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Obama defends Senate bill, distances himself from public option

December 23rd, 2009, 05:12 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama sat down with The Washington Post for an interview on health reform:

In the interview, Obama offered a vigorous defense of the legislation and the priorities he set out in shaping it, saying he is “not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved.”

He said the Senate legislation accomplishes “95 percent” of what he called for during his 2008 presidential campaign and in his September speech to a joint session of Congress on the need for health-care reform.

In listing those priorities, Obama cited the 30 million uninsured Americans projected to receive coverage, budget estimates of more than $1 trillion in savings over the next two decades, a “patients’ bill of rights on steroids” to protect consumers from being dropped by insurance companies, and tax breaks to help small businesses pay to cover employees.

Obama said the public option “has become a source of ideological contention between the left and right.” But, he added, “I didn’t campaign on the public option.”

On the question of whether he campaigned on the public option, President Obama’s statement is inaccurate, although like many policy details, it didn’t find its way into his stump speech. As President, he’s gone as far as saying the argument against it defies logic and that it must be included in the final reform bill.

On the broader question of whether the bill reflects President Obama’s campaign plan, Ezra Klein and Marcy Wheeler take opposing views, Klein saying it does, Wheeler saying it doesn’t.

As Paul Krugman points out, however, health care reform isn’t about Barack Obama.

But back to Obama: the important thing to bear in mind is that this isn’t about him; and, equally important, it isn’t about you. If you’ve fallen out of love with a politician, well, so what? You should just keep working for the things you believe in.

Krugman is right. Whether President Obama’s campaign plan matches the current legislation shouldn’t determine whether you support or oppose this legislation — or whether or not you continue fighting for reform. Similarly, President Obama shouldn’t let himself get suckered into a debate whether this plan deviates from his campaign plan. Not only is such a debate orthogonal to the question of whether this reform plan is good or not (personally, I think it’s an imperfect improvement over status quo), it’s also a debate he’s going to have trouble winning.

Join the discussion in TomP’s recommended diary, President Obama: “I Didn’t Campaign on the Public Option.” and also in itsbenj’s recommended diary Obama in WaPo – “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.”

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