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Obama agenda: The new CW?

The New York Times front-pages that the chances for passing health-care reform are MUCH better than some might think after a tough summer for Democrats. "The conventional wisdom, here and around the country, is that the centerpiece of President Obama's domestic agenda -- remaking the health care system to cut costs and cover the uninsured -- is on life support and that only a political miracle could revive it. Here's why the conventional wisdom might be wrong:

"While the month of August clearly knocked the White House back on its heels, as Congressional town hall-style meetings exposed Americans' unease with an overhaul, the uproar does not seem to have greatly altered public opinion or substantially weakened Democrats' resolve.Critical players in the health care industry remain at the negotiating table, meaning they are not out whipping up public or legislative opposition. Despite tensions between moderate and liberal Democrats, there is broad agreement within the party over most of what a package would look like." 

"In a primetime address, Obama is expected to provide a new level of detail about what he hopes to accomplish -- essentially defining what a victory would look like," The Boston Globe writes. "It is an effort that the president and his advisers see as crucial to regaining influence over a debate that in recent weeks has been defined largely by the president's critics." 

The New York Post's lead: "President Obama will deliver a make-or-break speech on health care tonight as he tries to revive his plan in the face of plunging public support, defections by key Democratic allies, and the aftermath of a month of brutal criticism in town-hall meetings across the country."

Roll Call: "President Barack Obama enters the well of the House tonight for his second address to Congress, but while he appeared in the same location in February, the place has really changed. The new president who went before lawmakers on Feb. 24 -- his popularity high and his followers feverishly enthusiastic -- was free to offer soaring rhetoric and lay out general goals and expectations for the coming year. Now, his popularity is in decline and his most precious initiative, overhaul of the nation's health care system, is in danger of going down the tubes."

The AP has a timeline of key events of the push for health reform.

The Washington Post looks back at state Sen. Obama's efforts to expand health care coverage in Illinois and the lessons he learned from the experience.

On the school speech controversy, AP's Mears writes, "It was an invented and inflated controversy in which the administration provided its foes an easy target by issuing a proposed lesson plan in which students would have been asked to help the president meet his goals. That was revised to ask pupils to write letters about their own goals and how they would try to achieve them. There were no Republican complaints in 1991 when President George H.W. Bush spoke at a Washington, D.C., school and told the students, 'Write me a letter -- I'm serious about this one -- write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals.' Nor did Republicans claim that Ronald Reagan was trying to create a cult of personality, as some did this time, when he spoke to students at the White House in 1988, near the end of his second term. Answering questions, Reagan boasted of economic progress and a patriotic revival under his administration. He also said he opposed rigid gun controls or handgun bans." This was no more than the fact that "right-wing activists saw an opportunity to hassle him and to stir up people who don't like the president by inventing an issue."
 
He concludes: "[T]he underlying tone of the most vehement critics goes past the traditions of politics to the idea that schoolchildren shouldn't be listening to this guy because he shouldn't be president. The office, whoever the man in the White House, always has commanded respect. That is eroding in the era of nonstop talk shows and angry blogs. It has been an American tradition for losing candidates in presidential elections to urge their followers to respect the outcome, to say that the winner is their president, too. Episodes like the school speech flap say something different."

Turning to Afghanistan, if the president has to go to Congress to approve more troops, will he find a majority that will support him? Check out Susan Collins' comments: "Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it's far from clear that the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan can succeed, 'despite the enormous bravery of our troops and talent of military leaders.' 'I just don't know if this is doable,' Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview. 'I don't know that we can achieve the goal of a stable, secure Afghanistan that is freed from the Taliban and is no longer a safe haven for al-Qaida.'"

Joe Biden is quietly putting together a very extensive list of congressional candidates he's stumped for. He's campaigning for two more tonight in upstate New York: frosh Rep. Dan Maffei and Dem Bill Owens, who is running in the special to replace Army Sec.-designee John McHugh.