Even Another Speech May Not Save Obama's Healthcare Plan

He'll go before Congress, but he may not be able to shake public complacency.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The president sure needs to do something to bolster his flagging healthcare reform effort. But I'm not sure one more speech, even if it is an address to a joint session of Congress, is the answer. In fact, one wag suggested he might edge closer to success if he would cut back on the public appearances, he who so clearly prefers a solitary flood of limelight to a shared stage.

The purpose of the speech, aides say, is to clarify a very confused public about the wonderful things his healthcare reform will do. According to the New York Times:

Administration officials said Wednesday that Mr. Obama would be more specific than he has been to date about what he wants included in the plan. Doing so amounts to an acknowledgment that the president's prior tactic of laying out broad principles and leaving Congress to fill in the details was no longer working and that Mr. Obama needed to become more personally involved in shaping the outcome.

Clearly the public is confused, as the administration has seemed to contradict itself on such things as the public option. But what if the problem is something no speech will cure?

I'm no spin-meister, but it seems to me the administration does itself a huge disservice by assuming that all town hall protesters opposed to healthcare reform are right-wing set-ups. In fact, most polls show the vast majority of Americans are "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with their present healthcare plans. To wit, the vast majority of Americans may not want reform, even though a sizable chunk of President Obama's liberal constituency seems to want reform:

A June 2009 poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 42 percent of respondents were "very satisfied" with their health plan and 39 percent were "somewhat satisfied." Just 11 percent were "somewhat dissatisfied" and 8 percent were "very dissatisfied." Meanwhile, a July 2009 poll by Abt SRBI for Time magazine found 53 percent very satisfied, 33 percent somewhat satisfied, 9 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 4 percent very dissatisfied. A Quinnipiac University poll found 49 percent very satisfied, 36 percent somewhat satisfied, 10 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 4 percent very dissatisfied.