The first two urgent tasks of the Obama administration were cleaning up the mess in the economy and in war that the president inherited. I think it is greatly to his credit that, while addressing these inherited emergencies, Pres. Obama has also aggressively pushed ahead with solving the top long-term domestic problem: health care. This is really where the positive program of the Obama administration begins.
The United States spends more on health care than any other nation, without getting all citizens cared for. We have the worst of both worlds, because we lack a universal system of health care insurance. Barack Obama made universal health care central to his campaign. I agree heartily.
The President is not the king. He cannot decree law. Laws have to come from the legislature. The president's party does have a majority in both houses of the legislature - just barely. And that party - my Democratic Party - is a very big tent. Its members never march in lockstep. Moreover, legislators are horse-traders and pork-collectors for their constituents. All legislation is full of compromises that no one person would ever have chosen, least of all the president.
President Obama knew that to get universal health care he had to go to work on it right away, work on it hard, and make many compromises. Moreover, in our ingenious republican form of government in which powers are separated and separated again, the legislature has to take the initiative in actually crafting legislation. Until Congress produces a bill, the president has the bully pulpit and not much else.
I believe Pres. Obama has been admirably focused on getting a universal health insurance bill through Congress. This fight is far from over, and he faces some wiley opponents. Nonetheless, I believe he will succeed. Universal health insurance will be one of the great achievements of the Obama administration.
In order to get health care, the president has had to hold up on many other important needs of the country. I am very hopeful that we will have a law signed by the State of the Union address later this month. The president can then turn to next great initiatives of the Obama administration.