A few overdue thoughts on the President’s address on health-care reform to the joint session of Congress last Wednesday.

The President addresses a joint session of Congress on health-care reform. White House Photo, 9/9/09, Pete Souza

The President lays out his proposal for health-care reform to a joint session of Congress. White House photo by Pete Souza.

Overall: Very well done, I thought. I was glad to hear him address the misinformation that’s been flying around in the debate and condemn the politics, scare tactics, and games involved in the perpetuation of such misinformation. I definitely have questions about the proposed insurance exchange system. I was happy that he didn’t take the public option off the table and worked to clear up misinformation surrounding it, but I hope he honestly pushes for it (it looks more and more like the administration is willing to settle for less than the public not-for-profit government-administered option at this point). He mentioned at one point the health cooperative idea, which to be honest, I haven’t looked into yet. Ted Kennedy’s words, from the letter delivered upon his death, were moving: “What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” In the end, though inspiring and important in setting the record straight, Obama’s address was what it was: a speech. Now it’s time for action.

To dig into the details:

Statistics cited:

  • More than 30 million Americans don’t have health coverage right now.
  • We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country (“but we aren’t any healthier for it”).
  • Obama’s proposed plan would cost 900 billion dollars over 10 years (and he laid out how it would be paid for)—less than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and less than the tax cuts for the wealthy at the beginning of the the previous administration.


  • “We did not come here just to clean up crises. We came here to build a future.”
  • “I will not accept the status quo as a solution.”
  • “There are still significant details to iron out.” (This garnered a laugh.)
  • On the “death panels” rumor: “laughable if not so cynical and irresponsible.”
  • “I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.”
  • “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.”
  • “I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.”


  • How do you get the announcer guy’s job? “Madame Speaker, the acting dean of the diplomatic corps!” “Madame Speaker, the President’s Cabinet!” “Madame Speaker, the President of the United States!”
  • By my tally, the President was interrupted by applause and/or standing ovations (from some, though certainly not all, members of Congress) 36 times.
  • Yes, we all know far too much about Joe Wilson at this point.