Obama's School Speech and Health Care Push Highlights Challenges of Presidency

"Now, I'll have a lot more to say about this Wednesday night, and I don't want to give it all away. ... But let me just say this. We've been fighting for quality, affordable health care for every American for nearly a century-since Teddy Roosevelt. The Congress and the country have been engaged in a vigorous debate for many months," Obama said. "And debate is good, because we have to get this right. But in every debate, at some point comes to an end. There comes a time to decide, a time to act. ...It's time to act and get this thing done."

The president also addressed one of the thorniest issues in the debate -- the option of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies.

"I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs," the president said, speaking to the labor union group in Cincinnati.

White House aides say the president will get more specific tomorrow, and tackle criticisms directly. He demonstrated some of that yesterday as he took on critics of health care reform.

"Because we're so close to real reform, the special interests are doing what they always do -- trying to scare the American people and preserve the status quo," the president said. "But I've got a question for them: What's your answer? What's your solution? The truth is, they don't have one. It's do nothing."

The White House wants to refocus its efforts and the public discussion on rescuing the health care debate, but that has been sidelined by other distractions -- the uproar over the school speech and more notably, the resignation of Obama's "green jobs" czar Van Jones.

Obama's special adviser at the Council on Environmental Quality was hailed for his work by politicians such as Al Gore, but his past comments and actions -- most notably his name on the "911 Truth Statement," which alleged that high-level government officials were involved in the Sept. 11 tragedy, and comments perceived as racist by some -- led to his resignation.

The president also has a basket full of other issues to tackle -- Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy, to name a few. Health care is taking center stage at the moment, but White House officials are gearing up for long nights ahead in what could be a busy and challenging fall.

ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this report.

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