- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chief speechmaker

President Obama’s prime-time address Wednesday to a joint session of Congress marked the 29th speech related to health care that he’s given since taking office as well as the fourth set of public remarks made this week and the second of that day.

He kicked off the second week of September with a major address to the AFL-CIO on Labor Day, followed by a speech to schoolchildren Tuesday and a quick trip to New York to speak at a memorial service for broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite before speaking to both chambers of Congress about health care Wednesday night.

Mr. Obama also is scheduled to speak Friday, to mark the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.



It’s just a part of the president’s busy schedule, which always seems to be packed with public events. CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who has kept track of the various speeches and public addresses, said Mr. Obama has delivered more than 260 since taking office.

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Louder than words

Although President Obama is a powerful speaker, some of his most dedicated supporters were more concerned about his actions after his health care speech than the address itself.

Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said he would look at the president’s actions to ramp up support for the public option in the health care plan in the days ahead. The group, in conjunction with MoveOn.org, held a press conference with former Obama campaign staffers on Tuesday outside the gates of the White House to support the public option.

The PCCC also ran an online petition at www.yeswestillcan.org to encourage Mr. Obama to stand up for the public option.

“Millions of Americans — including over 400 former Obama staffers who signed our petition at yeswestillcan.org — will be looking to see if President Obama truly fights for the public option,” Mr. Green said. “If [Sen.] Olympia Snowe bogs things down, will Obama be willing to barnstorm across Maine, a state he won 58 percent to 40 percent, to demand she vote in line with her constituents? We’ll see.”

Overlooked story

President Obama’s speech to schoolchildren Tuesday sparked a fierce debate over whether he was planning to “indoctrinate” them with his political agenda. Although most children who watched did not receive any overt political messages, the president did pitch his health care plan to a handful of teens at Wakefield High School in Arlington before his speech when a student asked him why the United States did not have universal health coverage.

“What we’re trying to do is set up a system where people who have health insurance on the job, they can keep it, but if you don’t have health insurance [on] the job, if you’re self-employed, if you’re unemployed, that you’re able to get health insurance through another way,” Mr. Obama told a group of ninth-graders in a question-and-answer session, according to the White House transcript. “And we can afford to do it and it will actually, I think, over time save us money if we set that up.”

He also said: “You hear about people who are sick but don’t have health care, and suddenly they get a bill for $100,000, and there’s no way they can pay for it, and they’re about to lose their house. And you’re just reminded that the country is full of really good people who sometimes are going through a hard time. They just need a break. They need a little bit of help. Maybe the way things are set up right now isn’t always fair for people, and that motivates you, because you say, well, I can’t make everything perfect, I can’t prevent somebody from getting sick, but maybe I can make sure that they’ve got insurance so that when they do get sick, they’re going to get some help.”

CNSNews.com reporter Penny Starr led her story with this, setting it apart from all of the other coverage. She said she was surprised that she was the only one who picked up on it, given all the concerns about politicizing schools and the Obama administration’s efforts to assure parents that the speech would be neutral.

“It’s incredible and that’s why I reported it,” she told The Washington Times in a telephone interview. Miss Starr’s story was widely picked up by other media outlets, including the Drudge Report.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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