After months of missed opportunities, tense town hall meetings, and an American public with too little information on what a health care overhaul would look like, President Obama today brought the freshly finished plan from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus straight to the people.
The President has accomplished a media grab that will confound his opponents for weeks.
Just as chances for significant health care reform were flat lining and Obama could not get a break, the White House announced upcoming speeches on the economy.
The news was all economic as President Obama lulled the media into coverage of his speech on the anniversary of the Lehman bankruptcy and the ailing economy. At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee finished a health care plan, outlined with force by none other than President Barack Obama in a speech to labor unions in Ohio on Tuesday.
This is the speech the public has been waiting for. Speaking Tuesday, Obama's tone brought the passion, commitment, and force of the campaign trail to health care legislation. That is not to say that Obama has not tried, but with legislation now tangible, the discussion is finally real.
Granted, President Obama was talking to the base, so the audience was receptive, and vocally so. But the milestone is significant still: Obama has legislation he will champion. He will bring the energy and power he showed voters on the stump to this health care legislation.
Obama talked about the public option, clarifying it, but not tying himself to it. "Let me be clear. ... This would just be an option. No one would be forced to choose it," the President said. He went on to explain that the public option would offer more choices, and put pressure on private insurers to make policies better. This furthers the soft implication of last week's address to Congress, when he offered support for the public option, but did not make it a centerpiece of his message. The message appears to be that House and Senate Democrats can negotiate the public option. But Obama is not holding out for it, and he won't let the issue bring the legislation down.
The speech is not an endpoint but a starting point. This weekend, the President will do the Sunday hat trick (Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, plus interviews for CNN and Univision). On Monday, he will be appearing on Letterman.
During the campaign, Obama was often criticized for not reacting quickly enough to his opponents, from Senator Clinton to Senator McCain. Then, as now, he chose to pull his punches and wait until the time was right. Then, as now, the strategy appears to have worked.