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July 22nd, 2009
04:25 PM ET

A steep climb for Obama

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Heading toward a showdown on his top domestic priority - and possibly the linchpin to his presidency - Barack Obama carries two handicaps into his prime time press conference tonight.

First, he does not yet have a fully formed health care plan to "sell" to the country. Ordinarily, a president trying to persuade the public on a contentious issue has a firm plan to present in prime time. But the nature of the process in health care has meant that five different Congressional committees are working on ideas - and two of the most influential have not even reported yet on their recommendations.

As a result, the President is left to rail against the status quo - and he does this with great persuasiveness - but he is unable to bring his much respected oratorical power to bear on convincing people exactly what to do to fix things.

Second, the President is taking to the airwaves at a time when he no longer seems to have as big a welcome mat as in the past. Not only are his high poll numbers slipping a bit but so are his audience numbers. For his first prime time press conference in February, some 49.5 million people - a whopping number - tuned in. For his second, in March, 40.4 million watched. And in his third, in April, the total dropped to 28.8 million. Observers will closely watch the returns tonight.

He may be testing the outer limits of media presence. Tonight will mark his fifth major prime time appearance in his first six months. Even FDR, a legendary communicator, had only three fireside chats in the same time frame. (George W. Bush held four prime time press conferences in his whole eight years).

Obama's lieutenants will tell you he has a history of rising to the occasion and that already he has advanced health care reform farther than any of his Democratic predecessors. They are right on both arguments. But they know as well this will be one of the steepest, most important climbs of his young presidency.

soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. American in UK

    Living in the UK for 3 years I enjoy the benefits of the NHS. It only cost me 11% of my income. Much cheaper then any insurance policy I had living in the US. I find it so difficult to understand how America and all recent Presidents cannot reach to an agreement and have a system as in placed in Britain. Yes, there are draw backs in the NHS however there are many more draw backs in the American health care system. The preventive care in the UK is amazing and the US fails to understand that if you spend a little now and invest in everyone's care then you'll save billions later. I also, find it funny how everyone thought Obama could get this through when Bill and Hillary found walls everywhere they turned in the 90’s. Not the superstar everyone thought in the end is it Mr. Obama?

    July 23, 2009 at 4:41 am |
  2. Agatha

    I am a very Liberal Democrat that DID NOT vote for Obama.
    If I could see through all the Bull that Obama spoon fed CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, etc...as a domestic engineer, than WHY has it taken SO long for everyone to see it?

    First:
    I wholeheartedly agree with Timstigator below:

    'July 22nd, 2009 4:06 pm ET
    David Gergen surprises me in his degree of O-worship. I’ve always thought of Gergen as one of the smartest analysts out there. “He has a history of rising to the occasion?” When? Please, David, stop your slobbering. It’s unsightly.'

    Second:
    The people in Canada who say their healthcare is FREE. Nothing is Free. Someone is paying for it.

    Third:
    The long lines will come from the lack of doctors and nurses. We don't have enough doctors to handle the multitudes.
    Maybe God will take it in His hands to have another natural catastrophe to control over spending on the multitudes. Then who are you going to blame for their deaths. GOD?

    Fourth:
    I am so tired of everyone talking about RACE as if that Just Happened, and as if, Obama's presidency will save all black people.

    If Obama was COMPLETELY black, with HIGHER standards: that is, he read the bills he passes; than maybe, all black people would be saved.
    Since he is Half and Half; he can't save anyone. Not even himself.

    July 23, 2009 at 4:16 am |
  3. Dean D. Ellis

    I think that it was either Garfield or Arthur that said something like “…All true democracies are governed by the wisdom and the folly of the people”. Most Americans just do not understand what the true health care problem in the United States really is. They believe that the ideal of affordable health care is not the American way. Too many citizens appear to believe that insurance is available to anyone that can afford it and that is that. Their opinions appear to boil down to the haves versus the have-nots philosophy.
    People are not begging for a hand-out they are looking for a helping hand. In “Republi-speak” the remark that we need to slow down were moving way to fast is the equivalent of no. To quote the cereal commercial the motto of Republicans appears to be that we put the “no” in innovation. As Rachael Maddow put it- “for over 60 years presidents have been pushing for health care reform…” I must agree that if a Republican needs 60 years to just debate an issue then cast them overboard and leave them in your wake.
    I do not expect Congress to pass laws that protect the welfare of the citizenry, I demand it. Congress should start any logical discourse with a mission statement such as “affordable health care must be made available to all Unites States citizens” and then work on it. Then they must discard any motion or amendment that does not support the mission statement.
    Propelling personal attacks at the President of the United States for attempting to provide affordable health care to the citizens of this country is not rational. George the Lesser, the idiot savant son of George the Elder was an excellent entertainer. While running the country into the ground he would make remarks like…”Yer either fer us or agin us…that makes you unpatriotic…un-American…” Now that scored well with the population. This guy makes statements like we need to join together to solve this problem. If those words like we, should, and solve strike a nerve with you then perhaps Georg the Lesser’s words would float your boat a little better…it’s my way or the highway.
    Perhaps our President is too intelligent for many to understand.

    July 23, 2009 at 4:06 am |
  4. Mears

    Fool me once....

    He did this act on the stimulus bill - notice how he now calls it the "recovery bill"!!! because it was more welfare than stimulus.

    He said the sky was falling unless we got the stimulus bill passed. Well, that was a $787 billion waste of taxpayers' debts.

    Therefore he can't be trusted. Why the rush? Why not wait until after August? He's more interested in getting things passed rather than getting things done right. If from the beginning he would have focused on one thing at a time maybe the $787 billion boondoggle wouldn't have been created.

    July 23, 2009 at 4:05 am |
  5. immacula

    I was blown away by the first part of black in America tonight . Also I think President Obama's address was also clear. He said that none of the health care reform will add to the national deficit. Personally I think he needs more time for the economy to bounce back .

    July 23, 2009 at 3:44 am |
  6. sujal

    Obama is stuck in a pickle, because he needs to fix the economy. However, needs to fix the components of the economy and factors to contribute to the growth. Health care is one of the major components that need to be fixed as there are a lot personal Bankruptcy due to health care,

    July 22, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    12 million of the 49 million uninsured 'Americas' are illegals. Why should my taxes pay a single penny to cover them? The GAO says Obama's numbers don't add up. The costs are higher the savings lower. What else is he lying about?

    July 22, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  8. Howard

    Robama Hood wants to take away our freedom. The he wants to punish successdul Americans. He wants to take their hard earned money from and use it to pay for those who can not afford care and those not willing to work to pay for their care......Our country was based on freedom....now we are going to get goverment healthcare! What freedom will we lose next?

    July 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  9. Karl Grotke

    I live in Canada and have seen the ridiculous commercials on CNN showing people around the world that live in countries like Canada, England, etc. that go on about how their public healthcare system has failed them. These people make up 1% of the population. These commercials are such insane scare tactics being used by republicans that are so far from the truth. Wake up America and do your own ivestigating outside the U.S. Our (Canadian) government is not involved at all, let me repeat...AT ALL in decisions about one's medical treatment, coverage etc. The doctors themselves make that diagnosis and are not influenced by any government official. Dollars do not come into any medical treatment discussion because it is all covered by the federal/provincial government. How do we afford this? Well, granted your income taxes may rise slightly, but the slight increase will heavily outway the costs you pay in medical bills. Here is a perfect analogy. When i travel to the U.S. I see nothing but seniors working in McDonald's, where in Canada nothing but teenagers work in McDonald's. Why? Because in the U.S. the seniors are working at McDonald's to pay for medical coverage! Some retirement! Wake up America...go with public healthcare!

    July 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  10. N. Manetavat

    Average Managecare CEO made $14 million a year. If the Doctors made $140,000/yr he or she has to practice for a 100 years.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm |
  11. Toni Tischer

    I love having an intelligent president. It is a joy to listen to President Barack and I am thrilled that he is pushing medical reform. It is time.
    HE is RIGHT about how expensive the status quo really is and how ineffective it is except for the drug company's and the big lobby's.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  12. L. T. Wright

    TO OBAMA AND CONGRESS:

    Congress must NOT pass any more federal legislation without allowing sufficient time for all members to read and understand the information thoroughly BEFORE VOTING. It destroys public confidence it our system - and in you.

    Do NOT pass healthcare legislation without taking time to inform us - the people it will affect - as to its substance and the impact it will have on our lives. Take the time to provide the transparency promised!

    SLOW DOWN. Get it right!

    L.T. Wright
    Long Beach, CA

    July 22, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  13. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Speaking as a Pro Life Conservative I’ll say.. Obama should go on Oprah and rally up all those supporters of his who elected him into office despite “Abortion.” Money.. Health Care Cost.. Those things should not blur the fine line.. Stand aside Obama..! Let’s make it clear!!

    July 22, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  14. James

    Why would anyone listen to obama tonight??? He has not said anything worth hearing since before he took office. I only hope and pray that the American people will wake up and let their elected reps know that even though our health care system needs reform, the proposed
    legislation would put us in the " fast lane to hell" financially. And try as I might I can not think of a government run program that functioned as it was supposed to ARE stayed in budget. Oh wait, there is the program to makes our borders safe and keep out illegals.

    JFA

    July 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm |
  15. Terry, TX

    I listened to the President...what a crock of bull.....he doesn't even know what is in the bill yet....he just wants these non medical democratic representatives to cram it through. By the way his numbers of 45 million that are uninsured...20 million include illegal aliens.....won't that be an incentive for more illegals crossing our borders. I say no to Obama.....he needs to slow down and work on the economy...because his solutions of pork bills so far are a failure.... now these same morons think in less than a month can handle this....I don't think so....they are too stupid. He is just going to cram his socialist agendas through....I am sick of him. I want these morons to read the bill and I want it posted on the internet so that Americans can read it too.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:25 pm |
  16. Michael G. Dixon

    President Obama's advocacy of health care reform before either his administration or Congress have crafted a specific set of reforms mirrors his successful effort in the last Presidential campaign to convince the electorate to choose a vague program of "Change You Can Believe In" over a conservative smorgasborg of thematically unrelated but definite positions and programs. In the campaign for health care reform as in the campaign for the Presidency, Obama's rhetorical power emanates from his ability to articulate what is unsatisfactory about the status quo and what is possible if sufficient numbers of voters mandate change. In marked distinction to the campaign for health care reform, the campaign for Presidency did not require the majority of voters to renounce anything of personal value in order to register a preference for "Change You can Believe In." The campaign for health care reform is asking voters representing 250 million Americans to express a preference for a change that could result in less access to health care, access to lower quality health care, greater total expense, higher taxes and increased federal budget deficits with consequences for future taxes and interest rates.
    A rhetoric of dissatisfaction and intriguing possibilities suffers from irreducible limitations in persuading people to prefer a policy with unascertainabbly great risks to ones with known and largely perceived to be managemable risks.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  17. BigD Pristine Lakes + Trees, Northern Mn.

    President Obama has Put an "Offer of Extreme Initiative" on the Table + Has Also Presented to the People, a Direction + Path That Really Deserves Support + Help From Even His Toughest Opponents + Critics to Bring to Americans a Better, More Affordable Way of Life.

    The Vastness of the Health Care + the Economy + the Deficit + the Unemployment Issues + All Their Problems is "So Broad" that Attacking Our President is Easy Sport for President Obama's Enemies.

    Those Enemies that Hold Up President Obama to the Highest Scrutiny Known, in Any Court of Law Cannot Even Compete Without Cheating, Dishonesty or Ganging Up.

    Does Anybody Have Someone that Can Even Hold a Candle to This Fine Public Servant, Human Being + Family Man? Let Him Step Forward!

    July 22, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Lilly

    What makes people think Americans have a choice of who they want their doctor to be? The majority of private healthcare plans limit your choice of doctor to those approved by the plan and many require permission of the healthcare plan before the patient can see a specialist or get admitted to a hospital.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  19. Ron San Bruno ,Ca

    I have have no problem taking care of our legal citizen's no matter what race or religion they might be. How will President Obama broker a deal of Health Care with those who are not legally qualified under the law . It is necessary to understand just who will qualify for health care and who will not.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  20. Slade Geiger

    I pay 806.00 a month for family health coverage. This is about 41% of my bring home pay! The cost is high and the service is below poor. I have more nightmare stories of fighting for coverage than I can note. America needs to demand this coverage for ALL!

    July 22, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  21. Diana M. Drew

    I'm wondering where the discussion on tort reform is in the discussion of healthcare reform. I've been informed that one of the provisions in the proposal is to allow lawyers to bring lawsuits (on behalf of the government) to recoup costs that the government deems excessive–without the consent of the patient involved. As a critical care nurse for the past 16 years, I've seen the increase in lawsuits brought by patients who have little knowledge of what medicine can and cannot accomplish. It is as if we somehow believe that injury can never happen, even though we've been warned that it can, and that death can always be avoided. Frivolous lawsuits, and the lack of caps on damages have contributed hugely to the increased costs of healthcare, and yet in all of this talk of reform, I've not seen the issue of tort reform addressed. Why not?

    July 22, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  22. Sher Graham

    It is amazing that President Obama discusses health insurance when the Federal government needs to take a long look at the bills they approve – smokers who work in a government building have to stand 25' away from the building. Yet this does not happen. Employees stand in front of the doors going into the buildings creating a second hand smoke issue and people have to walk through this smoke to enter a federal building. And, they have to smoke in the front – what a wonderful branding image of our government do we get with a group of smokers in front of the building puffing away! This needs to be done away with permanently. All federal buildings should eliminate smoking no where on the premises of Federal property at any time.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  23. Diane O

    The reason health care is so expensive is due to the high salaries of doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical reps. Labor costs is what is killing companies. Labor costs is what killed the car makers. We are too greedy! Everybody whats a big fat salary.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  24. Marie

    Why is it okay for me to pay for health care for congress but it is not okay for them to allow me to have it?

    Also, I thinbk that we should make all the conress members against health care for all to give up theirs and see how it feels to not have it.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm |
  25. Donnita Abdallah

    Do you realize how many insurance companies out there are willing to take our money to insure us but don't always make the disclaimer that your coverage will not cover "Pre-exsisting." Everyone has something that is "pre-exsisting" We need help! Look at some of the European countries where health care is free, nannys for parents child while they work is free.. How come they can have this and here in the good Ole USA we continuously watch debates like a bad tennis match.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:28 pm |
  26. YC

    Why is all the Presidential News Conference a dog-and-pony show with his pre-selected reporters throwing out questions that tailor to his intended message? I have not heard any hard questions asked.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  27. Donnita Abdallah

    Why don't the government look at the pharmaceutical companies. People get sick and go to the Dr's, then the Dr's write a RX that usually is something just out on the market that claims to be better then what has worked for many many years. With this they get kick backs from the RX companies. There are so many people without insurance that can't afford to go to the Dr's let alone try to drain blood out of a turnip to find the money to get their medications with no avail. How many people die out there who can't afford what they need to get better.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:21 pm |
  28. Monica

    I am curious if anyone knows if we, the taxpayers, pay for health benefits for congress (as well as other government workers)? If so, how much is spent yearly now from our taxes.
    It is unfair that the people who are deciding whether or not we get health care, already have it paid for by us?
    Perhaps if their benefits were somehow tied to the passing of a bill to cover everyone, they would be more motivated to pass it sooner.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  29. YC

    How does the President ensure that employer will not abandon their current offering to cut cost and move employees to the government insurance for the un-insured? Ultimately, it become a government run health care!

    July 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  30. YC

    What about making a pre-condition that the Congress and the President leaving their current health coverage and join their proposed plan. There seemed to be no discussion of limiting or make one think seriously before filing malpractice suits. The biggest contributor to high health care cost.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  31. Brian

    Listening to the President talk on health care made me think – if his proposal is so good why not force the Congress and the Executive Branch of our government to join this new health program – walk the talk Mr. President.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:14 pm |
  32. Rick

    I am a supporter of Obama, but how could this man who comes across as so intelligent not understand that he is over-exposing himself? Too many news conferences, too many speeches, please just get to the issue at hand and wrangle the Democratic majority to produce a working, understandable healthcare reform bill. No more talk, get to work!

    July 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  33. Tanya Travis

    Let's start calling it our health care reform and therefore our collective steep climb. This media frenzy over the Obama waterloo and the personalization of policy is sinking our ship. We all have a stake in this reform.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  34. Mari

    Yes, Mr. Gergen, its a steep climb! Obama has inherited the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, and all I have seen and heard from the GOP is complaints, criticism, obstruction. And their "leader" hoping he fails!

    I disagree that he is "testing the outer limits of media presence"...... we are in a crisis, we are in deep trouble. We, the People, need to hear from our president often. At our house, Mr. Gergen, we are listen when our president speaks. We want to hear first hand what his ideas are, what he plans to do.

    With all due respect, Mr. Gergen (you are our favorite pundit), President Obama has a responsibility to make his case for healthcare to the American people. We are being lied to and misled by the GOP whose main goal is to see to it, that our president fails!

    July 22, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  35. Ken P.

    I can believe how desperate Obama is just six short months into his presidency.

    July 22, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  36. frank cheung

    how could the president blame the Republicans for blocking his health care legislations when his party enjoys lopsided majorities in both the House and the Senate.

    in the latter chamber, the majority is a filibuster-proof 60/40.
    .

    July 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  37. muriel doyle

    Dear Anderson,
    I hope that, being a good investigative journalist, you will find out exactly what gives with Shona Holman, (Canadian Benedict Arnold) whose ads against public health care are gracing the airwaves, including those of CNN. You might ask the following: Would this woman have "died" as she claims? Was she diagnosed with a tumor, malignant or otherwise? Did she attempt to see a specialist in Canada? Etc. Etc. Her records at the Mayo Clinic( which is of course totally opposed to health care reform) are still there-her name has been changed to Ella Schwatz, so I've been told.
    And by the way-that word socialism: Doesn't it apply equally to the armed forces? (except Blackwater, and we know that turned out.) Firefighters? Police?? In fact, a host of essential pub;lic services. Isn't medicine a public service?? Just asking. Love the program!!!

    July 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  38. Jennifer

    What gets me is how the media can really influence the American people. The media can make or break a person and I believe that the media know how much influence they have...especially on stupid Americans. Now because Gergen along with other media types are writing President Obama's epitaph and not just on his health care reform but his likability so to speak. I would like to know where the poll numbers come from...don't tell me, they are polls from middle America, non-black because believe me President Obama has not lost influence and likability with Black America. However do count out the Black American rightwingers.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  39. giniajim

    Hope he makes it. Need to get health care under control. Both for the fiscal and physiological health of the nation.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  40. JC Whitefish

    What has it been, a little over six months since he became president? Americans need to grow up and get past this instant gratification BS. You folks in the media are by far the worst. With your 100 days BS! Change doesn't happen over night, it takes time. It may take years to get out of the HOLE that W pushed us into. He's at least trying to do something good for the country.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  41. earle,florida

    President Obama is in overexposure mode,and seems frustrated. This is a worrisome sign for the public to pick-up on,especially with the sense of urgency for $1.0+Trillion,"Health Care Program",that surely could end up being 4X that in ten years. I listened the other day to his speech in some city (can't remember) but he seemed to be shouting like a fanatical dictator (not a good choice of words,let's just say a baby wanting his pacifier) and certainly sounding insincere,and addle the more he rambled on,...? JMHO

    July 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  42. DP

    He has a steep hill to climb because he is trying to sell the American people a load of garbage and finally many who have been looking at him through rose colored glasses are seeing him for what he is. He wants to socialize medicine. His plan WILL destroy private health care no matter what he says. It will lead to typical government waste, rationing of health care and little to no health care for the elderly. Let's face it, when Obama and his clan are faced with rationing our care, the elderly are no longer bringing in money TO the government, they are only costing it money by being a drain to the health care dollars. It is much cheaper for them to die and if you don't think that is what will happen, you are burying your head in the sand!!

    July 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  43. Joe

    So he doesn't even have a "fully formed" plan but wants it past by the end of this month? How stupid does he think the public is? Just pass it and we'll work out the details later?
    Is he going to post this bill for five days of review like he promised during the election or is this bill another "crisis" not worth the time to read by our Congress?
    Dingle Barry......Four (if we survive) and the door

    July 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  44. Trylon

    Obama should come on television tonight and do and say nothing – but ask Americans to spend the next hour watching "Borderline Medicine" a PBS documentary film made in 1991 by the late Walter Cronkite. Roll film. Despite its age, this is perhaps the most important audiovisual material that concerns health care system reform. – – – – But, try locating a copy of it in a public lending library.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  45. Leslie Parrish

    The no-nothing/do-nothing Republicans have tried to sully President Obama's reputation for honesty, creativity and positive production. There are millions of us who quietly watch the Republican destroyers in disgust - and continue to support Obama with all our hearts. The press must stop acting as if the Republicans have a point. They are LOSERS. They have done nothing but hurt the United State!

    LET US ALL GET BEHIND OBAMA AND GIVE HIM OUR FULL LOUD SUPPORT!!!

    Leslie Parrish
    Woodway, WA

    July 22, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  46. Conrado

    The pharmaceuticals, the for-profit HMO's, their lobbyists and the conservative media plus, now, the 'blue dogs' (thinking only about their re-election chances) are all lined up to stop him. That's a lot of money and fear-mongering to go up against. I wish this brave and principled president the strength and courage to withstand their cowardly attacks and know that he is fighting the good fight for America.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  47. robert

    the future is in the hands of the mighty /

    July 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  48. Carolyn

    In his campaign Obama said he had a health care plan. So far we have seen nothing and we are “waiting to see” what Congress comes up with? Did Obama lie when he said he had a plan? People cannot, will not, and should not support an abstract idea, especially about health care. You or I wouldn’t sign a contract without reading AND UNDERSTANDING ITand we should not expect our representatives to do so.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  49. Jim

    President Do As I Say will not stop at trying to destroy the USA. His plan to ram this albatrol in as fast as he can because he knows this is a disaster and could not possibly pass if the truth were told via honest debate. His only goal is to redistrubute wealth, give amnesty to illegals, acquiesce to terrorists and grow government control over Americans. He plans are aimed at taking individual rights away because he just knows better than the rest of us. He is too arrogant to admit he is just wrong at times and does not represent all constituents-just the ones he cares about.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  50. John

    Another factor that will contribute to public indifference to this address is that most people do not understand, and do not want to take the time to try to understand, exactly what proposals our government is considering.

    July 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
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