Obama’s Health Care Lesson: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

By Kai Wright Mar 23, 2010

As President Obama wound into his health care victory speech this morning, an urgent cry rang up from the East Room crowd: “The bill! Sign the bill!” Everybody laughed, but it was the most real moment of the ebullient signing ceremony. We’re long past the point where a nice speech can stand in for definitive action in Washington. The health insurance reform fiasco simply did not need to take this long. Nor did the White House need to squander so much political capital to get here. And while I hate to bring up old stuff, the bill could have been a heck of a lot stronger, too – had Obama moved last year with the urgency Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought to the process last month. These ought to be the White House’s takeaway lessons from the health care fight, because America’s list of desperately needed reforms hasn’t gotten any shorter in the course of this needlessly protracted battle. So with health care behind us, let’s review what’s lingering on the shelf: Jobs, anyone? The Senate’s $15 billion collection of tax breaks hardly addresses the millions of jobs we’ve lost since the recession began. Even the White House has acknowledged as much, so now it’s time to lead.