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Bill Cunningham Headshot

He Roped the Dopes

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On August 10th, I suggested that President Obama should take a lesson from Muhammed Ali and use a rope-a-dope strategy to counter the attacks on his health care plan. Listening to his speech tonight, I saw him do this to his opponents. After laying out the benefits to those who currently have health insurance, he waded into the misconceptions and mis-truths that have been used to undermine the issue of health care reform. And what was the reaction of those in the Congress that have played this cynical game? Silence. Damning silence.

He corrected the half-truths about veterans, seniors, medicare beneficiaries and others that have been scared by the tactics of those who oppose any form of health care reform. Most importantly, he channeled Harry Truman, when he labeled those who claimed that the plan included "death panels", as liars. This is a form of plain speaking that the Congress needs to hear but has not for decades.

He reached out to Republicans on a variety of items, including John McCain's campaign proposals on health care, and on tort reform, long a basic tenet of the conservative flank of politics. He re-established his position as the leader of the Democrats, thereby circumventing the more extreme elements of the party.

After tonight, Republicans have the chance to be productive and be to health care what the Republican leader Senator Everett Dirksen was to Civil Rights in 1964. They can join the President to achieve one of their great political objectives, tort reform, to fruition. Tonight, based on the President's speech, Republicans can be part of the solution or they can be obstructionists. They can side with those who seek rational, change to move our country forward, or they can hide their heads in the sand.

Tonight, we saw a leader, unafraid to stand and deliver...not a political document, but a platform that all who care about real reform, can support and amend and work for. We heard an appeal to shape the future and not be afraid to act, for the courage to act, and for vision. We saw a leader for our time, unafraid to ask for help and ideas. The only question remaining is whether or not there are Republicans who will seize the opportunity to be agents of progress. Tonight, we saw a President, a leader. Are there others who will join him?