Does President Obama have a spine?
What is happening in the White House these days? It seems as if Barack Obama is facing a crisis of confidence, and as a result, his party is on the horns of a dilemma. Do you proceed with one of your most important pieces in the legislation? Or do you acquiesce, and deliver a reform bill without much bite that will not appreciably change the status quo? There is blow-back and anger from democrats over the possible concession of the public option, a so-called staple of any health care reform package. The president is risking not only losing the centerpiece legislation of his presidency, but the faith and backing of his own party. Is this an act of simple cowardice? Or is this the smart political play, done to preserve some type of centrist approach to pass reform?
The public option is a necessary component of health care reform, if your objective is to reduce costs that insurance companies will charge. It will provide competition for the large health industry, and also be able to negotiate with hospitals, doctors and private insurers to ensure the best rates for consumers. If the president is wilting under the enormous pressure from half of the populace, republicans and the insurance lobby, then he is failing. He is failing his party, and those that elected him to reform a broken health care system. A failure in leadership is tantamount to cowardice.
In my mind, the president has failed to do two things effectively in regards to promoting reform: (1) He has not adequately addressed how reform will be paid for, and whether it will truly be deficit neutral. (2) Since close to 80% of Americans have health care insurance, the president needed to assuage their fears, zeroing in on the benefits to them with reform. Not just the oft-repeated mantra of keeping your insurance, keeping your doctor, but actually explaining what they gain from reform. Given the split in the country on this issue, it makes sense to tell the people who may think they have no vested interest in reform, that they do have one.
President Obama is a pragmatist, a necessary skill to govern in a center-right country as a liberal politician. The question is, When do you forgo pragmatism, and use your gut? The president needs a spine of steel to move the meter on the tough issues. So far, I don’t see anything resembling steel and toughness emanating from the white house. Now is the time to show it.