Wednesday, September 09, 2009


A few predictions (in no particular order) about The Speech tonight, just to put it on record to see how well I do. (My last prediction was that Joe Kennedy would not run for Ted Kennedy's seat, but no one knew about that one but my wife.)

1. The phrase "call to arms" will appear more than once in the coverage, which will focus on style and if Obama "succeeded at what he needed to do" without much attention to the question of substance and without, in fact, being clear on just what it was that he "needed to do" beyond bumper-sticker explanations like "moving the debate."

2. It will be long on rhetoric about how "we cannot wait" but short on specifics.

3. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein will think it was terrific.

4. Part of the reason for that is that it will not be as disappointing as that against which various liberals and progressives have been steeling themselves. There have been so many hints and leaks on the "progressives will be disappointed" theme that I've taken it to be a deliberate attempt to lower expectations to such a degree that whatever Obama says will come as a relief, a relief the White House hopes will translate into a willingness to "compromise," i.e., capitulate.

5. If he mentions "triggers," it will be in passing without offering either support or opposition.

6. However, he will express strong support for a public option - but will also go out of his way to say it's not a deal-breaker. Which, in the current political context, is pretty much the same as not supporting it.

7. Which means that the speech will indeed be a disappointment for those among us whose bottom line, whose minimum requirement, is a bill that at least carries the potential to significantly increase access to adequate health care.

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