Ben Smith: At big moment, President Obama goes small

I like Ben’s writing, and I find him a good, reasonable, and reasoned barometer of what’s going on in politics. Ben thinks Obama blew it last night during his press conference on health care reform.

President Barack Obama came alive about 50 minutes into Wednesday night’s news conference – when somebody finally changed the subject.

The president’s remarks on his chosen subject, health care, were cautious and choreographed, hemmed in on one side by the calculations of his professional wordsmiths, on the other by the delicacy of negotiations with two houses of Congress.

He never detailed his own plan, or named a single victim of America’s broken system, and he spoke largely in the abstractions of blue pills, red pills, and legislative processes. It’s not easy to turn delivery system reform into a rallying cry for change, but at times, it was as if Obama wasn’t even trying.

His dryness was all the more striking by contrast with the press conference’s conclusion, when he suddenly re-engaged with a question that he’s spent much of his life mulling, race, in the form of the arrest of a black Harvard professor.

The appearance was striking by its absence of a move that’s long characterized Obama’s political career: When in trouble, go big. Faced with a crisis of confidence or with a political furor, he’s repeatedly shown an ability to rise above the storm, and to broaden the playing field, as when he turned a flap over his pastor into a meditation on race in America.

Now, facing his hardest test as President, Obama chose to go small.

At least, as Ben notes, Obama has shifted gears and is no longer only talking just about how many uninsured the plan will help, but rather, how it will help EVERY American family. That’s good news, and it’s something I’ve been promoting for a while.

Of those of you who saw the press conference, what did you think? Was Obama lacking, or did he do a good job on the health care part of the evening? (TNR had a different take than Ben.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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