Walking in to the hall on the first day of the America's Future Now conference my first response was "Ooops! Wrong room."
Flashing by on two screens, placed on either side of the speaker's podium, were clips of President Bush. But no. That was just a warm up.
Soon Pres. Obama was on screen giving a rousing speech to the crowd at an earlier Conference sponsored by Campaign for America's Future (Then called Take Back America Now). He attended both their 2007 and 2008 conferences.Here he was with his signature call to arms: Change comes from the bottom up not the top down.
The most important event of Day one of this year's three-day conference was the announcement of a massive coalition to fight for health-care reform with a more than $82 million kitty and a broad-based group of 1030 local and national groups committed to the fight for universal health care.
That said, the devil's in the details.
Universal healthcare is a catch-all term that can mean single-payer health insurance, a public health insurance alternative, and mandated the private health insurance coverage for all those not presently covered by medicare.
It was disappointing the "official" position of the Administration as represented by Mitch Stewart, the director of Organizing for America, did not include for support for a public health insurance option. But this was not the stance taken by other speakers who represented the forces preparing to go into communities on and on the airwaves to build an effective grass-roots movement for passage of a healthcare reform bill with a public-health care option modelled on medicare.
Howard Dean was the lead speaker at a earlier roundup for the press and a full penary session in late afternoon. His presentation was strong. In answer to a question, he strongly affirmed his support for single-payer health insurance, which he said was the best option, but added that things as they are politcally, this can only be a two-step process, first a public health plan modelled on medicare (which he described as single-payer health insurance for the over-65's.)
Calling the president a realist, he applauded Obama for realizing that it was necessary to give those already insured the option to stick with what they had or opt in to public health.:Asked about whether he would compromise on the public health insurance option if it was necessary to win bi-partisan support he said:
“What's the point of having a crummy piece of legislation that’s bipartisan?” he asked rhetorically. “Bipartisanship isn’t an end by itself.”
More to come later, I'm off to Day 2.