Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The High Wire Act on Health Care

If there ever was a time for Barack Obama to display his ability to bring people together as a pragmatic president, it is now, starting tonight with his address to Congress and the nation.

If the last 43 presidential administrations are any indication of what may come about at the health care address by President Obama on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, it looks as if another American tradition will be upheld by another American president.

The president's campaign promises and the president's administrative priorities might not always match up as advertised.

President Obama will be walking a fine high wire act on the issue of health care starting this week. In order to bring about some needed change in the health care realm without further alienating both conservatives that have opposed him since the election as well as voters that backed him last November, the president will have to consider compromising key aspects of his initial push, including the public option.

Will that mean that an opportunity to improve the health care system will be lost? No, but it does mean that his compromise, coupled with the Van Jones dismissal and other perception-based losses incurred by the president recently, shows that the president - someone that looked rather invincible in the public's eye for a good while now - has certainly come back down to earth. Failures with the stimulus package, "Cash for Clunkers", and the health care town halls (to convince America that this is a good plan) have ratcheted the president's approval ratings and confidence from the American people down a significant notch.

While that might seem like a bad thing for the Obama Administration at this time, it may not be a bad thing for the Obama Legacy.

The losses on these recent fronts for President Obama may provide the primer for the discipline that he'll need to enact policies that will create the change and support that is required - both to lead this nation back to a state of unity but also to move it forward in a state of true American progress.

Candidates are usually idealistic; leaders must be both visionary and realistic. During the campaign, many stated that President Obama showed the potential to be the latter. His contemporaries within the Democratic Party have failed to show the potential to do the same. With the president's continued willingness to "drive the agenda bus" so far throughout this administration, one has to wonder whether this misstep constitutes the lack of experience Obama's detractors mentioned throughout 2008 or, perhaps, it is a glaring realization that this president is more idealistic than realistic - a fatal flaw for a leader that faces a country that is losing jobs, heads a nation drowning in debt, and doesn't have the political capital he had to throw around as he did earlier this year.

The president talked to school children about discipline, focus, and poise earlier this week. It is a difficult balancing act to perform, he said, but one that should and must be done by our youth without excuses. Now, the same must be said for his performance before Congress and the nation Wednesday evening, for as is the case with America's school children, our future is hanging in the balance - along with part of Obama's Legacy.

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