Did Obama Accomplish Anything With His Health-Care Presser?

As we predicted last night, the biggest news coming out of last night’s prime-time press conference was President Obama’s reaction to the professor Gates arrest. But, as little attention as it’s receiving, for the vast majority of the hour-long health-care presser, Obama was indeed talking about health care. Whether he did so convincingly, however, is another question. Critics on the right accuse of him of being overly simplistic and Pollyannaish, and some on the left thought he lacked the clarity and brevity to make his arguments effective. Even so, others believe Obama was able to begin refocusing the debate on his terms — how health-care reform will help everybody, and why we can’t stick with the status quo.

  • The editors of the National Review claim Obama offered “outlandish promises about benefits and patently dishonest denials of the costs.” Thankfully, “the president does not in fact seem capable of persuading the public that he and congressional Democrats have found the magic cure-all for our health-care ills.” [National Review]
  • Brian Beutler thinks Obama’s goal last night was reframing the debate by speaking of “the status quo as an ‘alternative plan’ that will double health care costs over 10 years.” He also made a point to use the term “health insurance reform” instead of “health care reform.” [TPMDC]
  • Joe Klein agrees that the “key point that [Obama] hammered was the ugliness of the status quo.” It was also notable that Obama gave himself “wiggle room” to tax the middle class. Overall, “the ease, fluency and grasp of detail — and the ability to use vivid examples that made this complicated subject accessible to most Americans — made this an impressive performance.”[Swampland/Time]
  • E.J. Dionne says Obama is trying to refocus his “marketing campaign” on the Americans who already have insurance, and how reform will benefit them, such as “preventing companies from ‘dropping your coverage if you get too sick’ and limits on co-pays.” [Post Partisan/WP]
  • John R. Graham believes Obama “achieved nothing” and “has only the slightest understanding of what he’s talking about.” He vastly oversimplified the health-care system and took “a few easy hits on the health insurers and drug companies.” [Critical Condition/National Review]
  • Tevi Troy concurs, singling out Obama’s assertion that we can simply eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures. “[I]t is not as if there is a simple black and white line delineating which tests are truly necessary and which tests are wasteful.” It’s also unrealistic to expect Americans to “give up things that don’t make them healthier,” as Obama said. [Critical Condition/National Review]
  • William Kristol says “Obama promised us health care this [sic] is at once better and cheaper, with both more regulation and more freedom to choose, featuring an assurance that government won’t limit our care and a commitment to a government panel that will save money by restricting care.” He would be “surprised if the president changed any minds, because he never seriously tried to address criticism of his proposal on the merits.” [Post Partisan/WP]
  • Mickey Kaus parses Obama’s language on tax increases and concludes that “it’s hard to see how Obama hasn’t given a flashing green light to non-trivial tax increases on middle class families.” [Kausfiles/Slate]
  • Jonathan Cohn is struck by “Obama’s willingness … to speak candidly about his health plan, even if that meant giving openings to some of his critics.” Instead of “minimizing the scope of change he was promoting,” Obama “spent most of his time this evening explaining why things had to be different.” In other words, he “wanted to speak to America like adults,” though “[t]ime will tell whether that faith in the public’s patience and judgment is well-placed.” [Treatment/New Republic]
  • Kevin Drum was wholly unimpressed with Obama’s performance last night. “Obama avoided giving direct answers, rambled a lot, kept interrupting himself with asides, and didn’t explain things in terms that ordinary viewers were likely to understand. He’s supposed to be the communicator-in-chief, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people came away more confused than they were when they tuned in.” [Kevin Drum/Mother Jones]
  • Marc Ambinder says Obama spoke “from a 30,000 foot perspective: wanting Americans to buy into the notion that health care reform is imperative and won’t cause much sacrifice for most Americans.” [Atlantic]
  • Chris Cilizza notes that one of Obama’s goals “was to directly rebut charges leveled against him and his health care plan by Republicans.” But his “underlying message” was that “changing the health-care system wasn’t about simply covering the people who don’t have health insurance but rather about making health care affordable and portable for all Americans.” [Fix/WP]
  • Megan McArdle doesn’t think liberals should worry about Obama’s lacking performance, because few people were probably paying attention anyway and his answer on professor Gates is getting the most attention. “If a press conference falls in the summer doldrums, and nobody watches it, does it really matter?” [Atlantic]
  • Fred Barnes claims Obama “strained credulity, to put it charitably, with a number of his statements,” as when “he insisted that insuring the uninsured will save money ‘in the long term.’” [Weekly Standard]
  • Craig Crawford says Obama filibustered his way through the press conference. [Trail Mix/CQ Politics]
  • Mark Halperin believes that the presser is “unlikely to have an impact on either the inside game (the strategic battle with Congress) or the outside game (convincing the American people to jump on board).” Obama will have to add more “passion and anger” if he wants to “shake things up and counter flagging public support.” [Time]

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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