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Obama's Message: No Baby Steps

The news coverage, I am sure, will lead with the testy exchange between President Obama and John McCain. But the vast majority of the past seven-and-a-half hours was about differences over policy, which is as it should be.

Yes, there was some common ground. But not a lot. And while Obama offered to accommodate the Republicans further on issues like malpractice reform, I didn't hear the Republicans offering to reciprocate.

Their mantra at the end seemed to be the same as it was at the start: Scrap the bill and start over.

I'm not sure how that plays out politically. Among other things, very few people watched the whole thing. Instead, they will learn about the event from clips on the news, on the web, and published accounts.

But I do think Obama made his position clear. He believes, as he has long believed, that "baby steps" won't do. He and his Democratic colleagues said, time and time again, that it's not possible to achieve reform's three goals--expanding coverage to those who don't have it, strengthening coverage for those who do, and reducing the cost of coverage over time--without enacting a comprehensive bill.

Obama's parting words mentioned giving the Republicans one last chance for introspection. I'm not entirely sure what that meant. But it was clear, at least to me, that Obama and the Democrats leaders are prepared to move forward on their own if that's the only way to move forward.

That, too, is as it should be.

I'll have a lot more to say later, once I've had a chance to read over the transcripts again, have a few conversations, etc.