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Tavis Smiley changes his tune on Obama's health care

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By Robert "Rob" Redding Jr.

Editor & Publisher

March 21, 2010, 1:30 p.m. - Radio/TV host Tavis Smiley today seemed to back the president's latest apparent looming victory on health care, an apparent break from his past statement on Obama's plan.

"I think the president deserves great respect for having the courage to take this issue on," Smiley told NBC's "Meet The Press." "Seven presidents have tried here before and they have all failed. I think he gets credit for taking this on."

Smiley, who just a few months ago called the president's looming win on health care "small change," now says that "it takes too long to phase this in."

"Thirty-two more Americans are covered [and] that's a good thing," the frequent critic of Obama said. "There is so much more that this bill should have been."

Smiley appeared on "Meet the Press" following a summit on how Obama is failing to address issues relative to the black community the day before. The president has declined to attend any of Smiley's events.

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Smiley latest remarks seem to conflict with what he said in an interview about health care on "Meet The Press" on Dec. 20:

"Throughout the campaign, the president promised change," he told the program. "We have change on the horizon here but, unfortunately, it's small change.  I find myself kind of like John McCain agreeing with Howard Dean, here I am agreeing with my friend Joe Scarborough."

He continued:  "I think the real winners here are the insurance industry. They're, they're the--yeah, they're the ones who win here.  I mean, you, you, you walk through that list, David, of those points you put up earlier.  The president wanted the public option, the industry said no.  The president wanted to tax their windfall profits, the industry said no.  The president wanted to do a variety of things, the industry pushed back.  And here's the problem for me.  It's not just, David, that we're not getting the kind of health care that we were promised we were going to get, it's that in the president's first big fight with a powerful lobby in Washington, the White House lost and they lost big.  And that, I think, portends something very dangerous down the road for all the other issues we have to deal with where lobbies are going to be pushing back on the White House."

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