February 24th, 2010
11:59 PM ET

The Blair House Health Summit: Missing Pat Moynihan

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David Gergen | BIO
AC360° Contributor
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.

But he was apparently itching to try again and when he had a bravura performance, with cameras rolling, as he paid a call on House Republicans in Baltimore, a light bulb went off in the White House: let’s have a “summit” at Blair House with Republicans and Democrats. If the President, they thought, can once again dazzle in debate with Republicans, that will light a new fire behind reform and maybe – just maybe – it will then pass.

So, Mr. Obama is doubling down on his bet. If he succeeds, he could not only revive health care but his presidency. If he fails, however, he will deliver a second body blow to himself and his party. And prospects for passage of a comprehensive bill are uncertain at best: while looking better in the Senate, the House could go either way. So this is a big gamble.

Hovering over Blair House is an even bigger question: Even if it were possible for Mr. Obama to succeed, is it wise? Given current conditions, would passage of his comprehensive bill be in the best interests of the country?

There is no right answer to those questions – much depends on what you think about the substance of the bill. But there is a deeper wisdom from the past that ought to be considered, too. It was taught to me back in the 1990s by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the brightest lights ever to serve in the U.S. Senate and a personal friend. Pat was then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I had just joined up with President Bill Clinton at the White House, and a titanic struggle was underway over the Clintons’ efforts to reform health care.

Moynihan, a Democrat, told me that there were two essential pre-requisites to passing major social reform in this country. The first, he said, was that landmark social legislation should be passed with significant, bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle – otherwise, there would always be trouble with it. He sent me the vote tallies to show how at least a half dozen or more Senators from the opposition party voted for big social initiatives stretching back to the New Deal – from Social Security in the 1930s the civil rights bills of the mid-60s and Medicare and Medicaid bundled together in 1965.

Secondly, he said, landmark social legislation should enjoy solid support from the public before it is passed. Again, history bears out his point. Presumably, the fact that major legislation enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress helped to build up majority support in the country.

It is sobering – and should give us pause – that the comprehensive health care bill now under debate meets neither test. In the House, only one Republican has voted in favor (and has since changed his mind) and not a single Republican in the Senate. People can argue till the cows come home about why. The point is that passage of this omnibus bill through the reconciliation process would be a strictly partisan affair – a sharp break from recent history.

Just as important, the public doesn’t want Washington to do this. Averaging up the results of ten major polls over the past month, Real Clear Politics finds that opinion is running 52-38 percent against passage of the Obama/Democratic plan. There has been some tightening of late in the Democrats’ favor, but the margin against is still the most negative in memory for major social legislation. Today, CNN released a new poll, just out of the field, showing that only 25 percent want Congress to pass this big bill, 48 percent want Congress to start over, and 25 percent want to stop working on health care. Those are important results.

It is possible that President Obama can turn opinion around in the Democrats’ favor through the Blair House summit. Again, one should accord the President great respect for trying. But if he is unable to win Republicans to his side AND if he is unable to win over the public, doesn’t that suggest that he should reconsider?

Should he not think again about the recommendation of his own chief of staff – to take a handful of the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans, weave them into a scaled down bill, and win passage of a bill that will be both bipartisan and enjoy the support of the country? Wouldn’t that be a good way to get started on serious health care reform so that we can also turn our attention back to jobs? I wish Pat Moynihan were at Blair House to whisper in the President’s ear.

Filed under: David Gergen • Health Care • Opinion
soundoff (186 Responses)
  1. Ken, Centreville

    1) As to your first point, the legislation needs bi-partisan support. In normal times that would not be possible. But these are not normal times. For whatever reason, the polical minority has decided that there will be no significant reform. All they will accept is tort-refore combined with some kind of "free market gimmick" that changes how people buy insurance. This isn't signficant reform. So, you can't have bi-partisan support in this case because half of the "bi" is simply demanding that no substantail reform (no substantial change) be attempted. So, Rule 1, bi-patisan support, can't be applied in this case.

    2) Second point. Broad public support. The lack of broad public support, in this case, is due to a mis-representation, mis-information campaign, sponsored by the party referenced in item 1 above. Their suggestion that a public coverage option is "socailism" and a "take over of health care" is completely ridiculous. Apparenly, according to the polls you cite, the 52% against are, mostly, allowing themselves to be informed by the ridiculous.

    As much as I respect the legacy of Pat Moynihan, this is a bill that deserves to be rammed through simply because of the behavior of its opposition. The current health care system is approaching an annual per capita cost of $8000.00. The opposition has no solution for this. They've burned up their available time to participate in the process in a meaningful way. So, now they get to make their goal line stand and get run over. It's what they've been aksing for; it's what they deserve.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  2. Will

    Mr. Gergen, your commentary is always very thoughtful–but serious healthcare reform is needed. Too many have suffered too long, and the American people have been tricked by Big Insurance, Big Pharm, and others for too long. There are the rich and influential who have a financial stake in keeping things as they are, and they have spun this debate until we're all dizzy. I hope our President has a productive summit... that Democrats can compromise and that Republicans can do more than say "no." But if not, I hope Democrats RAM a bill through the Reconciliation process. The time for healthcare reform has been ripe for 50 years. Time to reap the harvest for the American people.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  3. Mary

    Thank you for a thoughtful and understandable analysis of the Health Care issues before us now. It is a gamble but I trust the leadership of our president, who also seems to be a deep thinker about everything. Decisions to go to war probably were never popular either.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  4. Mike Smoth

    Obama’s window of opportunity has closed for any agenda he may have. He miscalculated when he pushed health care before jobs. It is too bad that Rohm Emmanuel did not convey the message to Obama that it is the economy stupid and that focusing on jobs first would have been the gateway for a lot of his goals including health-care. Now that window has closed. At this point we just have to wait three more years for a candidate with not just noble goals but with a strategic plan on how to accomplish those goals over 4 years and even 8 years instead of one year such that counter opposing goals don’t clash with each other. A plan where you are not pressing the gas and the brakes at the same time and in the process going nowhere is which is what Obama has done.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  5. ZotQuix

    Public support was heavily in support of the bill until the opposition started lying and tearing it down with talk of 'Death Panels' and other nonsense.

    Nor am I certain a scaled down bill would be any more likely to pass. The reason there is a reluctance to go back to square one is, the Republican party said from day one they wanted this to be Obama's Waterloo. We're talking about people's lives here, and the passage of as much of the bill as possible is important. To do it, we're going to have to overcome an opposition that, unlike their historical counterparts, care about no one but themselves.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  6. steve b

    We don't want this Health Care Bill in it's current status.

    Please, Please re-think Mr. President
    put your foolish pride aside and listen to us.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  7. John S

    I do not know how you can get broad public support until someone addresses the most important issue; how will healthcare reform impact the delivery of healthcare services to me? For the 85% of American who are fortunate enough to have health insurance the vast majority are happy with their healthcare. I, as well as most I speak to, agree with the health insurance reforms. But when it comes to how it gets paid for and how it will impact delivery there is a major failure of communications. This is where healthcare gets personal. No one believes Congress has the will to make the Medicare cuts they say they will. The only real way to reduce cost is the make changes in how services are delivered. Until someone can tell America how services will be impacted broad public support is impossible. It sort of like going to a home builder and giving him $1 trillion and when you ask how is my house going to look and he says "do not worry, trust me you will like it".

    February 25, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  8. Jennifer NYC

    President Obama should get rid of his university professor advisors and hire some business people. He should appoint a blue-ribbon panel of doctors, AMA, one or two practice and hospital administrators and one or two health industry executives. Then he should scrap the current boondoggle and start over with the Republicans. They can come to a middle ground, I'm sure.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  9. Dave Breece

    Thank You, It's about time someone from CNN showed that at least a few people are using some good old COMMON SENSE concerning the health care debate.
    We do need some changes made,but not the type Mr. Obama is touting.
    Start over,and get it right. Not just from the Left ,but both parties.
    Thank you,from a small bissiness owner that can't afford health ins.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  10. Barry

    Great article David, it was very unbiased, unlike the hogwash written by some of your colleagues.


    February 25, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  11. Joe Durkin

    You take your comments to the people who need this Health Care Bill passed. There are millions of Americans with out insurance that are suffering and dieing. Some how in the logic of all of the debates, this fact is being over looked. Lets get to the Real Facts, and look at the SICK AND DIEING PEOPLE THAT NEED HELP. Are you ready to say No to them. This is America, if you can not afford your medicine or doctors care you will suffer, and die. Is that the message you want to deliver?

    February 25, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  12. Mike

    The biggest problem with this bill is that it comes across as a Frankenstein monster that no-one really understands, and when people feel they don't understand something, they always say 'no.'
    Break the bill up into separate bills, each containing just one or two topics. I would suggest pairing topics, each desirable to a different side of the aisle.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  13. Johnny

    The people don't want it. Plain and simple. Please stop Mr. Obama until you can come up with a real plan that actually helps America

    February 25, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  14. tylerkad

    There is no question that Health Care Reform needs to happen. To say otherwise is plain foolish and devoid of any intelligence or compassion. Obama can only revive his presidency and avoid the disappointment many share by going aggressively right at the GOP and using reconciliation. Will it divide America in the near term. Sure, but we are already there. I don't even know what the big deal is with the dems losing the house or senate this fall. They seem to be just as inept in either scenario unless they show courage and leadership with health care reform.

    That would be a feather in the cap to show that they are a functioning government and can point to recent successes such as the stimulus, junkers for cash, job bills and nascent moves into transforming our energy dependence.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  15. Bob

    It is time the President of the United States takes the reigns in this fiasco and pushes through a Health Care Reform Act that stops the Health Insurance Industry and the GOP from robbing the American people.
    America needs the government to get involved and regulate this out of control industry that is about $ only and not the lives of Americans. Millions of Americans cannot visit a doctor or dentist and will either die prematurely or live their lives with chronic conditions that could otherwise have been remedied. Pre-existing conditions, low income levels and old age should not deprive any american of affordable health insurance.

    February 25, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  16. scotty j.

    I hope neither the Republicans or Democrats do not walk away from health insurance reform in this country. There's need for adjustment and it needs to be done. I'm appreciative of the president's efforts. In a way I think it's good that we're still debating this as there's yet need for improvement. Hopefully they'll work together working out a compromise that moves toward access to health care that is representative of our short and long-term interests. Come on folk get on with it doing what needs to be done for the good of all the people of this country. Democrats. And Rupublicans.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  17. Deb/Alabama

    David, I really appreciate your commentaries and I always listen to what you have to say. I think you use considerable tactfulness and care in the comments you make.

    As one who has experienced the loss of insurance when my husband became disabled and knowing the huge expense we had to burden when we had to find an insurance just to cover him for over 2 years, I can really appreciate President Obama's attempt to help lower the costs and reign in the increases. I just wish that everyone would look at this from other viewpoints and remember that your health situation can change at any given time. I know, ours did when my husband became ill and had never had any kind of sickness before. He went from a hardworking, vibrant man of 54 to someone now who has the body of a 80 year old.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  18. JoeS

    Most people look at health care and view it in terms of personal or family cost, but there is another dimension that resonates at the national level. We have, by far, the most expensive health care system in the world, and it affects everything. When automakers price their cars, the high cost of workers' health insurance is included in every auto built and sold. Universal health insurance, paid by the government, would reduce the cost of every product made in the USA and make our exports more competitive. Think of all the television and print ads from the insurance companies, the magnificent buildings and office complexes they own–they are all paid from the profits from selling insurance to you at a price higher than the cost to them. The giant insurance industry in America has become one of our biggest moneymakers by selling to Americans the services all other iondustrialized countries provide free. We have the illusion of choice in health care, but the terms and conditions of health policies are so complex and riddled with loopholes favoring the insurers, that few outside the legal and medical professions can understand them.
    Obama's persistence pursuing medical reform is a testament to his dedication to the national welfare, above personal aspiration. It would be easier to settle for less, but reform of our healthcare problems is essential to conserve our wealth for use to address the problems posed by our aging society and the healthcare problems faced by an ever more crowded world. We need to reduce the overhead arising from duplicaiton of administrative costs that is inherent in the use of mutiple providers. We are squandering money that shold be used to face our health problems and update our delivery systems.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  19. okin

    Where do you guys get your polls from? you guys dont want us (Americans) to believe in your polls agains. Nobody in their right mind will not support health care reform whether you sick or not. I believed that Republicans are playing game with the reform they are using delay tactics not to have any reform and spreading bad rumor and the contenets in the bill. The White house should do a better job informing the public so that we can get over with.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  20. Joe Taitnao

    STEP 1: Congress should work on a health care plan for the uninsured or people who cannot affort health insurance.
    STEP 2: Appoint a commitee of independant group to investigate or evaluate why insurance cost is running wild.
    STEP3: Hold politicians responsible knowingly and illegally accept kickbacks for personnal and financial gain.
    STEP 4: RE-EDUCATE politicians that the people is the government and we intrusted to adhear to the constitution as our fore fathers intented to be. WE THE PEOPLE! A POWERFUL WORDS!

    February 25, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  21. Cheryl S

    I think the solution is simple enough – just pass abill that gives us the same insurance that Congress and the President have. If it's good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for us?

    February 25, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  22. AJ Webb

    Great article. You should be President, Mr. Gergen! 🙂

    February 25, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  23. Washington Ray, Jr. DDS

    Many People that say they are against healthcare reform because they do not understand what it will do for them individually and for the country collectively in a positive way. When the contents of the reform is explained to them they are for it. Times and people have changed since Patrick Moynihan days. The rules have changed dramatically. No Black could have ever been elected President then either. Reconcilliation is the only way to past the bill and once they American people get used to what it will do for them they will accept it just as they do with social security, medicare, medicaid, GI bill, spousal leave and all the other things Republicans and conservatives have been against. We are dealing with new rules, new demographics and different ideas today.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  24. jswang

    He should do what he feels is in the best interest of the country. If he feels this bill will help the country he should do it. Everyone will never be on his side just like everyone wasn't on Bush's side but he still passed bills that he wanted to. So, the country and the Republicans need to relax and let him do his job. His ideas cant be any worst than theirs was the last 8 years.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  25. Marcus

    I think Obama is trying to look out for the people. The healthcare industry needs to be overhauled immediately or else these prices will continue to soar. It appears to me that there are far too many Insureance company lobbyists that have extended themselves into these politicians pockets and no real work can get done. These politicians are looking out for themselves and hiding behind agendas that arent so hidden anymore. Otherwise how could you explain that no Republican is for this change or offered up any substantial ideas to aid this situation. Its sad that the people that are sent to represent us care more about lining theyre own pockets than helping the people that put them into office. I hate to see Obama fail, but this isnt gonna happen, they marketed it all the way wrong, and they didnt shove it down peoples throat like Bush would have. Nice guys always lose.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  26. Trey Rentz

    The polling has always been sharply in favor of healthcare reform – the poll cited in this essay 52-38 was a composite result – the line item of that poll that actually dealt with healthcare reform showed the American public sharply in favor of it. At one point last year, the polling reflected nearly 70% in favor of it.

    The fact that the GOP has not voted for this legislation has more to do with the institutionalization of lobbyism and their tacit acceptance of it in their 'republic'. Large campaign donations by special interest groups and lobbyists such as Jack Abramov have been part and parcel of the intercession such groups make on behalf of the electorate. A deeply flawed senate bill was the result. But moreover, much of the legislation being passed in the past two decades as a result of such interference has been the result – a hurricane katrina relief act that had a line item in it by GOP Cornyn that permitted coal fired power plants in Pennsylvania to dump more mercury in the air – a war funding act that increased the minimum wage ?

    Someone should whisper into Anderson Cooper's ear that the process is seriously broken and the fact that Healthcare Reform is the object of partisan politics on behalf of the GOP has less to do with the concept that there is no support for it and more to do with the fact that the senate has been bought and sold for nearly a decade. After all, the GOP has voted against every Obama administration effort. They are being paid millions of dollars by taxpayers and the healthcare lobbyists shelling out an additional 1.2 million dollars per day – to block the function of government.

    My view is that given the GOP had full control of the house, senate, presidency and we even had a conservative leaning supreme court (thanks to appointments by the Bush administration) and they still spent more in the past administration than any other administration before ? The president should press forward with his reforms.

    They represent my view of what I would wish to see happen with our country – as a voter. Not the least of which has to do with the fact that the current sitting president is under the least amount of control of the lobbyists that wrecked our country in the past one –

    Just my two centavos here.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  27. veronic Donoso

    We do not need another band aid to one of the biggest problems the country faces. Anderson cooper seems to share the view of the Republicans and let the insurance companies continue their hold in our lives. We need serious reform and we need it now. I wish FDR was in the room whispering on president Obama's ear to do what is right for the country and press for health care reform.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  28. veritas

    No doubt the GOP will continue to oppose Obama. That said, if he comes across as being more reasonable and flexable then his opposition, and that should be pretty easy, he will turn the tide of public sentiment. Let us not forget why so many Americans are opposed to the reforms. The plan was never properly explained to them in easy to understand language. On the other side you had the Teabaggers, Rush, Glen Beck, Palin, well you get the picture. Obama and the Democrats lost the pr war and lost it badly. I do believe Emanual is right. Put together a more compact version, including some ideas from the right like tort reform and get something passed. Obama's stock will shoot up like a rocket!

    February 25, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  29. Richard

    Health care reform is never going to pass because the democrats want to shoot the moon and provide universal health care that will be worse than medicare because of the sheer weight of bureaucracy. Medicare has been broken for years and nobody wants to fix it. My parents are both on Medicare and my mother has had to resort to going to the local "doc-in-a-box" because she cannot find a physician willing to take new medicare patients. Why don't the dems look at the real issue that's crippling health care costs: tort reform. Malpractice premiums drive up health care costs to the point of driving doctors out of business.

    February 25, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  30. Juan Suero NYC

    The public polls are taken from people who have not read one line of the bill.

    His chief of staff wants him to relax on it to save political points.

    The party of No just wants to say no.
    The democrats fear the political backlash.

    People fear this bill because we are in tough times. People want to just duck, cover and hide.

    Our president has shown that he does not run for the hills. He beleives this will help the american people at the expense of his own presidency.

    THe health care bill IS a jobs bill. When 90 percent of your country jobs are created from small businesses.. you need to incentivize the innovators... the guys who have been in industry in a corporation for 10-20 years and now have a better way to do something... those guys/gals are in thier 30s and 40s... they are not about to leave the security of thier job to venture out into this climate or any climate if they cant assure thier family some basic health care... or those with a pre-existing condition are not going to leave thier current health care... or those companies who have the great idea but cant get it off the ground because of the weight of providing health insurance to thier initial workers...


    February 25, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  31. Robert Flacke

    The president made a few big mistakes in trying to reform health care.

    The first is not insisting that Medicare be simply expanded to cover everyone.

    The second and latest is his refusal to start from scratch and scrap what is far from a bipartisan health care proposal. I'm not sure why he did not do this. It is often easier to start from scratch then try to resurrect a plan that is controversial.

    But make no mistake about it. Americans want health care reform and they see this as an opportunity that can't be squandered. We all know that we can not put our fiscal house in order without addressing health care. So it is a case of "If not now, when?".

    The republicans also risk much by being perceived as merely obstructionists. This is very apparent when all you hear from them is "stop the government take over of health care". Please! Get to work!

    February 25, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  32. Laurie

    I wish Pat Moynihan were there too....

    We voted for change, and what we have found...is that regardless of party offiliation....It is corrupt and dirty. Back door deals and a complete disregard for the citizens of the United States. Power, money and ego seem to fill the air with a pungent smell.

    I have lost respect for this administration and it will take more than a summit meeting to regain my approval or my vote. At this point, the tactics used by this administration to try to pass this bill are what will be remembered....and in our house, even the passage of a bill....can't erase or rationalize the actions or ego's leading the charge.

    I love the constitution....and regardless of the issues....or my opinion....believe every voice should be represented and accounted. This administration has done more to silence the voice of opposition...by name calling....and using fear tactics than any administration I have witnessed before. All under the guise of projecting their actions on the other party.

    It is very disappointing....Definately not the type change we were so charismatically promised.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  33. John M

    Finally, a voice of reason! The Democrats and Republicans need to do exactly what you close with – take a handful of the best ideas from each party and weave them into a scaled down bill that both could support. This means both sides need to compromise, we need to end this winner takes all, my way or the highway, nonsense in American politics. Both parties are guilty, both parties say reform is needed at different levels, both parties need to get on with it and do the work of the people.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:54 am |
  34. jeff

    Very well written and thought out.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  35. mike wilson

    we watched cnn this morning when one senator talked bout the health care bill costing more and forcing some on it that didn't want it, while he suggested those who needed medical coverage could get it thru other avenues, guess my question would be when obrahma asked for input to get a bill thru, from both paties why they weren't working to make it possible instead of waiting to say when so close , ain't gonna work, seems to us like gotta lot of lobbyist and senators and congressmen still trying to better there own agendas then do anything for those they represent.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:47 am |
  36. Trylon

    My personal library contains: 1) "False Hopes: Overcoming the Obstacles to Sustainable, Affordable Medicine" by Daniel Callahan, 1999, and 2) "Critical Condition" by Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, 2004. There are times I think I'm the only American to have read them, let alone purchased them for their clarity and brilliance. I am also someone who lived in Canada more than 30 years and became a dual citizen. Go ahead, Republicans, sit there like tar babies. You cannot screw me.

    My position: just as there was an event that fractured Christianity, this nation was fractured irreparably by the SCOTUS decision appointing George Bush President in 2000. Across ten years our People have become members of two nations who loath each other but share a common motto: Over My Dead Body. We are variously calling this case gridlock or broken government, in stead of what it is: fracture of the People into political philosophies as different from each other as Serbs and Croats. How is any person to be President of that?

    If =my= neighbor would rather die than allow me to have universal health care, then s/he is more dangerous to my future than Al Qaeda or any other foreign terrorist. At this point our democracy practically involves voting for the terrorists of our choice. And so I put into the public domain the suggestion both radical and sensible that it may be time to imagine two new nations. Our nation was not divided THIS much by the issue of Slavery.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  37. john

    Your comments are straight out of the Republican playbook.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  38. Henry Colonna

    David, you are brilliant. I love your analysis. CNN should give you your own show. Whom do we write about the David Gergen Hour?

    February 25, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  39. Ellen Lawson

    Thank you, David Gergen! Right on with this article!

    February 25, 2010 at 7:32 am |
  40. Tim

    Mr. Gergen,

    These are the words of a politician. What do you think as a person?

    February 25, 2010 at 7:25 am |
  41. Troy

    "... a handful of the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans ..."

    Which ideas do you think would have bipartisan support? Part of the problem is that the ideal solutions from either party are so polarized that there is practically very little legislative consensus. Half of that 48% who want congress to start over would prefer a sweeping public option and no more insurance companies; the other half would prefer the federal government remove health insurance regulations altogether so the market can have more competition.

    How do you reconcile such extremes with legislation? Unfortunately, in this political environment and with so much misinformation and propoganda from both sides, I don't think it's possible to do it with either bipartisan or overwhelming public support.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  42. carl

    David Gergen usually is more on the ball than this. Clearly, at this point it would be a political disaster for the president and the Democrats NOT to pass health care, not a gamble to do so. People also generally understand that the Republicans are just trying to derail his presidency. In that way, pushing it through without Republican support is also a political advantage–it shows the PResident and the Dems fighting for the people. The health care summit is a necessary bit of political theatre in that bigger picture.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:13 am |
  43. Jim

    I would agree with but I don't feel Republicans are serious on doing anything. How else can you explain 290 bills waiting for an up or down vote? In the end people like a winner and success. Passing reform will achieve this.

    February 25, 2010 at 7:06 am |
  44. Jim

    The country needs policies to create private employment. . . why does Obama & company fail to understand this. The country is broke and he is looking to spend more. How absurd!

    February 25, 2010 at 7:01 am |
  45. Ttommy Tucker

    This is all about an arrogance of a a man who is desperate to define his presidency. He is willing to throw away the political careers of others to satisfy this need. He is not stupid. He reads the polls. He knows what is going on here. He knows most Americans do not want this bill. But he forges ahead anyway, throwing everyone under the bus in his way. He is frantic it will not pass. He should be concentrating on our economy, not his self serving legacy.

    February 25, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  46. commodore

    What can I say? Gergen is the Man, as always.

    February 25, 2010 at 6:17 am |
  47. Glen Wilson

    Your points are well said. One additional thing must be a part of any serious health care reform. We have a deficit and national debt that is a serious problem. Addiing a new government spending program of this size is not realistic without addressing the deficit issue. Supporters have claimed that the proposed legislation will actually reduce the deficit. This claim is based on creative accounting and is not a credible claim.

    I agree that the current health care system needs to be reformed. Unfortunately, this country has allowed itself to be in a position of financial peril due to unchecked spending and debt. Many voters understand the seriousness of this situation. We must address this core issue before we can have serious debate about a major health care initiative.

    How do I trust the leaders of this country with healthcare when they have failed at the basics of managing our spending and debt?

    February 25, 2010 at 6:11 am |
  48. Valorie Kappmeyer

    Mr. Gergen,

    Please address the President properly and not by "Mr. Obama".

    Valorie Kappmeyer
    San Diego, CA

    February 25, 2010 at 6:05 am |
  49. Deborah Angell Smith

    Love ya' Gergen, but I'm with Obama on this one. True, the administration and Congressional leaders have done a piss-poor job of selling this plan to the public – while the Republicans have done a great job of negative campaigning – but my recollection is that the hope of health care reform is one of the key reasons Obama was elected. He and all Democrats will suffer mightily if they don't get it done – but not nearly as much as the American people who desperately need relief.

    As you well know, all a negative campaign has to do is plant a seed of doubt – and voters will unfailingly choose the status quo, no matter how bad that my be...and these Republicans have been planting bad seeds non-stop. Even a master communicator like Obama would have a problem fielding all of the lies that have been lobbed on this issue, and sadly, he hasn't been out front until recently. Reed and Pulosi just don't compare as effective spokespersons.

    And as with all polling – it depends on how you ask the question. I suspect that a majority of Americans still want health care reform. If Obama can use this summit and other opportunities to get the word out about the positive side of this bill, I'm confident the Congressional leadership can get something passed, which will be a monumental achievement.

    Personally, like a lot of progressives, I really wouldn't mind starting over – and putting back in good elements like the public option and end-of-life counseling that were needlessly dropped to appease Republicans who were never going to vote for the bill anyway – if the process wouldn't be twice as tedious and treacherous as this effort has been.

    Given that, I'm a pragmatist, get what you can and move on -and come back again after some ethics reform gets us closer to a level playing field for the consumer. It's too important to drop. I need it, my family and friends need it and our country needs it.

    February 25, 2010 at 5:59 am |
  50. john

    if the presidents plan "b" passes , what is a person living in puerto rico gonna do, the plan does not include them . our young men and women are off fighting for the u.s. maybe they should consider whos there real enemy.

    February 25, 2010 at 5:45 am |
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