The online response to Presiden’t Obama’s health care address to Congress showcases the range of online discussion: a huge variety of (sometimes predictable) viewpoints, creative graphics and passionate reactions.
For a quick overview of web chatter, take a gander at Marilyn Werber-Serafini and her experts on the National Journal’s blog. She asked, “What is the single most important point that President Obama made in his speech to Congress? Will his speech break the stalemate in Congress?” and received 22 responses (at this publishing), the most this year, from a range of lawmakers and policy experts, including Chuck Grassley, James Rohack, Karen Ignagni and Henry Waxman..
To show the evolution of the debate (or not) Brad Wright pulled clips of Obama’s and Clinton’s major health care addresses and made corresponding word clouds from the top 25 words used in each speech. The graphics offer a look at the way health reform debates have evolved in the corresponding 17 years.
Clinton emphasized the health care system, and focused on universal coverage using words like “people” “every” and “Americans.” He mentioned cost, businesses, and doctors, but not at any great length. Clinton was about health care system reform that would cover everyone.
By contrast, Obama talked last night about insurance–far more than Clinton ever did–and he also frequently mentioned companies–as in “insurance companies”–not to be confused with businesses, which the President also mentioned. Obama spoke a bit about costs, but no more so than Clinton.
But back to last night. Some right-leaning commentators were unmoved by Obama’s claim of having a “plan.”
James Capretta of the New Atlantis said, “President Barack Obama says he wants to be the last president who has to deal with health care. But it is abundantly clear from his speech tonight that he has no plan to fix the problems in health care as they exist today, much less to settle the issue for good.”
In a post titled “The President Learned Nothing From August,” Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez strikes a similar note, responding to Obama’s statement that “there remain some significant details to iron out:”
On that score President Obama was right. It may have been, however, a bit of an understatement. Absent, of course, was how exactly all the savings he confidently predicted would materialize, how exactly the government would prevent employers from dumping all their employees into a government plan and how czars and boards would operate without bureaucrats coming between Americans and their doctors. Ah, details, details. … In fact, while he kept referring to “our plan” he never explained whose plan he meant. One of the two House plans? The one Senate plan that exists or the Finance one that’s under construction? What’s he actually for? What’s the President against?
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey also felt there were no new ideas and that Obama “derided” his critics:
If Obama just intended to fire up his left wing, then this speech was a success. If he intended on selling ObamaCare to the majority of Americans who oppose it, Obama’s speech was an unmitigated disaster. He offered no new arguments, and explicitly derided people who didn’t buy them the first fifteen times he’s offered the old ones.
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn believes there are three ways to assess the speech and he saw a theme laying low in the address:
You can look at it as a blueprint–and try to decide whether Obama’s health care plan makes sense. I think it does, although, to be fair, I’ve thought that all along. You can judge it as a political exercise. Did it help Obama’s cause or hurt it? But there’s a third way to think about the speech. You can see if was about something more than health care reform–specifically, whether it was an effort to say something broader, about how our society is organized and how we might be able to change it. I think it was, if you listened long enough. And I liked what I heard, even if Obama said it in his typically nuanced way.
Cato’s Michael Cannon “translates” Obama’s speech. An excerpt:
Obama: Some… supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.
Translation: I will never let seniors control their own health care dollars. I will never give up Washington’s control over your health care decisions. Mmmmuuuuhahahahahaha!
Ezra Klein’s says Obama’s plan is about improvement, not change:
But if Obama hasn’t created the perfect plan, he’s created something arguably more impressive: a plan that actually might pass. That plan might not do enough to change the system, and it may not spend enough to protect everybody, but there is plenty in the proposal that will better the lives, health coverage, and financial security for millions of real people. It will insure around 30 million Americans and protect tens of millions more from insurer discrimination, medical bankruptcy and rescission. It will bring more evidence to medicine and more competition to the insurance market. That may not be perfection, but it is improvement. And it is achievable.
Time’s Karen Tumulty asks, “Within the House Chamber, he has provided the guidance that lawmakers have been begging for. But the real question is this: Has Obama provided the reassurance it will take to bring back the rest of the country?”
And finally, a look at Twitter. The social networking and micro-blogging service offered a window into the different reactions. Some examples below, or visit the #hctj search on Twitter to see more: