David Gergen | BIO
CNN Senior Political Analyst
It is easy to be sympathetic with President Obama’s attempt to revive health care reform by embarking on a big, new gamble this week. After all, he campaigned on health reform, has made it the signature issue of his presidency, and according to those around him in the White House, focuses on it almost to the point of obsession. Like many of his predecessors, Mr. Obama seems deeply moved by past health care struggles of a close family member – in this case, his mother.
So, the President deserves a significant measure of respect for trying to get reform across the goal line. He has already come closer than any of seven other presidents who have tried. Now he and his aides believe it imperative to give one last try.
But one should not underestimate the size of the gamble. The President and Democrats are already in political trouble for spending a full year on health reform and then hitting a wall. A more cautious president would have walked quietly away from the scene of the accident. Indeed, that’s what Mr. Obama appeared to be doing in his recent State of the Union, insisting that he now focus on jobs and not mentioning health care until he was a half hour into the speech.
A school board in Rhode Island has voted to fire all teachers at a struggling high school, a dramatic and controversial plan aimed at shoring up education in a poverty-ridden school district.
On Tuesday night, the board approved the plan by Frances Gallo, superintendent at Central Falls School District, to discharge 88 teachers at Central Falls High School.
The firings come over the district's concern that teachers refused to spend more time with students to improve test scores.
But a teachers' union spokesman called the firings "drastic" and cited a 21 percent rise in reading scores and a 3 percent hike in math scores in two years.
The terminations will go into effect in the next school year at Central Falls, one of the lowest-performing schools in the state.
Tonight on 360°, Toyota's CEO and President in the hot seat on Capitol Hill over the more than 8 million recalls here in the U.S. Plus, a killer whale lives up to its name. A trainer dies at SeaWorld when a six-ton whale strikes.
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The Obama administration's attempt to restart its push for an overhaul of the U.S. health insurance system Monday was met with an increasingly common refrain from congressional Republicans: Americans hate it.
The framework the White House laid out Monday is an effort to bridge the gap between bills the Senate and the House of Representatives passed last year.
But Republicans, who are preparing for a televised health care summit with President Barack Obama on Thursday, have urged Democrats to scrap both bills and start over.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the plan is "based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected." His Senate
counterpart, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, said Democrats "either aren't
listening, or are completely ignoring what Americans across the country have been saying." And California Rep. Wally Herger, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said Obama "is continuing to ignore that the American people have fundamentally rejected this bill."
Fact Check: How popular are the health care bills?
- The top-line numbers on most polls bear out the GOP assertion. A new CNN poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. last week, found only 25 percent support for the bills currently before Congress. Other surveys taken recently show public opinion leaning against the proposed overhaul by spreads ranging from 3 to 19 percent.
- But when pollsters ask more detailed questions, some of the opposition turns out to come not from conservatives, but from liberals who consider the proposed legislation too timid. A CNN-Opinion Research poll in early January found that 45 percent of respondents opposed the bill because it was too liberal, while 10 percent said it wasn't liberal enough.
- Many of the provisions in the existing bills are extremely popular,
even among Republicans. While CNN's latest poll found Americans narrowly split on creating a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers, 62 percent would bar insurers from dropping people who become seriously ill; 58 percent would keep them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions; and 72 percent said large and mid-sized companies should provide health insurance to employees.
- In the early January CNN poll, 61 percent said they would prefer the plan be paid for by taxes on wealthy Americans, as the bill that passed the House of Representatives would do. Only 29 percent supported the more conservative Senate bill's plan to tax high-end health insurance plans.
- In addition, a Newsweek poll published last week found that 49-40 percent opposition to the Obama plan became 48-43 percent support when respondents were told what the bill included. And an ABC News-Washington Post poll released February 10 found up to 80 percent support for one feature of the White House plan: Barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Polling suggests GOP leaders are technically correct in calling the health-care reform bills broadly unpopular. But more detailed surveys reveal individual elements of the proposed overhauls remain more popular than the idea of "reform" as a whole.
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The Daily Beast
Programming Note: John Avlon will appear on tonight's AC360°
They think you're stupid.
Ninety-three percent of Americans believe that Washington is too partisan, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll taken one month ago.
That's not a subtle message. Ninety percent of Americans rarely agree on anything—60 percent is a landslide mandate in elections. But the professional partisans and pundits in Washington have been falling over themselves arguing that bipartisanship is a fool's game as of late. They insist that Americans must get more sophisticated when it comes to the ways of Washington and embrace the town's bitter and predictable partisanship as both wise and inevitable.
During a briefing this week, White House Press Secretary Robert
Gibbs attacked health insurance companies for rate increases.
"You've heard both the president, on numerous occasions, and the
secretary for health and human services discuss unjustifiable rate increases by insurance companies that are experiencing profits and whose rate increases - proposed rate increases - greatly outstrip health care inflation," Gibbs said.
Gibbs' comments echoed a statement President Barack Obama made during his weekly media address this past Saturday.
The president noted that Anthem Blue Cross is seeking rate hikes
averaging 25 percent in California, and he mentioned similar rate increases in Kansas, Michigan and Maine.