Why President Obama is deploying explainer-in-chief Bill Clinton to lift Obamacare

The "Secretary of Explaining Stuff" has just been deployed for assignment. Again.

Facing key implementation deadlines for a health-care law that has been received poorly by the public and is the subject of unwavering criticism from Republicans, President Obama is trying to right the ship by turning to the Democratic Party's best messenger: Bill Clinton.

It could be just what the doctor ordered for the president. (No pun intended.)

President Obama reaches out to shake hands with Bill Clinton following Clinton's remarks at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday.) (Jason Reed/Reuters)

President Obama and Bill Clinton at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Clinton will give a speech about Obamacare in Little Rock, Ark., next week. A White House official says the address will be the first "of a number of high-profile events and speeches by administration officials and allies throughout the fall." Clinton will headline more events, the official added.

It's not the first time Obama has turned to the man who has secured his place as the Democratic Party's best messenger these days. Last fall, Clinton delivered a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention that outshone even Obama's address. Nearly twice as many Americans who watched the convention said Clinton's speech was the highlight of the convention as said Obama's address was the standout, according to one poll. Days later, another poll showed Clinton was more popular than ever.

Clinton's gift as a speaker is his ability to pitch complex policy arguments in an uncomplicated, straightforward way. His plainspokenness is an asset that Obama, a gifted speaker in his own right, but often seen as more professorial and distant, has lacked during his presidency.

Obama knows this well. Which is why he dispatched Clinton to key swing states after the convention and joked shortly after Clinton's speech that he should appoint the 42nd president "the Secretary of Explaining Stuff," a label White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer played up in a tweet Wednesday.

An explainer is just what Obama could use right now. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll released Wednesday shows that about half of Americans (51 percent) say they do not have enough information about the law to understand how it will impact them and their family. The same poll shows more Americans view the law unfavorably than view it favorably.

That so many people don't fully understand Obamacare speaks to at least a partial failure of communication on the part of the Obama administration. Enter Clinton, whose skill set is well-tailored for the task at hand. (Just look at the clear, unambiguous language he used on another topic Wednesday when he said in a speech on the National Mall that "Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock.")

The arrangement reaffirms the strength of the Obama-Clinton alliance, which seemed like an impossibility back in 2008 during the heated campaign in which there was no love lost between the two men.

And it's what Democrats need, because on the other side of the Obamacare debate is a Republican Party that continues to assail Obamacare at every turn. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has predicted it will be the "biggest issue" of the 2014 midterm elections.

It remains to be seen how much Clinton can move the needle. A prime-time speech at a national convention months before an election commands a much larger audience than a policy speech in September of an off year. And after his speech next week, just what and how much Clinton will say or do also remains a question mark.

But for a White House struggling to sell a centerpiece of its legislative record, it's clearly a positive to have Clinton in its corner.

Fixbits: 

Obama said a potential military strike against Syria over what the administration has concluded to be the use of chemical weapons would send "a pretty strong signal that they better not do it again."

Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here's Obama's full speech at the event.

Notably absent from Wednesday's event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington: congressional leaders.

More than 100 lawmakers want Obama to get congressional approval for any military strike against Syria.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) urged caution on Syria. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused the Obama administration of leaking its plans.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Syria and Obamacare are tied "by an arrogance of this administration."

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) wants to require all congressional staffer to obtain health care through the new Obamacare exchanges.

Must-reads: 

"In march speech, Obama celebrates work of anonymous foot soldiers" -- Scott Wilson, Washington Post

"Ken Cuccinelli’s family law stance won him support of fathers’ rights movement" -- Ben Pershing, Washington Post

"Republican Lawmakers Retaliate Against Heritage Foundation" -- Tim Alberta, National Journal

"The House GOP is bracing for debt-limit battle and likely to target Obamacare first" -- Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

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