Joint Pain
You may have heard that President Obama will address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday evening, in order to give a “major speech" on health care reform. There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for Obama to reset the reform debate in the wake of sliding poll numbers and tumultuous town hall meetings, and it looks like the president is getting ready to push the reset button.
It is true that the media loves to write a good comeback story, and Obama’s health care reform struggle might be just about ripe for one. But given that the expectations to be set for next Wednesday evening are likely to be stratospheric, I am not sure a single speech can pivot the entire debate, even with Obama’s oratory skills.
Going into the speech, the White House should be focusing on just two tasks, clarify and simplify. Viewers should come away from the speech able to answer the following question: What does a White House-backed reform plan look like? If Obama spends most of his time defensively swatting down criticism, as he has done at his own town halls, then I don’t think he will move the debate much. The president should also stay away from his own well-worn boilerplate…If you like your health care, you can keep your health care…He needs a fresh take on the issue more than ever.
Answering the above question will require the president to explain precisely what he expects from the legislative branch. With multiple reform bills still floating around Congress, opponents have been able to successfully cherry-pick whatever controversial material they would like to highlight, even if some of the items would most certainly not have a place in any final piece of legislation. Obama’s task for the address is pretty straightforward, but given all that has transpired over the summer, it is also a tall order.

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