Ever since we started hearing about the big health care speech Obama will give Wednesday, the media has been alluding to how Bill Clinton gave a similar speech before a joint session of Congress in September of 1993. And, of course, we all know how that turned out. The Post has such an allusion today, and last week the Times had one, too, which went so far as to suggest that even some Obama aides are unsettled by the parallels:
He will deliver the address 16 years after President Bill Clinton outlined his plan for universal insurance coverage in a speech to Congress on Sept. 22, 1993. A year later, in September 1994, the legislation was declared dead, after withering attacks by Republicans and insurance companies. Some Obama advisers, wary of parallels between that effort and Mr. Obama’s push for an overhaul of the health system, had argued that the president should give a televised speech from the Oval Office instead of the House chamber [emphasis added].
To which I'd say two things: 1.) I can't imagine these concerns getting very far with this president--he does not strike me as a man who's overly prone to superstition or who questions his own agency. 2.) In a way, aren't the Clinton parallels exactly the point? Doesn't it say to Democrats, who after all have the power to pass health care reform on their own: "There was a president who tried and failed to do this 16 years ago. He survived, but we all saw how devastating it was for the Congressional wing of his party. If you want to avert the same fate, maybe you'll work a little harder to get it done this time." That sounds like a pretty good message to me.