Sunday, August 09, 2009

It's time for the President to lead

With the health care debate in full swing, with members of congress and Senators out there seeing their meetings being disrupted by organized action by the right wing, I will admit that I am getting the input that a lot of Democrats have at least been wondering why the President isn't taking more advantage of the absence of congress from Washington to control the news. And he could be saying (or at least have his administration saying) plenty: As Nate Silver points out, the administration has already cut taxes on 98.6% of working Americans. But not very many people know that because no one in the administration has actually bothered to point it out. In fact, with Republicans out there screeching about hypothetical tax increases that haven't even been written by anyone yet, probably more people incorrectly think the administration has already raised taxes than correctly know the administration has lowered them. This administration should also point out that a relatively modest investment in auto bailouts plus cash-for-clunkers (which total less than the amount given to just a couple of banks) has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in factories, parts suppliers and dealerships. What are they waiting for? To win an "aw-shucks" award for being humble?

After all, isn't this the time when he has the podium all to himself if he wants it? I will grant that there are certain events (such as the North American summit and the annual presidential speech to the VFW) that he is obliged to attend, and last week was a good time for him to go on vacation, with the Senate still in session and focused on confirming Justice Sotomayor.

But that's done and over with now. Now is the time for the President to lead, to inspire. And if he wants to talk about health care then he shouldn't just go out and spout statistics like he did in the news conference a few weeks ago on the subject, he should be talking about the battle his mother had with insurance companies just to get her cancer treatment covered (that resonated on the campaign trail.) He should be talking about how our lack of preparedness for the swine flu coming back this winter is exacerbated by the fact that people with no insurance may not seek treatment right away and in the meantime could spread the virus rapidly throughout the whole population-- darn right, this is a national security issue. And one which will in the end also cost a lot of people some serious money. He should be talking about people like my neighbor who was recently ripped up by two pit bulls only a block from my house and had to be helicoptered to and spent a full week in the hospital (story is here) as she saved the lives of her young children by taking the attack herself, and why she shouldn't have to worry whether she can pay all the bills for something that was no fault of hers.

The President is at his best when he is talking about the big picture, with passion. And it's time for him to be at his best.

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