Time’s Obama Interview

The full interview with President Obama has just been posted and it is a must-read. I found the following question and answer particularly illuminating, not because of its policy specifics but because of what it says about Obama. I am copying the full text to give you an idea of what I mean:

Can I ask you, if you go to the polling, which I’m sure you never do, but if you ever did —

No, actually, on this — I will confess: I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my polls. I do look at the polling on health care, partly because I think that there is a terrific case to be made to the American public. But it is — this is complicated, it’s difficult. Without giving you a hard time, Karen, because I think you’ve been terrific in reporting this, the press gets bored with the details easily, and it very easily slips into a very conventional debate about government-run health care versus the free market, et cetera, which is not at all what the real debate is about, but that’s a lot of times how it gets shaded or framed in the press — all of which feeds the public spheres, even though they know that the system we have isn’t working very well.

And I will say that this has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life, trying to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is that we reform this system. The case is so clear to me. And when I sit with our policy advisors — we had somebody here sitting right there this morning who is a medical expert, worked at McKinsey for a while, he’s now working on our health care team — and he just ran through: We pay 77 percent more on prescription drugs, we’re paying $6,000 more per individual on health care than any other industrialized nation; here’s all the failures in the delivery system that account for it. It’s not just because we are somehow more obese or more unhealthy. It turns out actually we’re a little bit healthier than most of these other countries because our smoking rates are lower and we’re younger. So we should actually be paying less than they are.

And when you just start hearing the litany of facts, what you say to yourself is this shouldn’t be such a hard case to make, because the American consumer is really not getting a good deal.

And so when I see polls saying that it’s 50-50 and people are still worried about whether this is going to somehow increase their costs when every bill that’s out there would lower them, or that this is going to mean that they lose their doctors, or their health care is rationed, or, you know, all the other things that they’re worried about, it leads me to spend a lot of time thinking about how can I describe this in clearer terms so that we can get the health care that the American people deserve.

It is difficult to articulate what about his response I find so appealing, but I think it is simply a feeling that this President genuinely has the best interests of the American public in mind and prefers to address us honestly, as adults. At the same time, he is still fully aware that not all of us want him to succeed. He is absolutely right that his opponents and the MSM dumb the debate down to a question of private v. socialized medicine, and clearly it is so much more complex than that. I just hope that he can get the message across so that much needed reform will pass. I may not agree with all of Obama’s policies, but it is so refreshing to have a President who is reasonable, pragmatic, thoughtful, and intelligent. I am not in the camp of those who wish to see him fail because I fear if he fails, we will all fail along with him.


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