Obama Picks Surgeon General, Zings Health Care Reform 'Cynics'

With that Sanjay Gupta flirtation now well in the past, President Obama just announced he’s nominating Dr. Regina Benjamin as the U.S. Surgeon General. Benjamin, an Alabama family practitioner, runs a rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her efforts to rebuild her clinic in the wake of Katrina gained her national recognition—Among other things, she borrowed against her house and maxed her credit cards to rebuild. She won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” last year.

In announcing Benjamin, Obama took the opportunity to lobby Congress to move on health care reform. Speaking to reporters last week in Italy, Obama reiterated his call to get bills through both both the House and Senate by the August recess—though key Democrats suggested over the weekend that it’s unlikely to happen. “I think we’ll be through the Finance committee by the August recess, and I think that’s a realistic goal,” Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday. “There really is plenty of time. Congress is going to be in session until Christmas Eve.” But the White House worries that the longer it takes, the more mired it will become in 2010 politics.

Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden this morning, Obama hit back at critics who say it won’t happen. “I just want to put everybody on notice because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone: We are going to get this done. Inaction is not an option,” Obama said. “And for those naysayers and cynics who think that this is not going to happen, don’t bet against us. We are going to make this thing happen because the American people desperately need it.”