President Obama's very big, incredibly important, game changing speech-to-end-all-speeches on health care cam across as panicky, too high pitched, and schoolyard bullyish. The president's theme was obvious early on: Nothing that was said against his plan in August had merit and certainly nothing that came up at the townhalls was legitimate.
"Misinformation," "bogus claims," "scare tactics," "such a charge would be laughable,' "it is a lie plain and simple" --welcome to the civil discourse of the hope and change era.
The speech really ought not to have gone on as long as it did. The short form:
There is nothing to worry about seniors.
The plan will not cost a dime in increased deficits.
No one will be inconvenienced much less deeply disappointed much less on the receiving end of a rationing scheme.
Tort reform? We've got demonstration projects.
The public option? Necessary because of the situation in Alabama.
A few details remain to be worked out --but pay no attention to the nervous laughter in the chambers.
We can do this because I say we must. It is in our character to vastly expand the size and cost of government.
The problem with the president's speech, and it is a very, very big problem, is that to be believed it would require a huge amount of trust in the president. The sort of trust that could only have been earned by a fair accounting of the critics' many and serious objections.
And that accounting was exactly what wasn't in the president's speech.
President Obama took a predictable whack at "death panels," but in so doing he dismissed every other objection raised by every other critic.
We know our own minds. We know why we are objecting to the plan. We know how the Post Office works, how Amtrack works, how reliable are pledges from Democrats about cost controls.
We know the president cannot guarantee that we get to keep our insurance and our doctors because most of us get our insurance from our employers, and they will decide what we get after they consider what the new law dictates and demands.
We know what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the price tag, and we know what Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi really really want and what the president himself has endorsed in the past, which is a single payer system
And seniors know that you cannot drain $500 or more billion dollars from medicare and deliver the same benefits as are delivered today. You cannot make deep cuts in Medicare Advantage and not lower the standard of living for many seniors.
Seniors are afraid, and they are right to be afraid, and nothing the president said in his speech will make them less afraid because he did not discuss their fears --he dismissed them.
The president can promise that illegal aliens won't be covered, but how exactly are hospitals going to stop providing the care they are presently providing and which only heartless robots could deny? It simply isn't believable for the president to tell the country that illegal aliens won't be covered --and did you notice the stress among the Democrats on that point-- but not address one of the great unfunded current costs of the system which is the provision of health care to illegal immigrants via emergency room care.
The president can assure the audience that abortion won't be a covered procedure under his "reforms," but the country knows where his party is on that issue and there isn't the bold print guarantee pro-lifers want in any of the draft bills, nor will one be forthcoming.
Again and again the president trotted out the tired old talking points in defense of the tired old arguments. The usual cast of straw men made their appearance, and the president dispatched them all.
And we've all been warned, we radio and cable talkers, that the president will call us out.
And not a minb was changed, not a new argument advanced, not a single compromise put forward.
The only thing bipartisan about this debate is the opposition to much of the president's plan. That's the way it was on Wednesday morning.
And that's still the way it is late on Wednesday night.