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Obama bites back with healthy agenda -

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Obama bites back with healthy agenda

John Shovelan reported this story on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 12:27:00

ELEANOR HALL: To the United States now where the US President is launching a fight back over

Barack Obama's standing in the opinion polls has plunged through the northern summer as he lost
control over the domestic policy debate.

Republicans and Conservatives managed to hijack the health-care reform issue, with talk of death
panels under President Obama which would decide if the elderly would live or die.

But now President Obama is moving to reassert his authority with an address on healthcare to a
joint sitting of the Congress.

In Washington John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: This week is make or break for the Obama administration. Down in the polls and his
toughness and ability to lead doubted by political friends and foes alike, his effort to regain
control of the healthcare debate will define his presidency.

In this summer's political turmoil President Obama lost ground over the divisive issue and its
price tag of trillions of dollars. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote: "What happened
to President Obama? His wax wings having melted, he is the man who fell to earth."

BARACK OBAMA: Pundits on TV, they're saying how all this isn't working and that's not working. You
know, you start getting into a funk.

JOHN SHOVELAN: But today the President took the first step of his fight back strategy. Before a
sympathetic Labour Day audience of trade unionists and their families President Obama sounded like
candidate Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: Ohio bets the lesson this day that some things are worth fighting for.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The fighting spirit that deserted him through the summer had returned. It's been
reported the fight in fact has returned to the entire White House, triggered by the conservative
campaign against his planned address to the nation's public school students.

BARACK OBAMA: And yes I am going to have something to say tomorrow to our children. Telling them to
stay in school and work hard, cause that's the right message to send.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Conservatives had called for a national truancy day and demanded schools not show
what they said would be indoctrination in the President's socialism.

But the controversy over the "you should eat spinach" speech to American students may have done the
administration a favour. Facing this critical moment President Obama showed more life today than he
had in many months.

His Labor Day visit to the Midwest was a preview of his address to a joint session of Congress on
Wednesday when he will for the first time lay out the detail of his proposed reform of the
healthcare system.

BARACK OBAMA: I might have to save my voice a little bit, not get too excited. I don't want to give
anything away. I want you all to tune in.

JOHN SHOVELAN: To date President Obama has left the design of his new system to the Congress but
it's been unable to reach agreement.

Critics say President Obama has been too willing to pass the detailed negotiation off to the
Congress and that's why he lost control over the issue that he elevated to the single most
important issue confronting the country.

The President now has to lead from the front, lay his cards on the table and convince a sceptical
public and wary members of Congress.

BARACK OBAMA: The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many
months. The debate's been good, and that's important because we've got to get this right. But every
debate at some point comes to an end.

At some point it's time to decide. At some point it's time to act. Ohio it's time to act and get
this thing done.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Union members today gave the President's reform message an enthusiastic reception
but with 60 per cent of the population confused, unsure and downright opposed, Wednesday's address
to the Congress won't have such a supportive audience.

John Shovelan, Washington.