This past week was a difficult one for the young president as he made his case to Congress and the American people about his vision for an overhaul of the health care system. The reception that he received during his speech from one or more congressmen who shouted out disrespectful comments did not seem to throw the president off message, but it exemplified the deep distrust that exists about his plan. On the national security front, he also learned about the growing challenges in Afghanistan, Iran and Venezuela. All of this to a young and untested man who must provide leadership in the months ahead.
The President laid out again in broad terms without details the various components of his health care plan seeking to allay many of the concerns expressed in town hall meetings this Summer, especially the willingness to defer a public option. He sought to ensure the country that his plan that he said would cost $900 Billion over the next 10 years was affordable because it would be offset by cost savings of his program. This statement had no supporting details and is in contrast to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that the House plan would increase the deficit by approximately $250 Billion. Many politician's who are on the fence about how much and how far can we afford to go in making changes to the health care system are cognizant of the already staggering unsolved problem of funding social security and other programs in the future.
There were troubling news and developments in other parts of the world as well. The military leader in Afghanistan gave a sobering assessment of the state of the war. Robert Gates. the Defense Secretary, indicated the week before an open mind to a troop increase only to be followed by Nancy Pelosi saying that the facts do not justify an increase. Obama has to wonder is anything is easy to accomplish in Washington, D.C.
Iran continues to be a big problem for the administration. This week there 2 setbacks to Obama's goal for stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon. The U.S. envoy to IAEA, the international nuclear watchdog agency, states that Iran was getting close to having a weapon capability within a year. The Russians were quick to announce their position by rejecting stronger sanctions against Iran. Obama's hope for a reset for relations with Russia are not going in the direction he had hoped.
Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney, disclosed in a speech in D.C. this week of evidence his department has that Venezuela and Iran continue to build a web of collaboration that extends from their financial institutions to military cooperation. He described newly constructed plants in isolated areas of Venezuela that he surmised are involved in some joint Iran - Venezuela operation. His remarks did not seem to sit well with Obama's state department who did not dismiss the threat but did not support it either. The Venezuelan leader Chavez also committed to supply Iran with the oil it needs if the U.S. and its allies impose an embargo on Iran's oil supply.
President John Kennedy was relatively young when he was elected in 1960. However, he was a decorated war veteran who faced the horror and reality of military conflict. His experiences shaped the way that he thought and acted. He foolishly ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion, but he also stood his ground when Russia sent nuclear weaponry to Cuba. This was a time of intense pressure for President Kennedy who had to make the final call. Today, President Obama faces problems with our economy and major near term threats to our national security. The weight of each one by itself creates enormous pressure on a young untested leader who must consider the facts, digest advice and decide on a course of action.
It should not take long to see where health care legislation will be headed. Congress will seek to find a basis for a bill that can be enacted. The troubles abroad will continue to be a major concern for the president and the solutions are not clear or broadly supported. That makes the pressure worse.