Text of Speech
9:33 and live from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with the Obama health care event. This is today's national centerpiece - "biggest event since the announcement" says one staffer. Seven TV cameras so far.
The Obama camp released some details early. The broad outlines:
I’m guessing this event will be long on wonk and short on rally music, with more national press in attendance than a typical event. A big feather in the cap for UIHC and SEIU, all these national stories going out with the Iowa City dateline.
Lots of purple and gold SEIU presence, signing folks up for their Health Care Voter campaign. Nothing formal on the endorsement front - that decision comes in September - but folks sure seem happy with Obama.
9:39. The Secret Service has been added to the mix since the Earth Day rally but the presence is not obtrusive yet. Just the pins, a few extra traffic cones, but to examination of the lap top bag at the press table.
Local heavy hitters abound - Dick Myers (ex-state house Dem leader and major local figure), Sarah Swisher (SEIU leader), Sam Becker (retired faculty) - and SEIU's Pauline Taylor on break and in scrubs. The Obama crew has kindly set up wifi - usually anything on the UI campus is a dead zone if you're not faculty-staff-student.
9:47. Dick Myers says traveling around the state "it's amazing how many people want to support" Obama and the key is translating that into caucus attendance. Amy Correia from the Iowa City Council is here and says she's on board. Also seen: local co-chair Sue Dvorsky, Tom Gill of the Coralville council and ex-county attorney Pat White. He was one of the big Kerry players last time; not clear whether he's endorsed or what his influence will be now that he's retired. (Retirement hasn't dulled Dick Myers' influence any...) TV cameras now up to eight.
10:00 at the press pre-brief. All the stops are pulled out: advance text, plan outline, costs... first obtrusive SS presence as the sniffin' dog walks through.
More local sightings: Mayor Ross Wilburn, long on board. Coralville key activist Diana Lundell - past Edwards supporter, still not formally committed, "checking it out" (as is Pat White). State guru Paul Tewes, saying UIHC may be "largest teaching hospital in Western Hemisphere" which helps explain the rollout being here. He also praises Iowa City up and down, but he's standing next to the mayor when he does.
10:08. The brief itself starts with "Obama Campaign Officials." Doesn't sound like anything new here, but should give us the talking points. Cost and affordability related to lack of coverage. The only change for the already insured is lower costs, the uninsured will be insured. Portability, subsidized for low income, easy to enroll. Private insurance plans have to meet standards of the public plan. "Amazon.com for insurance" is the analogy. You may be buying from the gov't plan, you may be buying from the private plan that meets the standards. Net cost $50-65 billion a year. "And this'll be done by taxing the rich?" asks a national print press type. "Repealing the Bush tax cuts" says the staffer. Obama plan strengthens coverage for low income, mandates coverage for kids, lets young adults stay on parent's plans until age 25. "Shared sacrifice" with gov't, individuals, employers. "What number of employees?" "An exemption for small employers," says staffer, "don't have exact number yet. Uh, less than 50."
How this saves costs: 1-gov't shares in catastrophic costs. Obama wants to make sure savings "end up in the people's pockets, not insurers and drug companies." If you eliminate the upside risk, premiums go down. 2-Major emphasis on preventive care, plans requires coverage of various forms. 3-Emphasis on increasing quality of service. Sounds paradoxical but it's not, example of post-op infections.
I was right, this is way wonky. 4-Info technology, making medical records compatible and at point of delivery. Not a public record, privacy is addressed. Want to make sure these systems are available at rural and small town places, not just major hospitals. 5-fighting the drug and insurance companies to hold down costs. Health info technology re-emphasized. "Strong emphasis on public health and prevention." "What's the incentive here," asks reporter, "will there be a penalty if you can't quit smoking?" Campaign says noooo, no no no.
10:27. Just to clarify: this is all staff, no candidate. About 10 reporters in here including me. No TV cameras, looks like all print. The mighty Underrated One, Mike Glover, is among us. I bail and make my way back to the main event.
TV cameras now up to a dozen including one that took my spot so I'm on the floor. My partner in crime Tom Lindsay is here, full court press coverage today. The hall is packed now, more lab coats in evidence.
10:35 and the show is underway. Nurse Pauline Taylor introducing. Telling health care stories of her late husband, a beloved local activist. More sightings: county auditor Slockett, law professor/blogger/activist/former FCC member Nick Johnson. Pauline moves on to story of SEIU organizing at UIHC, and the Iowa for Health Care project. Intro ends with emphasis on universal aspect of Obama plan.
Now introing, Rosie Hussey, small business CEO from Mason City.
10:41 and he's on. Thanks all the people but not by name, too many to name.
Discusses Decorah small business owners who got hit with cancer. Now facing bankruptcy and spending 40% of income on health insurance. He's sticking close to prepared text.
Calls the uninsured "a hidden tax." Talk of administrative costs, outdated technology. Camera shutters going non-stop. "the biggest obstacles are those who profit most from the status quo - drug manufacturers and insurance companies."
This feels very very different from the other times I've seen Obama. The relaxed feel was there in the introductory remarks, but this is all business, no casual asides. "Every American has the right to affordable health care" is the first applause line.
Of drug and insurance: "While they get a seat at the table, they don't get to buy every chair" (applause) Talks of his health care record in Illinois legislature.
"Coverage without cost containment will only shift burdens." Outlines plan (which the staff already did, see above.) We get a casual aside as he says "If you have children" and a baby cries "right on cue." Allow "temporary Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans to expire" gets applause.
He saves the more memorable description of info technology for himself: "moving from a 20th century health care industry based on pen and paper to a 21st century industry based on the latest technology."
Hanging from the rafters to see Obama
10:57. Outlines cost containment - again, as outlined by staff. Past the halfway mark of the prepped text. Preventative care gets applause, "if we listen to our wives when they tell us to stop smoking" gets laughs. I notice the glass teleprompter plates for the first time. I also notice that he's adapted the Full Obama jacket-no tie look with a white shirt and matching white tie.
11:06 and speech wraps with LBJ and Truman references.
11:17. Chasing the scrum. There's some press time set but it's one on one TV interviews. TV cameras talking with Sarah Swisher and Dick Myers. Secret Service dude is watchful, chewing gum. Jesse T. is teasing me. Also sighted: state senator Bob Dvorsky (husband of county Obama co-chair Sue Dvorsky), and Attorney General Tom Miller, a very early Obama endorser.
11:26. There's also a low-key meet and greet for elected officials. A couple Linn County legislators are here: Todd Taylor ("still looking around") and Ro Foege (previously committed to Edwards.) Nick Johnson says he's "leaning this way." Most of the non-elected, non-press, non-staff, non-SEIU types have thinned out. Signing off at 11:35; watch for photo update.
11:40. Five vans lined up motorcade fashion at the exit, under a watchful Secret Service eye.
Observations: no Q and A, no comparisons to other candidates, no rally rah-rah and few signs, very much on message.