Pulling out the Bully Pulpit

Pulling out the Bully Pulpit

Tonight President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress to outline and clarify his plans for health care reform and to exhort Congress to work cooperatively to enact legislation to expand affordable health care to uninsured Americans.  After several tumultuous town hall meetings during the August break, some members of Congress are looking to the president to inject some sanity back into the debate and set a more positive tone going forward.

It isn't very often that Congress meets in joint session.  Typically, they only do so to hear the annual State of the Union address, receive foreign dignitaries, and respond to crisis situations, Calling the House and Senate together for the sole purpose of advancing the nation's debate on health care reform is extraordinary…and brilliant.  The presidency is the biggest "bully pulpit" in the world, and while President Obama's approval ratings have slipped this summer, Americans still like and trust him a lot more than they do Congress.  The president knows that he has a tremendous opportunity to make a solid case to the American people.  So what will he say?

Based on conversations "gleaned from…top aides," the D.C.-based paper The Politico provided a few guesses in an article that appeared over the weekend:

  • President Obama will lay out his Administration's plan (what's on the table, what warrants further debate, etc.).
  • The president will not confront or scold members of his party, but he will make overtures to Republicans.
  • President Obama will make it clear that it is better to get something done than to do nothing at all.
  • He will attempt to reassure supporters of the "public option" to his commitment for it, but will likely do so in a way that leaves the door open for him to sign legislation that doesn't include it per se.

Will the president emerge successful tonight? And if so, how will such success be measured?  Looks like there is an interesting evening (and weeks) ahead… 

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