What surely will be the hallmark (or the albatross) of President Barack Obama’s first term, the health care reform debate took center stage recently.

With his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama cranked up the health care reform debate at a time when it needed it most. It was time to take the attention off the ideological fringe elements (of either party), take the airwaves from the partisan media pundits seeking to radicalize (Hitler-ize) the debate, and take the attention of his wobble on the public choice option. Moreover, it was time for Obama, the conciliator, to take a hike for a minute.

America has had enough Kumbaya moments from him during his first six months, and quite frankly, it’s obvious that some people don’t want to come together. Pursuit of reconciliation within a two party system entrenched in ideological rhetoric, for the sake of division, is a foolish pursuit. At least at this time, when it is obvious that one party, the Republican, has no interest in heightening the president’s popularity through support of his policy initiatives which would come at the expense of its own decline. The another party, the president’s own party, is busy trying to show the president that they don’t intend to be labeled as the rubber stamp party by pushing back on the very type of legislation that made the electorate took a look at the party that was locked out of the White House for twenty of the last 28 years. The Democratic Party rode in on the back of the Obama "change" phenomenon and now they want to trip. The Democrats have turned the public frustration with eight years of the Republican Party into a false bravado that has become more a distraction than a change attraction.

Now it’s time for the President to refocus his party, the Congress and the nation to the task at hand, passing health care reform.

The nation needs to see a "get tough" Obama. We need to see, President Obama, the leader, who can tell us, then sell us, on his version of a health care plan. Now is the time for Obama to stop the wobbling on the public choice option. Tell us and sell us on the public choice option, press the public choice as a "deal breaker." The president needs to live or die by the option he feels most passionate about and then go out and show the passion that got him elected president. Go with what the people want, as three-fourths of the president’s supporters want the public choice option. If the public choice option goes down to defeat, make those who caused its defeat the focus of what the problem is with government being out of touch with the needs of the people. It was what caused them (the people) to throw the Republicans out of control of the Congress, and its what caused them to lose the presidency, lack of vision.

The Republicans are clearly trying to fashion a new message, for party revival sake-not for party reform sake. The Republicans see the revival of old ideological themes, not new platform reforms, as the pathway back to the power seat. They don’t respect Obama as our chief executive, commanderin- chief or anything else. And like always, the tail is wagging the dog as the right wing fringe wails away at the expense of the president’s popularity.

The attempt to use the president’s popularity against him by trying to suggest he is a popular demagogue in the likes of Adolph Hitler, and he is somehow leading our nation to socialism or Nazi-ism, is a vulgar mischaracterization of what is going on here. It is clearly an abuse of the public airways to suggest that our democracy is suddenly in jeopardy because the government wants to take a larger role to fix the years and years of private industry run amuck, with the aid of government. Nine trillion dollars is not President Obama’s debt. It’s a debt the Republicans allowed a Republican president to run up, so Obama needs to mute that drum right now.

President Obama does have to account for the cost of the public choice option, in a way that former President Bush II never had to account for the cost of starting two wars. Re-election shouldn’t stand in the way of doing the right thing, and Democrats have to bank on that the party’s biggest asset, President Obama, will come to their rescue.

Use the cloture proof majority (once the late Senator Kennedy’s seat in appointed) while you have it. Leave a legislative legacy.

But first and foremost, Obama needs to draw a line in the sand, lay claim to his version of the health care plan reform and make it happen, for the benefit of the nation.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author.


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