Aug 18 07:20 PM US/Eastern
President Barack Obama will Thursday hold a live online and telephone strategy meeting to rally devoted grass roots backers (BROWN SHIRTS) as a backlash over his health reform plan spreads to liberal media commentators.
David Plouffe, who ran Obama's triumphant 2008 election campaign, and now steers the Organizing for America (BROWN SHIRTS) supporter network, said Obama wanted to lay out his strategy and message, as controversy stalks his major reform plan.
"This is a critical time in this president's administration and in the history of our country. I hope you can join us," Plouffe wrote in an email to supporters, (BROWN SHIRTS) soliciting questions for the president.
Obama mobilized the greatest army of grass roots activists (BROWN SHIRTS) in US history during his capture of the Democratic nomination and the presidency last year.
But so far, it is not clear if those legions of supporters (BROWN SHIRTS) are prepared to turn out in their millions to help him push key legislation through Congress.
The White House has spent the last two days attempting to dismiss reports that it is softening its proposal to create a government entity to compete with private insurers to bring down the cost of health care and to widen access.
A flurry of media accounts on Sunday interpreted remarks by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as stepping back from the "public option."
"As I've said, now, yesterday and earlier today, the administration's position is unchanged," said Gibbs on Monday.
"I think the suggestion somehow that anything that was said Saturday or Sunday as being new administration policy is just not something that I would agree with."
The administration argues that having a federal component is still a key part of the health care plan, but says Obama is open to any option that will foster choice and competition in the health care market.
Some top lawmakers have expressed doubts that there is sufficient support in Congress for a public option, and are pushing a plan for non-profit co-operatives to be introduced into the health insurance market instead.
Obama's health care reform drive, his top domestic priority, has been assailed in recent weeks by Republicans and angry opponents disrupting town hall meetings held by Democratic lawmakers.
The president, trying to contain the damage to his plan, held two town hall meetings of his own on health care in the western states of Montana and Colorado at the weekend.
But on Monday, he faced the wrath of normally supportive liberal newspaper columnists, who fear he is toning down what had been billed as a generational domestic reform drive.
"If we manage to get health care 'reform' this time around it will be the kind of reform that benefits the very people who have given us a failed system, and thus made reform so necessary," said columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times.
Eugene Robinson, of the Washington Post, added that "giving up the public option would send many of Obama's progressive supporters (BROWN SHIRTS) into apoplexy, yet the administration has sent clear signals that this is the path of less resistance it's prepared to take."