While the media (myself included) painted Obama as a ditherer when it came to health care reform, new information presented in a book by Jonathan Alter paints a very different picture of the commander in chief. Apparently, Rahm Emmanuel begged Obama to scale back his reform package believing they wouldn't be able to pass a comprehensive bill. Obama, to his credit, ignored Emmanuel's advice convinced luck was on his side. From The Plum Line:
"I begged him not to do this," Rahm admits to Alter. But according to
the book, Obama overrode Rahm's advice, privately taking a bit of shot
at Clinton by telling advisers that he hadn't been sent to the White
House to do "school uniforms."
Rahm urged the president instead to pursue a sharply reduced plan
that would have insured more than 10 million Americans because it could
get bipartisan support. Rahm's idea was to expand on previous
Congressional plans to expand coverage for children, and boost the
number of single mothers eligible for Medicaid -- hence "the Titanic
But the book paints Obama as resolute about moving forward,
contradicting impressions at the time that Obama hadn't exercised enough
leadership on the issue. "I feel lucky," he told advisers at the time,
according to the book. "I think we can get it done."
While I still think that the health care package was deeply flawed (mostly because it guarantees private providers income and uses tax payers money to subsidize them to cover the poor), it has led to some genuine improvements in access to health care and provided badly needed insurance reform. And without Obama's determination to get it done, it's unlikely it would have happened.