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22 March 2010

In praise of Barack Obama

Historic day as the dream of universal health care for Americans becomes a reality.

By James Macintyre

The health-care reform bill in the United States, which passed with no Republican backing, will extend rights to 32 million more Americans. It is surely the greatest domestic achievement by a US president in years.

If Barack Obama — who hailed “government by the people” and said “we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things” — can continue to exert constructive pressure on Israel and help to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, his will surely go down as a historic presidency.

And yet, the cynicism continues. I woke this morning to the sound of the Today programme picking up a large bucket of cold water and pouring it all over the bill, running interviews with Republicans and sceptical pollsters. At one point a guest told John Humphrys that the key question is: “Who is going to pay for it?” Humphrys’s weary reply was, well, in the end it would be “the taxpayer”.

So what? Why does everything have to come down to money, when selfish free-marketeerism has been so thoroughly discredited?

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This is a bill for the people. It should be hailed. Here at the New Statesman, we have carried as many sceptical pieces about Barack Obama as most other outlets. He has, in a sign that he is doing something right, been attacked by left and right. But he must be given time. And — as he proved last night — it is far too early to judge him.