Skip to content

Argus Hamilton

Argus Hamilton

Posted: Monday, August 17, 2009 3:35 pm
By: Argus Hamilton

 By DOUGLAS COHN and ELEANOR CLIFT WASHINGTON — President Obama really shouldn’t be faulted for doing too much at once. Much needs to be done. After eight years of an administration wholly focused on the war against terrorism, domestic policy was has languished. Where Obama should be faulted is his lack of clarity on health care reform. Too many voters can tell you what Rush Limbaugh and former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, are saying about what Obama might do and none of it is good. Who can say what Obama proposes? Like the rest of us, Obama is waiting to see what emerges from the sausage factory on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee, the only one of five committees in the House and Senate where a handful of Republicans are engaged (if three counts as a handful) has yet to produce a bill. When it does, presumably after the August recess, then the various House and Senate bills have to be combined and voted on before Obama knows what he’s got, and that’s the problem. He’s selling a product whose provisions are not yet determined, and he’s asking Americans to take it on faith that it will meet the principles that he outlined. Those principles as best we can decipher them are health care that is broadly available to everyone, insurance regulation that bans discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and a public option where everybody has access to a basic health plan that is affordable and government-subsidized. The public option has generated the most heat with Republicans opposing it as a government takeover of health care and liberal Democrats insisting that without it, health reform cannot happen. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-S.D., trying to win Republican support, proposed health-insurance co-ops as a way to get around government control but still deliver care through a non-profit, member-controlled entity. Whether that will work substantively or politically is anybody’s guess, and in the meantime, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and all the conservative critics of Obama are having a grand time demonizing whatever Obama and the Democrats propose. These extreme voices have taken over the Republican Party, and now they’re on the brink of sabotaging the entire health care plan. The angry people disrupting town hall meetings around the country may or may not be tools of the Right. Either way, they’re not the problem. The problem is the lack of a credible rebuttal from the Obama side. Organizing for America, the extension of the Obama campaign apparatus, has had start-up problems and is discovering it’s not so easy to get people excited on behalf of a policy proposal. When Obama needs strong public backing, the vaunted Obama network turns out not to be so vaunted after all. Still, you can’t fault them either when the problem starts at the top. Listening to Obama at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire this week, he’s an expert on just about every facet of health care reform except one, and that’s the KISS factor. Keep it simple stupid. He’s got to find a way to explain in clear layman’s language why health care reform is important and why people who have insurance will benefit in addition to the 50 million people who don’t have insurance. It’s not that Obama has to dumb down what he’s proposing. But he has to find a few simple declarative sentences that will reassure people they will be better off when his reform is implemented. And by the way, Mr. President, what is your reform? It’s a good thing that your staff has put up a web site to fact-check all the lies and rumors swirling around. But you can’t answer something with nothing. You’re on the verge of losing the public if you don’t come up with a clear message soon. You are losing due to an absence of clarity. Published in The Messenger 8.17.09

Leave a Comment