Obama will emphasize two words

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.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ann Berget on 09/09/2009 - 11:45 am.

    The conversations I hear among friends and colleagues is not one about “stability” and “security”. It is one about “cost reduction” for consumers. It is folly to adopt a plan that mandates individuals to purchase coverage (or face substantial fines if they don’t) before the costs of coverage are reduced. Any credible reform plan MUST reduce costs to consumers and MUST contain a public option.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/09/2009 - 01:16 pm.

    and the only way to do THAT is to either get the insurance companies out of the picture altogether (changing health care from a commodity to a public service) or to regulate them much more tightly.
    All else is bandaid.

  3. Submitted by John E Iacono on 09/09/2009 - 03:04 pm.

    If he talks about prohibiting insurers from declining anyone who applies, people will listen. But he had better also say how the insurers will be stopped from jacking up premiums even higher to cover the added risk.

    If he talks about putting caps on malpractice awards beyond actual damages, people will listen. But he had better also reassure them that actual damages will not be limited, and that attorneys’ fees won’t be allowed to eat up the proceeds.

    If he talks about coverage for all, he will be heard. But he had better explain how he will pay for this, and not by suggesting “the other guy” or the insurance company will pay for it.

    If he talks about cutting COSTS, not just payments, people will cheer. But he had better not then just talk about cutting PAYMENTS, which people know will only cut back on care.

    If he talks about mandating that every citizen buy health insurance, and/or forcing all employers to provide it or pay a tax, he will lose employers’ support, and — if the cost is not limited — will presage the end of the employer shared health care plan in America.

    The problem is, every one of these things will cost him a block of voters, a block of representatives and senators, and a block of political contributors.

    We’ll see tonight how big a price he is ready to pay for a bill fixing current health care problems.

  4. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/09/2009 - 03:08 pm.

    I dunno I think stability is a great word choice. Also am fine with security and re energize. Good article.

  5. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/09/2009 - 03:45 pm.

    Paul Brandon, yes. Absolutely.

    I hope the president has realized that fearubg tge politically risky matters not a whit when most of the “loyal (oh yes?) opposition” is bent upon destroying him and his administration instead of making any constructive contribution to this much-needed change. Just do it.

  6. Submitted by Tim Nelson on 09/09/2009 - 04:20 pm.

    I agree with the first two posters, Ann, and Paul.

    The two words should be “regulate”, and “tightly”.

  7. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 09/10/2009 - 08:33 am.

    I would go with hope and change that seemed to work.

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