The most peculiar feature of President Obama’s rhetoric in Wednesday night’s health care speech was his repeated use of terms like “my plan,” “this plan,” or “our plan.” It was not at all clear what plan he had in mind specifically — especially since a significant amount of what he outlined is not in the House or Senate bills at the moment. Was he suggesting the White House would produce its own plan?
A front-page story in today’s Washington Post clarifies the issue — or rather makes clear that there is no clarity. “One day after President Obama pitched his plan for comprehensive health-care reform to a joint session of Congress, administration officials struggled Thursday to detail how he would achieve his goal of extending coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans without increasing the deficit,” Post reporter Ceci Connolly writes.
The best summary of the White House approach in the story comes from the White House itself:
“His speech was very specific and, as promised, answered the big questions about how we should proceed on providing a secure and stable health system for all Americans,” White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said. “Many of the details will be worked out in the legislative process.”
Very specific, but the details haven’t been worked out. Not a bad description of the speech, and the administration’s approach to the health-care debate. If you had made specific promises to cover the uninsured, reduce costs, leave everyone who is happy with his existing arrangements alone, and spend $900 billion without raising middle class taxes, cutting benefits to the elderly, or adding a dime to the deficit you would probably steer clear of details too.