MSNBC commentators voiced support for President Obama’s speech and his health care plan shortly after the speech ended.
“It was a broad and forward-thinking speech,” said Keith Olbermann. In its rhetoric, phrasing, pacing and design, “the speech itself seems to have been a touch of greatness,” he said.
“Whether the sales job works and what exactly the president is selling remain to be judged.”
The left wing will focus on the end of the speech, Rachel Maddow said. Throughout the speech, Obama sought to draw in Republican support and to avoid threatening vetoes.
But, “at the end, he gave what was the only full, formal definition of liberalism. That and the idea of government for the people being good will make liberals happy,” she said.
Howard Fineman said Obama “did a good job making the case clearly for a pretty specific plan with pretty specific objectives designed to meet the fears and questions of many who hadn’t listened closely.”
Fineman noted that Obama praised some Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley for their cooperation with deceased Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“But he (Obama) made it clear he would go on with them (Republicans) or without them,” Fineman said.
Maddow called the speech “a process-oriented grab bag. It might also be comprehensive health care.” She pointed out that Obama is adopting proposals for catastrophic health care from McCain and for mandatory coverage from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina Democratic Sen. John Edwards.
“He’s bringing a lot of ideas from across the political spectrum,” Maddow said. “Whether it will be enough, we probably won’t know until it’s in effect.”
Olbermann criticized Republicans for their conduct during the speech. He specifically cited House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia for sending text messages during the talk and South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson for shouting out “it’s a lie,” after Obama said his health care plan won’t be provide benefits to illegal immigrants.
Fineman said, “Republicans were mostly stage props and behaved like it.” He acknowledged that Obama’s ideas borrowed some from Republicans.
“But if he gets this, it will be a comprehensive regulation of health insurance. He doesn’t have that now. We need regulation of this industry. This speech at its root was an attack on the health care industry, and he pulled it off tonight,” Fineman said.
In an interview with Olbermann after the speech, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said, “It was the best speech I’ve heard to a joint session. It was as specific as needed with a strong public option. He did reach out to Republicans.”
Congress will support Obama’s idea of forbidding insurance companies from dropping customers with pre-existing conditions, Brown said.
“But the insurance industry has a leash on Republicans in Congress. Republicans are playing themselves out of this every week. This has made them into a very conservative, white, southern party, and they are leaving the rest of the country behind.”
As for health care reform, Brown said. “We need to do this before the end of the year, and we will.”
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