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Obama’s do-or-die health speech
What Obama needs to say in his speech before Congress to rescue health-care reform

“When future historians write about the Obama presidency,” said Jonathan Berr in DailyFinance, they will scrutinize his big speech before Congress Wednesday for its success, or failure, in revitalizing his push to reform the U.S. health-care system. Obama’s signature domestic policy “has clearly been hurt” by August’s “contentious debate,” and the chances of reform “being derailed grow by the day.”

Actually, health-care reform has survived the August “bloodbath” in pretty good shape, said Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic. There’s majority support in Congress for several “major changes” to health care, and public backing for significant reform “remains high.” Obama’s message Wednesday “dovetails with what the American people believe: it’s important to get health-care reform done.”

Yes, “there’s more agreement on the essentials” of health-care reform than you’d think, given all the shouting, said The Washington Post in an editorial. But Obama’s big task is to explain how he’ll pay for those changes. Given our huge and growing deficits, “controlling government red ink” is as much a “moral imperative” as providing universal health care.

Maybe cost controls will be among the specifics Obama lays out, said John Dickerson in Slate. The White House is betting that the more specific Obama gets, the more he’ll cut through the “fog” around the health-care issue. This is Obama’s chance to draw clear “lines in the sand” to let Congress and the American people know where he’s putting the weight of his office.

Specifics are the last thing skeptical Americans want to hear, said Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. “They want to know how you’re going to make sure their sick child or ailing spouse or declining parent is going to be taken care of” with minimal fuss. To rescue his reform plans from “political disaster,” Obama needs to give a speech like his school pep talk Tuesday: a candid, “plain-spoken story,” in personal terms, that doesn’t talk down to its audience.

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