In just a few minutes, President Obama will sign a comprehensive health care reform bill into law. On March 24, 2007 — nearly three years ago to this day — then-candidate Obama attended a health care forum in Las Vegas sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and SEIU. At the forum, Obama delivered this pledge:
OBAMA: In addition to those basic principles, what I think is most important is we recognize that every four years we hear somebody’s got a health care plan. Every four years, somebody trots out a white paper — they post it on the web. But the question we have to challenge ourselves: Do we have the political will and the sense of urgency to actually get it done? I want to be held accountable for getting it done. I will judge my first term as president based on the fact on whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford.
The health care forum in 2007 served as a kind of epiphany for Obama. Time’s Karen Tumulty, who moderated the forum, wrote that Obama “was noticeably uncomfortable when pressed for details” about his health care plan. As Ezra Klein wrote at the time, “Compared to John Edwards, who had a detailed plan, and Hillary Clinton, whose fluency with the subject is unmatched among the contenders, he seemed uncertain and adrift.” Obama himself acknowledged that the health care forum revealed, “I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.” Now, by delivering on the basic health care principles he pronounced three years ago, Obama is already earning praise as “one of America’s finest presidents.”