next year."

Rachel L. Swarns writes in the New York Times: "On tap at the White House on Tuesday night? A poetry jam — with smooth jazz, cool verses and spoken word. The literary and musical event in the East Room will include the actor James Earl Jones, the writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman (who are husband and wife), the jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding and the pianist Eric Lewis....The event, which is scheduled to begin at 7:45 p.m., will be shown live at www.whitehouse.gov."

Digby blogs about the faux outrage over comedian Wanda Sykes's comments about talk-show host Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner: "They should just get rid of these stupid events. Every year the press corps demonstrates what idiots they are. They get huffy when the joke's aimed at them, they think it's hilarious when it is crudely personal and aimed directly at the first lady, they laugh uproariously when the president jokes about not finding weapons of mass destruction but get the vapors when somebody takes aim at Rush Limbaugh. Really, it's just too ridiculous."

Mark Knoller blogs for CBS News on the identity -- and backstory -- of the guy in the Captain Hook costume who turned up in an Oval Office photo Obama showed as part of his comedy routine Saturday night.

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