President Barack Obama used his oratorical gifts Wednesday night to recapture the initiative on health care reform. He cajoled. He scolded. He inspired. He compromised. He flattered.
Now comes the hard part: producing meaningful legislation.
Obama had two key audiences: the joint Congress before him and the American people tuning in.
He sought to appeal to moderate Democrats and Republicans by offering to back ideas other than his own, such as medical malpractice legal reform and taxing gold-plated insurance benefits. But post-speech reaction indicated that opponents in both houses of Congress were unmoved. Likewise, Obama warned that he would withdraw the olive branch quickly if opponents attempted "to kill the plan rather than improve it."
A quick national poll taken after the speech showed that two-thirds of Americans back the president. The depth of that support will become clearer in the days ahead.
Obama's remarks were only slightly more specific than what he has outlined in the past. His key proposals reiterate initiatives already in play to expand Medicaid and subsidize insurance for lower-income Americans. His public plan to compete with private insurers appears doomed.
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