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September 9, 2009

Obama regrets delaying details for health plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — In retrospect, President Barack Obama now says, he should have offered more details about health care proposals a few months ago, rather than give critics all summer to criticize them, often with baseless claims.

Such missed opportunities are one reason for Obama's prime-time speech to Congress Wednesday night in which he hopes to salvage his top domestic priority. The summer was marked by several risks and dubious decisions that have forced the high-stakes speech.

Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" that in an effort to give Congress ample leeway to draft a huge bill, he "probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and to fill up the air waves with a lot of nonsense — everything from this ridiculous idea that we were setting up death panels to false notions that this was designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants."

A team of Associated Press reporters, interviewing dozens of key players, identified other crucial moments and decisions that brought the health care saga to this point.

Harry Reid could hardly believe his ears.

The Senate majority leader was in Denver for a mid-August Democratic conference when he heard one of Congress' pivotal negotiators on health care trashing a bill on that very subject.

"You have every right to fear," Republican Sen. Charles Grassley told a raucous citizens' forum in Iowa that day. "We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on Grandma."

Grassley's stunning comments made Reid second-guess a decision he and Obama had reluctantly made months earlier: to give six senators from small states, the so-called Gang of Six, the time and prominence to fashion a bipartisan bill on overhauling the health care system.

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