August 28th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

President Obama's message in a bottle

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Listen to one of the most impassioned speeches for health care reform: “We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospital can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.”

The speaker goes on to say, as we’ve all heard by now, that the president, vice president, and members of Congress already have a generous public health care plan, and regular Americans deserve the same. It was a great speech for President Obama. Only he did not deliver it. It wasn’t even made this year. Those words were part of Ted Kennedy’s address to the Democratic Convention, in his failed presidential bid, almost 30 years ago.

And health care is not the only plank in his 1980 platform that is eerily familiar. If Barack Obama had been seated beside him in poli-sci class, the new president might have been accused of plagiarism.

In that speech Kennedy talked about taxing the rich to help the middle class and poor. He ripped the Republicans as heartless cronies of business. He defended government bailouts; cozied up to labor unions; promoted environmentally-friendly energy. He even hinted that the “wealthy” line began with folks who make more than $200,000 a year. Talk about déjà vu.

But with a big difference. Kennedy lost the nomination to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, who then was flattened by Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama, however, spun Kennedy’s ideas into a winning combination, taking the White House back for Democrats for only the second time…well, since Kennedy lost.

Like a message in a bottle set adrift decades ago, the Kennedy speech can be seen as just a curiosity. But it can also be a warning, about how even persistent ideas with powerful believers behind them, can spend many years at sea with no one able to quite bring them into the harbor and take them home.

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. George Sturdivant

    NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    President Obama said that the only Healthcare Reforms that he would support/sign would be the ones that we could pay for. There is so much waste/duplication of services that he said needs to be addressed and would help pay for most of the needed reforms
    Boy, are the Corporations, the Wealthy and the priviliged really that scared that they may have to kick in just a little extra to reach back and help their fellow man. To those I say, stay out no get out of your churches. God said help the widows and orphans.
    Cut the misinformation,lies and half truths..your stock holders will still give you your millions of dollars in bonuses.
    God Bless Corporate America, our political leaders and the rest be damned.

    August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm |
  2. KIm

    Hoist the lines and cut off their wind as Universial Health Care sails in ! Call letters HR 3200 ! What treasures do yee seek at sea if not it be Americans covered with insurance ya see. Not thrown over board due to pre-existing conditions. No doubt some docking concerns in the town hall storms but we'll make it to shore.There is a light house and compass. Got your life jacket coverage or was it cancelled ? Our current health care system is like Tom Hanks volley ball,make believe and finally he loses it out to sea and washes up home.

    August 30, 2009 at 12:20 am |
  3. Damien

    I find it utterly sad and frustrating that politicians would insult the American people by claiming they can handle the running of ANYTHING.

    The government was not created to do everything for us, but for some reason President Obama seems to believe it was. We need to learn to be self-sufficient and earn our way through life.

    Perhaps when we take care of the illegal immigrant issue and secure our borders we might see just how much these people have taxed the current system. This is a much better way to attack financial strain in the system... and we can eliminate those individuals who haven't EARNED their citizenship!

    August 30, 2009 at 12:09 am |
  4. nea

    Some people keep saying we want our country back well, What do you really mean when you say that? Do you really mean you dont want a Black man for President or what! Because for some im really starting to believe that this is about race to a degree. Do some whites think President Obama want to use his agenda to just help black people, as if blacks are the only one who needs government help. Well just to let some of you Obama haters know Im a black woman and i pay taxes too and unlike some of you i want healthcare reform and i have health insurance but for the sake of someone els who dont have it i want it, to help the poor and less fortunate to get on their foot i will pay more taxes if i have too. And yes! their will always be some that will use the government but everyone donot. Just like their will always be rich crookes who dont pay taxes.

    August 29, 2009 at 1:32 am |
  5. A.M. Deist, Fort Walton Beach, FL

    America has always promoted a "Don't fix it if it ain't broken" philosophy. That is why we are nearing bankruptcy in our State governments, are running out of water in many areas, and are having blackouts in some parts of the country. We won't fix health care until we have another 50 or 100 million Americans without health care access.

    August 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  6. pansy

    "People say SOCIALISM, If you have never lived in Europe, how do you know about the pros and cons of Socialism. Senator did live in Europe. ' The Fire Dept is socialism". No one complains when you have to call the FIRE TRUCK".

    August 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  7. Dave-Chicago

    The President, his czars & all his Chicago buddies are nothing but trouble.Chicago politics is destroying the City Of Chicago.All the czars that answer only to the President have some very un-american ideas on how or what our country should be.Like the people Obama hung around with before he was a senator,while he was a senator & now are not the people that should be trusted.The President or his czars/buddies never say what they mean & never mean what they say.I trust none of them,I respect the office of the presidency but I do not trust Obama,I do not respect him.It is getting scary what he's trying to do to our country.

    August 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  8. pansy

    "People say SOCIALISM, If you have never lived in Europe, how do you know about the pros and cons of Socialism. Senator did live in Europe."

    August 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  9. Peter

    "let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth"

    I'm all for this, but doesn't this also mean the rich and/or middle class can't be taxed more on healthcare because "shall never depend on size of a family's wealth".

    So if they get taxed to support health care reform, then this reform will depend on their contribution of tax dollars which ARE based on their family wealth, so which in turn determines their state of family's health under the reform?

    Logic example:
    H is Resolution of Family Health, W is Family Wealth, R is Healthcare Reform, T is Tax, ^ is Not depend on, = is Depend on

    We suppose H ^ W. Does H = R? Yes. Does R = T = W. If yes, then violates the hypothesis of H ^ W.

    So in summary, this sentence works if you believe the Healthcare Reform does not depend on Taxes or Family Wealth OR Resolution of Family Health does not depend on Healthcare Reform.

    August 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  10. Mavis

    Did everyone miss this tid-bit?
    "the new president might have been accused of plagiarism"

    Ha! this is nothing, watch "Man of the Year" ... see if anything looks familiar. There's no sequel to "Man of the Year" without a script for the man to follow what's going to happen NOW?


    August 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  11. Mike

    This has nothing to do with the "rich do not want to give just a few extra dollars to help some one in desparate need". The outrage in this is that the hard working people, who have lived a good life, put themselves through school and maintinaed their finances responsibly are being forced to give more of what they have earned to people who don't want to work.

    Welcome to Socialism America!!!, hope you like what you did to this country when you put this guy in office...

    August 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  12. lampe

    Kennedy, had a chance in the 70's, to work on Health Reform but he choose not to work with The Republicans ( I think Nixon was POTUS). So now The Dems want The Republicans to work with them so a Bill can be passed in Kennedy's memory. Sounds only fair to me RIGHT?

    August 28, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  13. JC- Los Angeles

    While it's common knowledge that career politicians and corporate executives never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, it should come as no surprise to now see President Obama championing a Kennedy agenda that has previously been defeated.

    Similar to the Democrats and Hillary relying on chronic loser Terry McAuliffe, he even lost recently in Virginia, and the Republicans chronic support of Palin, who also lost, Obama is now channeling defeat.

    Real leaders have their own vision; articulate their messages clearly and concisely; surround themselves with quality people; learn from their mistakes; and never repeat failures.

    Unless President Obama changes course, he'll end up in teh same heap as Kennedy, Carter, Hillary, McAuliffe and Palin.

    August 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  14. Susan Desgrousilliers

    It is very obvious that those who support Obamacare have not had the intelligence to even read it. They just blindly follow like sheep, and will continue to follow until they are lead off the cliff. Further, I am getting very tired of those ignorant people who have not read the bill and therefore when confronted with accurate information about what is in the bill their only response is that we are just against it because we don't like Obama, and are racist. You all need to grow up, take responsibility and read H.R. 3200 yourself, if you do you will not be in favor of it unless you are an illigal immegrant. And, just for your information the worst our economy has been in over the last 50 years was when Carter left office and the unemployment rate was at 12%, and the interest rates were at 22%. Again, don't sound off unless you know what you are talking about. Obama is bankrupting our country, and you people just don't get it.

    August 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Brittney Artis

    what alot of people failt to realize that Barack Obama became president when the country was almost at it worst. All the promises that he had made to us will be met, but we can not expect for them to be met at a blink of an eye. Change will come soon and when it do he will fufill all of his promises. Making change in this country is like turning a big ship on the ocean... It might take a while but eventually it will make a full 180 degree turn. I do support Obama plans for health care. I think it is not fair that the rich do not want to give just a few extra dollars to help some one in desparate need.

    August 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  16. john

    Same old stale arguements from those who don't want Health Care Reform....filled with misconceptions, twisted facts and half truths. It is obvious that many are just attacks on Obama and not Health Care Reform.

    August 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  17. RLWellman

    The President has said we need to pass the Health Care Reform Bill because our country will go under if we don't. He continues with his lies and needs to be held accountable for them.
    The same people who said "cash for clunkers" would last for months, lasted 4-days and was broke. If this is all the better they can project the cost of this program, why should we believe Health Care Reform will only cost 1.3 trillion dollars.
    Why does the Government have to cover all 300 million American citizens, when the majority doesn't want them to? What's happening to our Democracy?
    The non-elected Czars need to go. The majority does not want this country to turn into England, Canada, or Germany. We need reform without the Government running it!

    August 28, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  18. Michael C. McHugh

    Our political system moves in cycles, with reform eras every generation, and conservative periods in between. Ted Kennedy's career began in the reform wave of the 1960s, but most of it took place in the Second Gilded Age of the last 30 years. It was an era when most Democrats claimed they were really free market Republicans at heart, but never Kennedy. It's a tribute to the man that he got anything done at all in the Age of Reagan.

    Like all good politicians, he knew another reform wave when he saw it, and got behind Obama as the best president for the times. Unfortunately, he was not able to take the lead in the Senate to pass these reforms, thus completing his life's work and that of his brothers.

    August 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm |