Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Populist Prescription from Barack Obama

Health care is the subject on everybody's lips, especially those running for office. Members of both major political parties have laid out their platforms on this issue as they either campaign for office or prepare to do so, but there is dissent within each party as well. Barack Obama created quite a stir yesterday with his reaction to comments on Hillary Clinton's failed attempt at reform back in 1993. The Associated Press provides a relevant quote from his Sac City, Iowa, appearance:

"It was a closed process and not everybody understood what was taking place, so when the insurance companies and the drug companies started running those 'Harry and Louise' ads, nobody really knew what was what. That's why the American people have to be involved."

After Clinton's plan was proposed, special interest groups ran the commercials, featuring a fictional couple worrying about losing their ability to pick their own doctors and warning that the government would take control of the health care system. Support for the health care expansion evaporated and the effort was eventually dropped.

Obama said the lesson to be learned was to involve the American people in the effort. Without political support, no health care expansion can be approved, he said.

Obama then followed the announcement of his more populist approach with the statement that he would announce outlines of a health care reform package in his first 100 days as President. The details of this package would then be drafted by a bi-partisan commission. Alec McGillis at The Washington Post takes note of the tactical change this represents within the overall debate:

The remarks were a new twist on the health care debate that has played a dominant role so far in the Democratic race -- until now, most of the candidates have focused on the differences between their plans, not how they would go about actually getting reform enacted. The comments also represented a variation on a theme that Obama first introduced in an interview with The Washington Post last month -- that he would be in a better position to unite the country than would Clinton, given her polarizing reputation among many voters. And it is a rebuttal of sorts to the argument Clinton has been making on the trail in recent days -- that she, unlike Obama, has the experience to know how to work within the system to get things done. In Clinton's highest-profile bid for reform, Obama is reminding voters, the system won.

SOURCE: "Obama Vows Open Health Reform Process " 09/05/07
SOURCE: "Obama Draws Clinton Contrast" 09/05/07
photo courtesy of SEIU International on Flickr remixed and used under this Creative Commons license

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