President Barack Obama’s spokesters are being understandably cagey about the big health care speech to Congress and the nation tonight (at 7, CDT). Press secretary Robert Gibbs told the gaggle on Air Force One this a.m. that the speech wasn’t done yet. (Well, I sure hope it’s almost done.)
There are two words that Gibbs uses every time he’s asked about the speech, and yesterday, when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius put out an audio clip advancing the speech, she used the same two, so I feel pretty sure that the prez will rely on them.
‘Security’ and ‘stability’
Your guess is as good as mine how he will deploy those concepts, but here’s mine.
It means that he will be focusing on the benefits of his health care plan to those who have insurance now. Security (I’m guessing) means you won’t lose your insurance (because you have reached an annual dollar limit or a lifetime dollar limit). Stability means (perhaps) that the constant above-inflationary increases of what you pay (or your share, if you have an employer subsidy) will be stabilized.
There is also substantial warning (Sen. Harry Reid, who met with Obama yesterday about the speech, has been emphasizing this) of some of the big lies opponents of his health care plans have been spreading. (Reid called them “ridiculous falsehoods.”)
We have been told that the president will clarify what he wants and doesn’t want in the bill, presumably giving some new formulation about the famed “public option” (which Obama has been signaling for a few weeks he favors but upon which he won’t insist).
I’ve been stewing for days about a line in a Wash Post piece from last week, based on interviews with those ubiquitous “senior administration officials,” that said “favoring one proposal over another carries political risks, potentially limiting what Obama might be able to claim as a victory.” Boy, do I hope he is worrying about bigger fish than what he can claim as a victory.
The other big word in all the look-ahead pieces about the speech has been “re-energize.” Obama seeks to re-energize the push for a health care bill.
I have to confess, I don’t have a good feeling that it will be easy to bake those ingredients into a very tasty pie. Sure seems that we have heard all these themes before. The overall of the past three months (and perhaps of the Clinton-care debacle as well) is that it’s easier to scare Americans about change than it is to scare them about the status quo.
I wouldn’t want to be the poor slob (or more likely slobs) in charge of making this work tonight. All of the talk about Obama’s entire presidency riding on the speech (Bill O’Reilly last night, among others) is probably over the top. But just this minute it does seem that this is going to be one we remember for longer than a news cycle, for good or ill. I will be watching and will file in the a.m.