September 9th, 2009
12:02 PM ET

Obama’s moment of truth

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/02/art.obamatalking.0902.gi.jpg]

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

On Wednesday, President Obama will make the most important speech of his presidency. We hear this phrase so much that it has become a cliché. But, in this case, the cliché is accurate.

President Obama suffered a politically brutal month in August. The opponents of health care dominated public debate about the legislation circulating in Congress. Public approval ratings for the president and his health care plan, as well as the Democratic Congress, have fallen. Democrats have become internally divided.

It is possible Obama could end his first year in the White House without a major piece of legislation beyond the economic stimulus.

For a president who began the year with his supporters talking about a transformative leader who would equal Presidents Lincoln or Roosevelt, this would be a major disappointment.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I don't think some of the comparisons between Obama and the other presidents quite apply in this case: 1) obama and FDR – of course Congress and the people got behind FDR; we had just been the victim of a sneak attack by Japan which effectively destroyed our Pacific fleet and killed thousands of our people – you cannot compare health care to this one; health care vs. an act of war is like apples vs. oranges; 2) obama and JFK on the space race – Russia had just launched Sputnik and our country was afraid of falling behind Russia because of the sense that this technology could be applied in warfare and that we needed to be equally equipped...again apples vs. oranges; 3) the comparisons between Obama and Reagan and Obama and LBJ are probably valid, especially LBJ's push on civil rights.

    Obama needs to be judged in the end on how he handles the case for univeral insurance – not how his group of inspirational Presidents would have handled it. And if he can't get it all passed he ought to look at how Ted Kennedy got so much passed over a long period of time. Kennedy understood that if you don't get all you want everyday taking what you can get is better than nothing at all – because once the ground work is there you can add to it later. It was a good strategy if you look at all the items Kennedy got passed over his almost 50 years in Congress – taking a leaf from his book may be more effective than modeling his actions on past presidents.

    September 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Joe G. (Illinois)

    After all that money of ours he spent on them “3 Legged Stools” can he not even at least bother to send us a photo or postcard showing us what they look like? But no.. Speeches are his thing I guess!! The president likes to give speeches. I guess all that practicing in the mirror that he does is something he doesn’t want to go to waste. Oh well..! I have yet to hear him once..

    September 9, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  3. Larry

    Obama = Peter Principle

    September 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  4. Larry

    All Obama has done is break every promise he made during his campaign. What happened to the transparency? What happened to posting bills on his site so we could read and respond to them before he signs them? Where is the 'no lobbyists' promise? What happened to his promise that everyone would get the same health care package as he was receiving as a U.S. Senator; the 'Public Plan' he is pushing is far from the U.S.Senator Plan. He is always in campaign mode! He is supposed to be the president, but all he does is whine about the previous administration as do his groupies.
    The President is supposed to work for the people and if he is not doing anything but trying to get re-elected then he may as well give up the job to Joe Biden.

    September 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  5. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Well Obama is no FDR, more like a Millard Fillmore. He has aptly demonstrated that campaigning is a skill he's mastered, and leading is not. Obama thought that getting elected was winning the race, wnen in fact it's really the start of the race; and he's been left sitting in the blocks. Those things he has passed have been grossly flawed in execution; the stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, and the mortgage assistance program. A business executive with his string of flops would have been 'promoted' to a job someplace where he couldn't hurt anything.

    September 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  6. Christy

    I think you are completely misinformed. I have never seen another president take so much time and energy to support such a positive change.

    September 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  7. truthislight

    All the fluff-bells and whistles is what Obama has been about. I truly don't expect him to be about facts (because the facts in the bill are liberty robbing-an rfid chip) as he hides them with razzle dazzle. Thank Jesus Christ he is real and keeps it real because Obama sure doesn't!Soothsayer-an ear tickler. He has no fear of God-He scoffs Gods direction-he is as a blind man leading the blind! Oh look nearly a million on simulas plan, oh look over a couple trillion in a new budget! oh look over a trillion for Gov't take over of healthcare plan! but what of the childrens future. Don't worry about that were having to much fun. Seems like the USA is the Dems game "monopoly" There is no justification for what Obama is doing.!

    September 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  8. Patricia Carlson

    What nice job!! We are very amazing with you and your team; take care and please , have God with you all!!!!

    September 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  9. matthew queens, ny

    would a poorly design bill have been better?

    September 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  10. Conserve' for USA

    We'll see if the President will listen to the majority of the United States, or if he will just go ahead and try to pass the bill the way he wants it!

    September 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  11. Jim

    President Obama must insist on government run and paid for health care for all citizens. It works all around the world. We can craft ours after the best and insurance is the worst. It can only be better than what we have

    It will be paid for by taking money wasted by taxpayers on insurance and applying it to a progressive tax to provide this essential public service.

    Lower income citizens pay more for health care than their entire yearly federal income tax cost. Taxes may go up for some of the wealthy in a progressive tax but the citizens will be protected from the insurance company predators, have peace of mind and they will have more money in their pockets. It is a great deal for everyone but the greedy insurance pigs. Insurance is a hidden flat tax benefiting the rich. The poorest American people are having their backs broken with insurance, credit card costs and bank fees that benefit the rich few.

    We already have socialized medicine. Both government and private insurance spread the cost with those who are well. Socialized medicine is what the insurance companies already ration with excessive profit and waste. Let us have real socialized medicine run by the government. Social programs are not bad. Conservatives call their socialized medicine with private benefit insurance. The government plan provides a lowest cost essential right and service to the American people.

    September 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |