Does President Obama Need to Improve Health Care Reform Messaging?

Aug 31, 2009 2:43pm

Last week, during a week off, my wife, daughter and I visited a suffragist museum. There I met one woman – a self-described liberal, in a very Blue state – who told me that she supported President Obama but didn’t know whether or not she supports his health care reform efforts.

Hardly a scientific sampling, I know, but it’s born out in polling and conversations with close allies of the White House – the president’s messaging on health care reform is not resonating as the White House wants it to.

Asked if President Obama has done a good enough job in selling his health care reform prescriptions to the American people, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD — the president’s first pick to be White House Health Care Reform Czar and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services – said, essentially, no.

“I think we have to do better at making this issue a moral imperative,” Daschle told the New York Times Magazine.


“I don’t think we’ve succeeded at that yet. I think the more we can bring everybody to an understanding about how this, in many respects, is the civil rights battle of the early part of this century — it’s a fight for the disabled, it’s a fight for the sick, it’s a fight for equal rights when it comes to health."

Why can’t the president convey that message? Daschle was asked.

“I think in part because the organizational strength of the other side has once again surfaced,” he said. “The other side has socialism, they have fear of government, they have rationing and all these — Scare phrases. The Democrats need better phrases. We do.”

“If I were a White House adviser, I would suggest that the day Congress reconvenes, President Obama's version of reform should be introduced by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate,” writes former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, in a Washington Post op-ed.  “Obama's approval numbers would jump 10 points if Americans knew he was fully in charge.”

And Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., one of the authors of the Democratic bill that passed the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, concurs.

“I think the president's got to decide in a sense, and he has, and to step up and really frame this again for us,” Dodd said to NBC.

-jpt

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