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Obama Holds Pep Rally for Health Care on Hill

4:55 PM, Mar 20, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Obama arrived in the visitors' center under the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus this afternoon that had the definite feel of a pep rally before a big game.

That's as far as I'll go with the sports metaphors, as Harry Reid did enough torturing of sports metaphors for all of us when he spoke. He told the president, who he knows "likes basketball," that we are in the overtime of a basketball game and everyone already knows the conclusion, but it's close, so the opposition just keeps fouling us, but we're gonna keep making our shots, and in "when the buzzer finally sounds, there will be a clear winner. That winner will be the American people."

But wait, were the American people even playing? Nobody ever got me the ball!

The rally, by design had a feeling of inevitability about it, with Obama saying "we are 24 hours away" from health-care reform after a year of debate. But is there reason for the confident air?

"Stupak said those standing with him now number about six -- down from the rough dozen he has claimed for weeks. That is likely enough to put the majority within striking distance of the 216 votes they need for passage."

The whip count is certainly tight enough that Stupak could still endanger the bill, even with a smaller bloc, but Pelosi does seem to be peeling off a few pro-lifers.

Of course, you'd never know the vote was close given the tone Democrats took today. Harry Reid, the only member of the Senate on hand, told the crowd that Nancy Pelosi is the "greatest speaker the House of Representatives ever had." Pelosi called Reid, "a master at work." No, I'm not kidding.

What to say about Obama's speech? It was the same thing you've heard all year—55 times as of today, actually— with all the attendant straw men, distortions, exaggerations, and of course, lecturing of others for using straw men, distortions, exaggerations.

Obama began by quoting—wait for it—Lincoln: "I am not bound to win, but I'm bound to be true." That was the refrain of his speech, which exhorted Democratic lawmakers to be true to his giant hodge-podge compromise vision of how health care should work.

He implored Democrats, "Don't do it for me," after imploring them all week to take this vote to save his presidency. He promised once again that "if you like your health insurance, you'll be able to keep it," even though mandates for private health insurance will preclude great sectors of the current constellation of insurance plans we can now have.

Obama claimed the "bill runs straight down the center of American political thought." He claimed Republicans want to take the "fox in the henhouse" approach, in which special interests and insurance companies get more power, ignoring his own oft-criticized deal with PhRMA and his mandate that requires all Americans buy insurance from... insurance companies. He kindly conceded it won't "solve every problem " with health care, but also said it's "the biggest step forward since Medicare."

Of course, the vote on Medicare passage was, 307-116 in the House and 70-24 in the Senate.

Obama repeatedly said he knew it was a "tough vote" and then proceeded to publicly name-check every Democrat in a tough district who's voting with him, presumably so their Republican opponents can have clear footage of those members being applauded by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama.

The speech ended with the same call to higher duty and greatness that each campaign speech did, with the same lofty call to action that every victory speech did, and with the same moving exhortation to change the world and the system as his rousing call to re-elect Jon Corzine did. Luckily, with Obama, everything is uplifting, no matter what it is.

In the end, it was an Obama speech in every sense, which prompted Howard Kurtz to write, "even if you hate this health care bill, that was quite an oration."

Indeed, Howard, when you subtract the strawmen and distortions, it was great! It's like saying every Bush speech was awesome, if you don't count his delivery.

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