Obama’s town-hall gamble
The risks and rewards Obama faces as he takes his health-care reform pitch to the people
What happenedPresident Obama is holding a series of town hall meetings on health care this week—in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday; Bozeman, Mont., on Friday; and Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday. The White House says the attendees aren’t being screened to keep out protestors or opponents of the Democrats’ health-care plans. (The Wall Street Journal)
What the commentators saidThe last time Obama held a health-care town hall in Portsmouth, in 2007, said William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, he pledged universal health care in his first term, raised the idea of raising taxes, and said he was open to outside ideas. “A very different Mr. Obama returns” Tuesday—a cost-hiding, “my-way-or-the-highway” crusader who intimidates and “impugns” the motives of Americans who disagree with him. No wonder people are angry.
To be fair, Obama now is being “pestered by myths and conspiracy theorists,” said Clarence Page in the Stockton, Calif. Record, the most “dangerous myth” being that he wants to kill old people. That “nonsense,” spread by talk show hosts and Republican leaders, is a sign that Obama is “losing the message war on health care.” He showed in the campaign that he could get his message out—“he needs to do that again” this week.
What Obama needs to do is listen—to all sides, like he did in Portsmouth in 2007, said The Portsmouth Herald in an editorial. And he can’t do that if the town hall, like others in recent days, devolves into “shouting, bullying, and grandstanding.” We need “civility and respect” to get health-care reform right—and Obama will get that Tuesday if “the local citizenry is able to set the tone.”