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ARTICLE SUMMARY: After a brief honeymoon period in which everything seemed to go his way, President Barack Obama finds himself in a fight to get healthcare reform approved. The rhetoric is strong on both sides of the debate and, apparently, words are carefully chosen for the impression they will create on those still considering the issues.


  1. Why would Democrats use information from focus groups to advise President Obama on how to present his health care reform?
  2. In one notable town hall meeting, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee was seen talking on her cellular telephone while a constituent asked her a question (note: video is available on What communication barrier does this represent?
  3. One reason that Americans are upset about the healthcare reform process is that some congressional representatives indicate they plan to vote in favor of H.R. 3200 despite concerns from their constituents. What aspect of communication might this violate?

SOURCE: J. Weisman, “Obama Allies Find Words Fail Them,” The Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Related video clip:

For additional discussion, consider having students take a look at the House of Representatives’ version of the bill ( then ask them to comment on the effectiveness and efficiency of this document. If students are familiar with the town hall meetings held during the summer congressional recess, have them talk about the best way to conduct these using Management Smarts 5.1 as a guide.

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