Obama's presser - is anyone listening?

Obama's press conference was not aimed at the recalcitrant members of his own party who are balking at passing health care reform.

Instead, it was aimed at the American people who are beginning to doubt the president can deliver what he promised and are becoming leery of the plan as it is emerging from Congress.

Jane Sassen of Business Week:

While insisting that his own proposal to cut the amount of tax deductions wealthy taxpayers could write off for their charitable contributions would be better, the President said such a measure would "meet my principle" that the costs should not be borne "by families already having a tough time."

Of course, providing answers to tough funding questions wasn't the aim of the press conference, as least from the White House point of view. The goal was to make a convincing case to keep public support for the plans from eroding. And at that, he may well have succeeded. The prime time hour may not have done much to move the needle in Congress, where the nitty-gritty proposals are being hashed out. But the President probably helped tamp down some of the increasing doubts that the American public has expressed recently about health care reforms as details have emerged. And that, after all, was his real job for the night.

Meanwhile, the senate's #2 Democrat Dick Durbin says that the reform bill will not be taken up before the August recess as Taylor Rushing of The Hill reports:

"We're going to take a little longer to get it right," Durbin told The Hill when asked about the oft-stated goal of a vote on or before Aug. 7, when a monthlong Senate recess begins. "Initially we had hoped for a full vote by then, but I don't think it's going to be possible."

Delaying the vote until after Labor Day would all but erase hopes of getting a bill to President Obama by mid-October, since the House and Senate versions would have to be reconciled in conference negotiations - assuming they pass their chambers.Durbin said the bill was still largely on track, however, denying that momentum has stalled.

"I don't think so," he said. "This is a complex challenge, and we're taking a reasonable approach with it. It would be better if some Republicans joined us instead of just criticizing."

This is really terrific news. Just wait until Democratic congressmen and senators start talking to their constituents about this bill while they are home during the recess. They will no doubt get an earful. Also, several independent groups are planning massive ad campaigns during the recess targeting Blue Dog Democrats as well as those in districts that were carried by George Bush or John McCain.

Nancy Pelosi was bragging to reporters that she has the votes right now to pass a health reform bill in the House. That's a lie, as two Democratic congressmen confirmed tp Deidre Walsh of CNN :

Nancy Pelosi's statement Wednesday that Democrats have the votes to pass health care in the House. "I think the Speaker was well intended because she was hearing optimistic things, but I don't believe there are the votes on the floor as of right now," he said Wednesday.

Hill said he and other Blue Dogs were meeting again Wednesday night with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. Hill said they're "making progress," but still have significant issues to resolve. Nancy Ann DeParle from the White House was involved in an earlier meeting with Blue Dogs, he said.

Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who is trying to change the bill to make it clear it would not use taxpayer money for abortions, also disagreed with the Speaker.

"It would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to pass this bill," said Stupak.

Stupak said Democratic leaders can't lose 40 votes if they want to pass the bill and predicted "she [Pelosi] would lose more than 40 on the right to life issue alone. There's just no way."

Stupak said he doesn't want to block the bill, but wants leaders to agree to add language on the abortion issue before it comes to the House floor.

Pelosi has a revolt on both her right and left, with the progressive caucus getting angrier with each concession made to the moderates.

In the end, the bill might die a death by a thousand cuts as the final effort may contain so many objectionable elements to so many Democrats that it won't have a prayer of passing.

The lack of leadership on this bill by the president has been astounding. While he has occasionally met with members at the White House, his efforts have fallen far short of whipping his reluctant party into line. He makes speeches. He holds town halls, He goes before his friends in the press.

But the nitty gritty political work he is leaving to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and at least 5 committee chairmen. While no one has ever doubted the president's skills as a campaigner, it is apparent he doesn't know how to lead. He can't distinguish a difference between campaigning and governing.

And there is a real possibility, no longer remote, that he will fail to bring any health care bill to a vote this year.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

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