President Obama’s crucial speech to a joint session of Congress on health insurance reform leads today’s news, of course. Stock coverage is the name of the game in the two local dailies. An AP story in the Strib notes that “A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. snap poll of people interviewed before and after Wednesday night’s speech indicated that the president shifted public opinion in his favor. After the speech, two-thirds said they supported Obama’s health care proposals, compared with 53 percent in a survey days before the president spoke.”
The PiPress cobbles together reporting from the New York Times, McClatchy and the AP. It notes that many of the basics have been well known, but that “Obama did embrace some fresh proposals. He announced an initiative to create pilot projects aimed at curbing medical malpractice lawsuits — a cause that is important to physicians and Republicans. He adopted an idea put forth by Sen. John McCain, his GOP rival in the 2008 presidential race, for high-risk insurance pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions.”
Neither local paper offers editorial or columnizing on the speech, but the Internet is awash in reaction. In The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan writes, “A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton’s mastery of policy detail with Bush’s under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country’s ability to tackle pressing problems.”
TIME magazine’s Karen Tumulty blogs, “The White House promised more detail tonight, and in that sense, the speech delivered — if only to make more explicit many of the things that Obama has only tacitly dealt with before. But it was a move that was badly needed at this moment. Within the House Chamber, he has provided the guidance that lawmakers have been begging for. But the real question is this: Has Obama provided the reassurance it will take to bring back the rest of the country?”
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post notes: “[F]or all of the details, the most striking aspect of the address may have been its call to battle: The days of taking incoming fire without any return volleys are over.” Several mainstream news observers remark that last night was the first time they heard a president use the word “lie” in reference to his political opposition in a speech to a joint session. But what else do you call charges of “death panels”
and “free insurance for illegal immigrants”? Misstatements?
Speaking of volleys, consider Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who yelled, “You lie,” at Obama when the president reassured his audience that illegal immigrants would not be covered under his insurance reform plan. He was not only swatted down by John McCain and almost immediately issued an apology but, according to ABC News, immediately enriched his Democratic opponent in next year’s campaign. George Stephanopoulos writes, “[O]vernight Wilson’s opponent, former Marine Joe Miller, received 3,000 individual contributions totaling about $100,000.”
On the Power Line blog, John Hinderaker does what neither paper dares … dissect the speech for his audience and take a stand on it. He complains about Obama’s charge that “bickering” must end, saying, “Debating public policy issues is not ‘bickering.’ Disagreeing with a proposal to radically change one of the largest sectors of our economy is not a ‘game.’ This kind of gratuitous insult — something we never heard from President Bush, for example — is one of the reasons why many consider Obama to be mean-spirited.” The whole post is worth a read, although Hinderaker neglects to make mention of the official Republican counter-proposal on insurance reform or all the health reform legislation offered during the Bush era. Oh, wait …
Also, on the Joe “You Lie!” Wilson incident, Hinderaker’s colleague Scott Johnson posts an excerpt from a commenter asserting that “[Obama’s] speech must be condemned on the same grounds as Wilson’s outburst. Before Wilson’s outburst, Obama — delivering prepared remarks — had already accused his opponents of lying–not by name, to be sure, but as “prominent politicians.” And in doing so, he explicitly attributed malicious motives to them.” The commenter adds, “It would be interesting to know whether any president before now has ever done this in a formal address to congress. And it would be interesting to speculate on what the formal penalty should be for doing so. A prime minister must in a parliamentary democracy avoid unparliamentary language, as must any other member of parliament. What should happen when the speaker is the president, appearing as invited guest?” In an ideal world, the mainstream press would ferret out the facts to the matter and publish a report making unconditionally clear who is speaking truthfully and who is, well, “lying.”
The Strib launched an (unscientific) poll asking readers their attitudes toward Obama’s health insurance reform plan. At dawn today 52 percent were unequivocally in favor with 38 percent opposed.
The Strib may not have anything to say on last night’s rather significant speech, but it does go out on a limb with an “opinion” piece congratulating us all on another successful State Fair.
He may have lost to Al Franken, but little by little Norm Coleman’s legal miseries are ebbing away. The Federal Election Commission has cleared his office of any improprieties regarding using campaign funds to defend himself in that twisty business involving his pal Nasser Kazeminy down in Texas. The Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger files a brief story on the ruling. She reminds readers, “Coleman told the commission at the time that he had not spent any campaign funds in his defense and later asked the FEC for permission to pay any legal fees related to the lawsuits concerning his campaign donations.”