While watching and listening to the president give his "State of the Union" address Wednesday night, one understands and recognizes why he was elected last year. When it comes to making a speech, Barack Obama is "par excellence". Few can match his rhetorical skills, the "cool" and easy going manner, the self-deprecating style, the relaxed sense of humor and the self-confidence he exhibits. It was obvious to this observer; he was comfortable in his own skin and why he had been able to connect to the people who had elected him.
The speech was an hour and fifteen minutes long and touched most of the issues he has had to face this past year.
Yet there was one segment when the president was talking about health care that keeps ringing in the head of this observer and Obama's use of the word, "should". As he referenced the plight of Americans losing their health care insurance, the rising costs of premiums and co-pays, and small businesses dropping coverage for their employees, the president said, "I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."
The key word to focus on is the word, "should". Is it a plea to the Democrats in his own party to do the "right" thing by the American people? Is it a stern finger pointing to the Republicans to do right by the American people? Or does it unwittingly reveal the failed leadership by the speaker in his roll as president to get "real" health care reform enacted?
We are not an autocratic state (at least not yet) and the president cannot dictate the laws to be enacted. The Constitution limits his explicit power to either signing into law or vetoing the Bills that Congress forwards to his desk.
But the reality is otherwise; for besides having the most powerful megaphone in the country (and the world), the president has the "bully pulpit" to rally the people around the causes he advocates for most passionately and persuasively.
If this president had openly advocated for a single payer Medicare type health care reform plan at the outset, it would have become the law of the land by now. Polls showed early on that the majority of the American people would support such a proposal.
Sure the Republicans would have balked and resisted and been the obstructionists they intended to be from day one of his presidency. Obama seems to be the only one who failed to recognize the complete obstinacy of those on the other side on everything.
As to the "blue dogs" in his own party, they would have had their objections either swept away by the inevitable tidal surge in favor of "real" health care reform or if their persistent objections created a likely filibuster, then "reconciliation" could have been invoked and the Bill passed with a simple majority vote by the Senate.
Obviously, this was not done. The opportunity to get "real" health care reform passed has (in all likelihood) been squandered, primarily by the failed leadership of this president.
Now, in his "State of the Union" address he is reduced to saying it is the Congress who "should" do right by the American people. It is, "The people in this chamber," "who should do their duty." That makes it appear he has absolved himself of his own responsibility and culpability while it is others (the people in this chamber) who are to blame. Obama didn't phrase it exactly in this manner, but his invocation of the word "should" "unwittingly revealed" his own failure to lead.