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September 1st, 2009
11:15 AM ET

Did Obama underestimate his critics?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/01/zelizer.obama.healthcare/art.julian.zelizer.courtesy.jpg caption="Julian Zelizer says opponents have mobilized the public to block health reform for 60 years."]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

One of the great puzzles this summer has been why President Obama seemed to have underestimated the intensity of the counter-mobilization he would face in proposing health care reform.

Historically, each time an American president has sought to reform the health care system, opponents mounted a fierce and unrelenting attack to undermine public support.

President Harry Truman confronted such an attack after his dramatic upset against Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948. Truman proposed national health care as part of the "Fair Deal." The American Medical Association instantly branded the proposal "socialized medicine." It hired a public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter, for $1.5 million in 1949.

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Filed under: Health Care
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Troy Krege

    How many Ignorant people who only listen to color and not to facts. Cold hard facts about what every, EVERY, country has and works for all except for the private insurance companies. We are one of the worst countries as far as health care and 16% of our and your spending of your money. Private insurance is AFRAID. And Obama is our president and deserves our respect as citizens of USA.

    September 1, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I keep wondering where are the insurance companies and health care institutions that Obama said were ready for reform?? Seems like we are only hearing from the ones that don't want it and nothing from the ones that supposedly do want it. Health care reform has been on and off the table for many years; each time the health care industry has fought it with half-truths and lies which people believe even when Canadians, Swedes, the French, and the British extol their own health plans. "Socialized" medicine has become synonymous here in the states with the health care systems of these other countries – where the health care costs less and works better than what we have. Until we can deprogram the lies and innuendos of the past I doubt we will see any health care reform. I think the only thing Obama has underestimated is how good a job the health care industry has done in the past and that he is having to fight that battle plus the attacks on his system the industry is posing today.

    September 1, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  3. Kimberly Gibson

    Right on RLWellman! You are correct...until there is Tort Reform, there will be NO Health Care Form. Why is that so hard for some to understand? Talk about "special interests"...even the libs came out and agreed that they are in bed with the trial lawyers and that is why there was no tort reform in the bill! This debate is not about health care reform, it is about the hijacking of our healthcare system by the federal governtment. Now, they are trying to take over the internet too! What's next?

    September 1, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  4. DawnL,CA

    Pres. Obama made a mistake when he turned the healthcare issue over to congress. He should have come up with a proposal & presented it to congress. After all the in-fighting in congress(so they could get their mugs on TV),then that would be the time to draw a line in the sand about what the president would & would not accept. Pelosi is a smiling nut case & should not have been handed the responsibility to get a health bill passed.

    September 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  5. RLWellman

    I guess none of you have read the entire HR3200 bill. If you would have, you would know the freedoms given up for us to have their "Health Care Reform".

    It's not that we don't need reform, it's that we don't need the Government to obtain more power than they have now. Maybe when you open your eyes and see what is going on, you'll understand.

    The Government can have reform, they can have tort reform, they can even help lower the cost of the existing health care, but they don't want to unless we allow them to have more control of us.

    You who are blind need to open your eyes, quit following blindly. Stop drinking the kool-aid. The Government is only looking out for their own interests, not ours! Let's have reform without them running it!

    September 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  6. lampe

    I have an Idea ! How about if we go back 8 years, and all The Democrats work hand and hand with GWB? Then we come back to where we are now, and all The Republicans work with Obama? We can't do that, so to sit here and complain because The Republicans won't work with Obama is CHILDISH! Pick one plan, put it out there for everyone to be able to read, answer their questions, without calling them names, then maybe people would not be afraid of the unknown. And, what gives anyone the right to take your hard earned money and give it away too others? I believe it's not so much the Health Care Reform that people are aginst, as it is BIG-GOVERNMENT sticking it's nose in people's business!

    September 1, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  7. Dwaine

    Everyone conveniently forgets the outrage and the lies the Democrats and Liberal organizations put forth when Bush tried to reform Social Security. They can dish it out, but they can't take it.

    Too bad both sides can't do what is right for everyone instead of what is right for them and what will give them more power and control over our lives.

    September 1, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    No Obama didn't underestimate his opponents, his supporters overestimated his abilities. You can sell any product with a slick marketing campaign. After you take it home and try it out you find out if you bought a piece of junk. Obama obviously is a product that falls apart after the 90 day warranty expired.

    September 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  9. Shamsa

    Hi
    health care is a big monister and has many special intreast attached to it as you mentioned that other presidents also had to face criticism so I think he was expecting some not as much as he got. I think that the republican party took it upon itself to host town hall outbrusts againt the reforms. The Health insurance is the real villian in this debate and it has dep pockets.
    Shamsa
    Plano Tx

    September 1, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  10. JC- Los Angeles

    President Obama's inability to articulate what he's doing, explain why he's doing it and outline what it means to Americans, is a harrowing sign.

    Outside of selling himself and securing book advances, Barack Obama has scant accomplishments and has always moved on to new challenges before he can be judged a success or failure.

    He's like the classic corporate CEO who fails upward through the marketing or HR ranks only to struggle mightily and eventually be replaced by the board.

    America loves reality shows and the election of Barack Obama was the ultimate one; unfortunately, the audience is tuning him out and will ultimately decide if his show gets renewed.

    September 1, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  11. Troy Krege

    The only real Death Panel is your insurance companies right to say NOT to cover you. And they do it every day to alll of you.. No guarantees from YOUR health insurance.

    September 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  12. Troy Krege

    Dear Sir,

    This is somthing that needs to be made aware of. The benefit of National Healthcare is for giving the large and small businesses. There always seems to be a negosiating problem with company healthcare benefits. National healthcare woulf free up funds and negotiating with unions and employees. Along with the added income to each ones paychecks. Lets get the good news of what is possitive for National Health care and stop the stupid rumars.

    September 1, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  13. Ruwan from WA

    There has always been people that don't want to see change because of the fear inside of them. It would be fooling to subscribe to the false propaganda out there and say that our health care system "works just fine."

    September 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  14. Donny

    Why dosen't the obama administration simply post the complete heathcare plan proposal online and let people inspect it as is instead of letting special interest groups spread lies about what it is or isn't. I am not nessesarily for a goverment plan, but I think people want to see it in writing, and not just some polictician saying "this" or "that" about it. I bet if they did post it online in it's entirety you would get a much clearer response from the public. I see information about why they want to reform healthcare on thier website but not the actual plan.

    September 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  15. Joseph

    No, he hasn't. Pres. Obama will succeed at health care at the right time. CNN needs to give this guy a breathing space to tackle the tough issues in America. Stop sacrificing your integrity for ratings against Fox news. Stop creating fake controversy to gain ratings! I stop watching CNN completely months ago and it was easy and refreshing.

    September 1, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  16. Joe C

    Everyone agrees we need healthcare reform. The opposition is to the government getting involved. We can change a few laws and make the current systems more competative at no cost to the taxpayer. Why should the goverment be allowed to spend trillions for a less effective result. We need reform but not a goverment run option.

    September 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  17. Ricardo Ortega

    Tha's a good point, especially when you consider that he is the first African American President. Obama's election did not sit well with a lot of people from the south and they made a decision early on to ruin his presidency. this has nothing to do with what he's doing or not doing, it has to do with the fact that he's black, we have a long ways to go still as a nation.

    September 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  18. gary v mendel

    anderson ,
    lets think . why do we not go to these country's that offer universal health care and interview them instead of us listening to poloticians and insurance company backed adds?
    Canada , My gals office is in Vancouver . All of the employees who moved up there from the states have all stated the care up there is considerly better .
    New Zealand , They seem to really be happy with there's at least 3 times less the cost and they are the number one health care system to use modern technology bringing the cost way down and services way up . the government will even pay for a private provider in an emergency .
    Sweden , interviewed by the daily show . All seem happy with there gov. program .
    england , france , come on and step up to the plate . go interview these people !!!!

    September 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  19. Carol, California

    I watched K. Olbermann a week or so ago, and he was showing the protestors at a town hall meeting. He then turned to his guests, and his opening question was, "What the hell is wrong with these people?'. I laughed, but I had to agree with him.

    What the hell IS wrong with these people? Why won't they even consider a public option? OMG we're so afraid that we might have to pay for people who are uninsured. Who do you think is paying for them now??? We just need to streamline the system.

    I am in between jobs (my choice – not layed off). My former employer offered me cobra in the interim, – at $1200 a month – for a family of three. That would not include office visits, prescriptions, etc.
    $1200 a month? That's more than I pay for my house and twice what I pay for my car.

    My new employer offers private insurance through a well-known health insurance company. Family of three, medical, dental and vision: $694./month = $8,328./year, + a $1000 deductible, + fee for office visits + fee for prescriptions.

    What a racket. Of course these big health care companies want to keep this gig going as long as they can. They're making a fortune. And these stupid people fighting it are playing right into their hands.

    We need another option. Obama has said it a thousand times – if you like the plan you have, then keep it. So all of these protestors, who are living on government run programs like Social Security, SDI, and Medicare, can keep what they have. All of these tea-party express people who, – for some reason, have free time to drive around on their tea-party bus all day instead of working – can keep what they have.

    As a working person, who is shelling out a heck of a lot of cash each year to the insurance companies, I would like another choice.

    September 1, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  20. Michael C. McHugh

    One possibility is that the Republicans just played Obama for a sap, and sucker punched him on health care reform. Grassley played a particularly nefarious role in delaying the bill, so the Republicans could launch all the attacks they had prepared, accusing him of planning to exterminate Grandma on so on.

    It should be a lesson to Obama and the Dems for the future that the Republicans just want to block all his reforms if they can. They are figuring to pick up more seats in 2010, and their strategy is clear–ally with the Dixiecrats ("Blue Dogs") to block all change in this society.

    They have done this many times before.

    September 1, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  21. Pam Threadgill

    I guess I do not so much have a comment as questions. Why are our Republican Congress and Senators continuing to state untrue comments about the health reform bill HR 3200? Most are so outrageous that anyone hearing them is feeling an "Oh my God" kind of disbelief that an elected official appears to either have not read the bill, is repeating viral emails they have gotten in their junk boxes or maybe are being "paid" to repeat private insurance company scripts in order to defeat reform. I do not know about you, but the fact that an elected official is playing along in a game of life and death with our future speaks volumes as to whom they truly represent in the entire sceme of things. It is very clear it is not the people they took an oath to represent but big business. I just want to know why they keep saying lies. I want an investigation into the conduct by our elected officials and where their campaign funds and pledges for the next election is coming from. I do believe that this is not legal to publicly incite fear through lies to the American public to justify their own personal agendas or to speak lies by repeating ficticious rhetoric they never took time to validate. I don't know which is worse. Their knowing or not knowing.

    September 1, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  22. Whitney Ivey

    To myself I do not really think that President Obama underestimted anyone. To me I felt he did what he had to do

    September 1, 2009 at 11:22 am |