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Obama's health care overhaul sparks debate -

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The UN talks and the G20 meeting are happening against the backdrop of mounting domestic troubles
for US President Barack Obama. Front and centre is the bitter debate over his plans to overhaul
America's creaking health care system.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: It may be an important week for Kevin Rudd, but it's been an even more
critical one for Barack Obama.

The UN talks and the G20 meeting happened against the backdrop of mounting domestic troubles for
the US President.

Front and centre is the bitter debate over his plans to overhaul America's creaking healthcare

Michael Rowland reports.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, REPORTER: It may have been a sleepy Sunday in Washington, but the White House was
a hive of activity.

NEWS SHOW PRESENTER: Obama's blitz: the President saturating the airwaves today, yet again pushing
healthcare reform. No President has ever done this much media at once.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It is indeed a new record for a sitting President. Barack Obama appeared on no
fewer than five broadcast and cable TV networks. It was all part of a concerted White House effort
to wrest back control of the increasingly vitriolic healthcare debate.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Somehow, I'm not breaking through.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Getting clear air is hard when demonstrators are taking to the streets to voice
their hostility towards Mr Obama and his policies, but America's first black President is firmly
rejecting suggestions the protests are being fuelled by racial tensions.

BARACK OBAMA: I think that the media loves to have a conversation about race. This is catnip to the
media, because it is a running thread in American history that's very powerful and it evokes some
very strong emotions. I'm not saying that race never matters in any of these public debates that we
have. What I'm saying is this debate that's taking place is not about race, it's about people being
worried about how our government should operate.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The President's media blitz comes at a time when his once sky-high approval
ratings are sagging. With his healthcare reform plan in deep trouble, Mr Obama is struggling for
political traction at a time when he needs it most.

GEOFF GARRETT, US STUDIES CENTRE: He's pushing uphill against this American feeling that they don't
like government and they do like choice, and for better or worse, his healthcare plans have been
interpreted as being more government and reducing choice.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And it's not just healthcare proving a challenge for the President. Mr Obama is
also facing growing public anxiety over the war in Afghanistan. He took the opportunity to stress
any decision to send more American soldiers into battle won't be rushed.

BARACK OBAMA: I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan,
or saving face, or in some way sending a message that America is here for the duration. I think
it's important that we match strategy to resources. What I'm not also going to do, though, is put
the resource question before the strategy question. Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right
strategy, I'm not going to be sending some young man or woman over there beyond what we already

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mr Obama clearly wants to exploit the bully pulpit of the Presidency, but analysts
say he's at risk of over-exposure.

DAVID GERGEN, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: If you're doing five shows as President of the United
States on a Sunday, it's four too many.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: No President ever wants to become video wallpaper. People do
tune you out because they simply assume you don't have anything new to say.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: All this comes as Mr Obama enters one of the most critical weeks of his young
Presidency: he'll be making his first addresses to the United Nations General Assembly. He'll be
trying to reignite stalled Middle East peace talks, forge a global consensus on climate change and
then steer the G20's efforts to stop the world economy from slipping back into recession.

GEOFF GARRETT: You know, if you were projecting forward, I think what you would expect is that
Obama will deliver a fantastic speech to the UN. It'll be really well-received. Then he'll go to
the G20 where it's going to be much tougher. I think everyone, including Prime Minister Rudd, are
trying to play down a little bit expectations for what can be achieved at the G20 in Pittsburgh.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And this at a time when the President needs any victory he can get. Michael
Rowland, Lateline.