At our editorial meeting this morning, Eric Kleefeld flagged several recent polls that appear to show public opinion on health care is where I feel like it’s been all the way back to 1994 and before. That is, there’s broad public support for reform that creates universal or near-universal coverage but also enough concerns about costs, taxes and access to provide fertile ground for opponents to chip away and possibly destroy support for any real plan.
Wipe away all the spin and procedural mumbojumbo and it seems you’ll have an outline of a bill in both houses and then the month of August off where each side will battle to drive the narrative of public debate (in a generally dead news period) and try to determine how things are going to look in September.The problem is that the White House and the reformers are coming into this month long period pretty wrong-footed. On a big plan like this, it’s usually easier to tear down than to build up. Easy to raise concerns and spook people with scare stories than to make a global case for a critical reform. And all the discussion right now seems to be on the negative side of the equation. That wasn’t the case six weeks ago; but it does seem like that now.
From one perspective, a president goes into a down month like this with a lot of advantages. He’s still president. He can get on TV pretty much whenever he wants. But the Congress is spread out around the country, fragmented and unable — as they are in DC — to coordinate and sustain a counter-conversation.
But I don’t feel like I’m hearing from the White House any clear narrative, any clear and digestible argument for why this is necessary. I hear the phrase ‘public plan’. But it’s such a blah-blah gobbledegook phrase that even though I’m fairly deep into the policy details of this debate, half the time even I find myself forgetting exactly what that even means.