Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Barack Obama delivers special address to Congress on healthcare reform

Congress is finally back from its August recess, and healthcare reform is taking center stage tonight as President Barack Obama addresses a special joint session of Congress on the issue. The President is expected to denounce the scare tactics the right wing has used to scare Americans into doubting the wisdom of doing any reform, call for Congress to pull together and get something done, and explain the basic elements and principles that comprise the reform proposal.

HERE WE GO, 5:15 PM: The President is at the podium...

LAYING THE BACKGROUND, 5:20 PM: The President began his address by observing that his first priority upon taking office had been to act to save our nation's troubled financial system and rescue the economy. But, he continued, launching into the subject of his address - to resounding applause - "We did not come here just to clean up crises. We came here to build a future." He added:
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.
Nice of the President to offer a shout out to Representative Dingell.

A CALL TO ACTION, 5:30 PM: The President reminded Congress that America is the world's only advanced democracy that does such a poor job of providing healthcare coverage to its people.

"Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point," the President declared. "Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans."

DEFENDING THE PUBLIC OPTION, 5:45 PM: The President denounced the right wing's "death panel" myths as a lie, and similarly labeled the rumor that his plan will provide unlimited healthcare to immigrants who have not obtained their citizenship status as a falsehood. He spoke up in favor of the public option, which he insisted is only one element in his plan. He said, in part:
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance
(Emphasis added). The President went on to say:
It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
CONCLUSION, 6:05 PM: The President delivered one of the strongest, most eloquent, and most emotional rhetorical finishes to a speech that I can ever remember just a few minutes ago.

He referenced a letter delivered to him from Senator Edward Kennedy upon Teddy's death, and went on to deliver a passionate rejoinder to right wing's long-running psychological assault on progressivism and government.
That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people's shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress.
The conclusion mixed a sense of history, a moral call to action, and an untold story to send a powerful message: This is our moment. Healthcare reform simply can't wait. The status quo will not suffice. Too many Americans are suffering from an immoral, broken system that puts profit ahead of people.

In the President's words, "We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."


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