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What Obama Must Say in Health Care Speech

Theloop21.com, Commentary, Devona Walker Posted: Sep 08, 2009

President Obamas fall from grace in the polls has been startling and nearly unprecedented. He is less favorable now than George W. Bush was at the same time during his first term.

Yet, when Obama won in November, he did so at margins we have not seen in recent history. What happened? As he gives a speech Wednesday to a joint session of Congress (not the back to school speech for students), dont forget for one moment that American voters are his real audience.

Here's what he really must accomplish then in order to turn around the sinking ship of his presidency:

Clearly explain health care reform and the absolutely critical need for it.

The current plans really should be ditched altogether. But Obama doesnt have time to start over. He should have taken the reins before the August recess, because now its become this massive, complicated mess and there is far too much there, making it easy to misinterpret things, including death panels, government-paid abortions and the rationing of care.

Obama will have to clarify five or six details health care reform must have: portability, price caps, no more pre-existing conditions or denial of care, and more competition (see how I said competition and not "public option"). If the president cannot achieve increased competition through a public option, he will have to offer a viable alternative, which the whole co-op proposal is not.

He also must tell America why. Why did he choose this issue to champion? Why now? Perhaps it was being the son of an underinsured woman who died from breast cancer. He must clearly convey why this is good for America and how, in doing this, he is being a good steward of the public good. Moral imperatives aside, he must tell the average American how reform will better her life.

He will have to get his party back in line.

The Democrats in Congress have been all over the place. The progressives are on MSNBC every other day taking shots at Blue Dog Democrats. The conservative Democrats are back home, hiding from senior citizens like little girls. Then you have people like Barney Frank, though he was provoked, condescending to confused citizens. And just to add more stupidity to this foolishness, they all in unison have turned accusing fingers back at the White House.

These folks need to be told to man up and most importantly, to shut up, unless they have something positive to contribute to the cause.

Most importantly, he will have to address governmental spending.

Fox News and GOP lies have ginned up the Republican base, but that base is miniscule. Obamas real problem here is with independents; independents who left the Republican party because of Iraq and out-of-control spending.

As of early August, the deficit was on track to exceed $1.8 trillion a post-war record.

Polls clearly show this is a growing concern, not just among Republicans and independents, but Democrats as well. And it, more than the boisterous town hall meetings or GOP lies, is the biggest drag on the health care reform debate. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the policies laid out in Obama's first budget would require an additional $9 trillion in borrowing over the next decade.

Former President Bill Clinton, it must be remembered, owes his second term to his ability to balance the federal budget. Clinton signed the Deficit Reduction Act in 1995, facing huge opposition from a Republican-controlled Congress. It was part of his now legendary "shift to the middle," which meant abandoning liberal orthodoxy after he realized he didn't need the progressive wing of his party to get key pieces of legislation passed.

Well, Obama still needs the progressives. He will have to be more creative than Clinton in how he approaches deficit spending, and it will be further complicated by health care reform, the recession and the war in Afghanistan. But somehow, hes going to have to figure this one out if he wants to see a second term.

Devona Walker is theloop21.com's senior political/finance reporter and blogger. She has worked for The Associated Press and The New York Times Regional Newspaper group. She may be reached at devona@theloop21.com.

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