The Five Things I’m Watching For In Obama’s Address to Congress

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Sep 9, 2009 11:42am

As the President lays out his health care plan tonight, here is what I’ll be watching for…

1 – What we learned:  Especially about legislative strategy going forward.  What lines in the sand will he draw? He repeated to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America today that he won’t sign a bill if it adds any money to the deficit, but how specific will he be about how to pay for it? Has the President entirely given up on Republicans? Will he single any out for praise — or criticism?

2 – What’s new: malpractice reform? Public option with a trigger? Veto threats?  

3 – What worked: The tone will be key. Expect more conciliation than we saw at that AFL-CIO picnic Monday. But how much?  Will he acknowledge mistakes?  Reference the anger that has bubbled up this summer? Attack those who ginned it up, sometimes by spreading smears about his plan? Also, will he connect at a gut level with citizens not convinced he's got a plan that's good for them — and explain his plan in a way that any one watching can easily repeat to their neighbor?

4 – What didn’t: Big question here: will waltzing around public option ("valuable" but not "essential") calm progressives while keeping the door open for a compromise — or just confuse and anger all sides?  Will he put death panels, illegal immigrants and government takeover to rest — or open up new lines of attack?

5 – What’s next: Will there be any mention of a timeline?  Jake Tapper reported yesterday that he told Pelosi/Reid that “urgency” is key.  Does President Obama put forth any kind of calendar for when he would like to see a bill on his desk?   Will GOP response suggest any new common ground?

And don’t forget to tune in.  I’ll be live with Charlie Gibson on ABC News at 8 pm and through the Republican response. If you can’t be near a TV, you can watch the speech live-streaming here at

- George Stephanopoulos

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