During his campaign, President Obama called on our nation to work together to solve great challenges. But was the president's health reform speech in Congress this week partisan, as some critics charge? Or did he leave the door open for bipartisan compromise?
Certainly the president "called out" those who distort the truth. Who can blame him? But he was not partisan. I am more sensitive to partisanship than most. In 2006 I watched my boss, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), fall to his Democrat challenger. Sen. Chafee voted against the war in Iraq, against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and against amendments to ban gay marriage. He did not vote for President George W. Bush in 2004. Yet, Democrats ran countless ads linking the Senator to President Bush and his policies, particularly the Iraq war. Smart campaigning or not, it was partisan politics.
In contrast, President Obama did not cast aspersions in his address. He did not portray positions inaccurately. None of that. President Obama in his speech drew only one line in the sand. It was a very big and very nonpartisan line: we are going to address our health care coverage problems and we are not going to add to the deficit to do it. He made clear he is looking to solve our nation's health care crisis with anyone -- Republican, Democrat, or Independent -- who wants to solve it with him. He was also unambiguous, however, that he will not stand silent while people perpetuate misinformation to score political points.
Bipartisanship does not require silence in the face of unfounded rhetoric. The president was right when he said Congress already agrees on about 80 percent of his plan. Exchanges, insurance market reforms, subsidies, deficit neutrality, and tackling waste, fraud, and abuse are all initiatives that enjoy broad bipartisan support. In addition, President Obama left the door open for bipartisanship on more contentious aspects of reform: