WASHINGTON-When the White House starts to see the seams of its priorities coming apart, President Obama arrives to sew everything back together. Wednesday night the president appeared at a televised press conference-the fourth of his presidency-to revive public sentiment for healthcare. Former President Bush didn't hold his first prime time press conference until October of his first year in office.
But Obama could hardly seem to revive himself to talk about healthcare again, giving a measured lecture on the intricacies of policies and making little news-though he did announce that he would support a tax on millionaires to pay for the reform.
"This isn't about me," he said. "I've got great health insurance."
Public approval of the president's healthcare reform has descended to under 50 percent for the first time according to a Washington Post/ABC poll released Monday. Independent voters moved from a 53 percent approval of his healthcare approach in April to 44 percent now. He did little to rekindle the public admiration for the reform by giving rote responses on an issue he has hammered on since the campaign.
He did address concerns about federal spending on healthcare in the midst of massive deficits.
"If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit," he said, and reminding later, "We inherited an enormous deficit."
Then he employed a medical allusion to say, "The American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficit and debt we're facing right now."
Aside from eroding public support, the president faces a hostile House of Representatives, where the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats are laying out obstacles to passage of the legislation-one of the few times the group has bucked Democratic leadership. Still, Speaker Pelosi says she has the votes to pass the reform.
Perhaps the biggest flap of the otherwise professorial evening was when Obama called on Steve Koff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Steve Thomma of McClatchy newspapers stood up instead and asked a question.