Obama’s Big Speech: Tough Talk and Bad GOP Behavior

Posted in General by TBartine on September 10, 2009 No Comments yet

After a week of being forced to watch the 24-hour news networks attempt to predict what President Obama “would say” in his Health Care address to a joint session of Congress…we finally can talk about what Obama “actually DID say.

The full text of the speech, as well as video clips may be found here.  At the very bottom of the page, they’ve provided the full video.

Most agree that the speech was the speech the president “needed to give,” and supporters of the president and the health care reform plan seem pleased at both the forceful tone and the items specifically mentioned and emphasized…some as gone as far as to say it was one of Obama’s strongest speeches which, given his history of strong and persuasive oratory, is really making a bold statement.  Some highlights:

  • The president CLEARLY called out Republicans who have been spreading falsehoods about the plan, and specific falsehoods were mentioned and individually condemned.  This was necessary…because I think we can all agree that legislators who are familiar with the plan, going home to their constituents and intentionally making false and incendiary claims about the plan, represent the very pinnacle of irresponsible leadership and representation.  The message was clear: if you lie to the American people for political purposes…prepare to be called out.
  • The president forcefully called for there to be an option available to citizens, other than private insurance.  To the surprise of some, this did not seem limited to the public option, but rather included other ideas…and the president openly called for fresh ideas towards this purpose to be provided from both sides of the aisle.  In essence, it seemed to “reopen the discussion” as to how to provide people with a low cost alternative.
  • Some had hoped the president would condemn the breakdown of bipartisanship, and issue threats of Democratic Party “going it alone.”  Instead, he made numerous calls for more productive bipartisan discussions.
  • The president clearly asserted both the economic imperative in terms of the rationale for “health reform NOW,” but also at the closing of the speech spoke to the moral imperative of providing all our fellow Americans with the assurance, stability, and security of health care.
  • In terms of the “public option,” the president seemed to say that it will not appear for four years, at which point it will be simply one aspect of the “health insurance exchange” which will be created to regulate and aggregate the sale of insurance policies.  This was met with some surprise; I don’t think this is how most people previously interpreted the policy.

For snippets from the reactions of various media outlets, visit here.  You’ll notice that most reviews lean strongly towards the positive…and the American people seem to agree, with polls shifting significantly in the president’s favor.

Here the AP’s Calvin Woodward provides some quick fact-checking on just a few of the claims in Obama’s speech:

For those interested, Factcheck.org does a nice job here of rounding up and addressing the top seven current myths about Health Care Reform.  The one receiving the most attention right now…is the myth that the plan would provide health care to illegal immigrants, which is not true…not even “kind of” true…and the reason it is receiving so much attention is due to the behavior last night of one legislator: Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC).

Wilson, when the president had finished addressing the false claim about illegal immigrants, clearly shouted “You lie!” from the crowd, resulting in some very interesting looks from the president, vice president, and Speaker of the House…as well as jeers from his fellow legislators:

To be fair to Representative Wilson…he wasn’t the only “Republican behaving badly.”  Many GOP members brought oddly immature signs and props, as if this was some sort of “big town hall,” and not a joint session of Congress featuring a speech from the Chief Executive and Commander-In-Chief of the United States.  Wilson, however, was the only one foolish enough to shout at the president…and on a position where he is CLEARLY mistaken.

Reactions were swift. Both Democrats and Republicans condemned Wilson’s behavior, using the very strongest possible terms.  Here, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) voices his disapproval:

Wilson, in light of the harsh criticism, was quick to apologize and the president has since accepted the apology.  But the damage had already been done…not to the president or to health care reform…but to Joe Wilson:

  • Far-right groups, following their current inclination to take the low, undignified road…have declared Wilson a “hero.”  This, of course, will serve only to drive more independent, moderate, and civilized people away from the conservative camp.  The Palmetto Scoop, a conservative publication in South Carolina, is even going so far as to print up “I’m With Joe Wilson” t-shirts.  What?  You’re “with Joe” on mistakenly believing that immigrants are included in the reform plan?  You’re “with Joe” on behaving like a childish, misinformed, undisciplined boor during a speech by the PRESIDENT?
  • Someone’s benefitting, though…Rob Miller is the Democrat running against Wilson in the 2010 election.  Since Wilson’s outburst…he’s raised $350,000 in campaign donations.
  • Of course…you choose to thrust yourself into the white-hot glare of the media spotlight, you don’t get to choose who pays increased attention to you.  Since last night’s speech, a number of articles have surfaced containing some very interesting information regarding Wilson.  On the Raw Story website, Sue Sturgis brings to our attention some information gleaned from the Center for Responsive Politics’ database: “over his entire congressional career, health professionals represent Wilson’s top industry contributors, donating a total of $244,196 to his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org database. He received another $86,150 from pharmaceutical companies, $73,050 from insurance companies and $68,000 from hospitals and nursing homes.
  • More bad news for Joe Wilson:  The Washington Post‘s Mary Ann Akers dug up the fact that Wilson’s behavior…may have even violated House rules regarding decorum.  Section 370 states that members of the House of Representatives may not: “Call the President a ‘liar.’ Call the President a ‘hypocrite.’ Describe the President’s veto of a bill as ‘cowardly.’ Charge that the President has been ‘intellectually dishonest.’ Refer to the President as ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’ Refer to alleged ‘sexual misconduct on the President’s part.’
  • But perhaps one of the best criticisms of Wilson’s behavior came from Major General Paul D. Eaton.  He points out that as a retired Army Colonel…Wilson should have know better, should have behaved better, and should have shown the proper respect to the Commander-In-Chief…and that in failing to do so, Wilson brings shame on himself, the GOP, and the Army.  Nice

The words I’m hearing most are “game changer.”  Many seem to think that, at the very least, the speech will serve to unite Democrats…and perhaps shame one or two Republicans into supporting the bill.  Obama’s emphasis on the making it illegal to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, will do quite a bit to apply political pressure to centrist Democrats and Republicans.  But it’s funny….some things never change, and I’ll leave you with the conversation I overhead from the cubicle next to mine this morning:

COWORKER #1:  Did you see Obama’s speech last night?

COWORKER #2:  No I did not.  But I’m sure it was a good speech…and I’m sure it fooled a lot of people who don’t know any better…

COWORKER #3:  Just because you can give a good speech doesn’t mean you know anything.  Yeah, I didn’t watch it either.

COWORKER #2:  I wish people could see what’s really going on…he’s gonna give everything away…more socialism…

COWORKER #3:  He’s a Marxist!

COWORKER #2:  No more private industry…he’s gonna give it away one at a time until nothing’s left…

COWORKER #3:  He’s a Marxist…you know he is a Marxist?  What is that one thing he said…it was, like, the first line out of Marxism!

COWORKER #2:  I just wish people could learn from history…they just can’t see what’s gonna happen.

COWORKER #1:  You talk with your daughter about it?

COWORKER #2:  Naw.  She’s gone all liberal, I just don’t understand it…

COWORKER #1:  When’d that happen?

COWORKER #2: When she went off to college…I just don’t get it.

COWORKER #3:  She just doesn’t know yet.  At that age they think they know everything…and have you heard about all the czars!

COWORKER #2:  Yeah.

COWORKER #3:  They gotta do something…get rid of some of these czars!

At this point, I felt it best to leave and take my morning break…before their conversation succeeded in sucking the intelligence right out of me.  It just proves…no matter what was said, or how it was said…some will never hear it.  Some, upon hearing it, will either still fail to understand, or will wait for someone else (ie. FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck) to tell them what they are supposed to think about it.