The pros and cons of Obama's 'big speech'

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I asked a few folks yesterday for the pros and cons of President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday, an effort to revive a flagging health care reform effort.

Not all of the responses came back in time for me to include them in my newspaper article, but one of them in particular was so good that I’m including it in its entirety here.

Here is ThinkProgress’ Faiz Shakir’s breakdown:

Cons: Obama has had so many “big speeches” on health care that people will tune this out.

Cons: if he doesn’t say anything new, the status quo is that he loses health care.

Cons: the timing might not be right because the major obstacle right now is the Senate (particularly Baucus and his gang), and the speech may do little to address that.

Pros: if he comes out with a truly new tough speech that lays out the details he wants and identifies the opponents who are standing in the way, then it could be a game-changing moment.

Pros: he can reframe the health care debate. Right now, it’s being dominated by crazy talk and right-wing conspiracy theories (death panels, seniors losing health care, illegal immigrants getting care, etc). If he does this right, he can change what people are talking about — change it so that it’s on his terms. He’s got to pick a fight I think. With who? Could be insurers, could be Republicans, could even be the uncompromising left. Not sure.

Faiz said he was personally in favor of “coming out with a strong stance in favor of public option, saying that he’s going to fight for it even it means losing the presidency because it’s the right thing to do, and that he’s got no good faith negotiators on the right because they all want to see him lose.”

Norm Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, also added this:

There is always a risk that a president heightens the stakes and then loses. Or that he moves to get extraordinary public attention focused on an issue, but no one responds. But this is, on balance, a good move for Obama. It will signal to all that it is time to go into a new gear on health reform, help to reshape the issue on his terms, and lay out parameters for Congress. Assuming that it is followed by action in the House and Senate, as is very likely (not right away, but soon) it will work to his advantage. On balance, the right thing to do.

— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times

Follow me on Twitter // jward@washingtontimes.com // Read my latest articles here // My YouTube channel

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