Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, who has won the respect of many of his colleagues — and regular readers — for tuning out the buzz and honing in on the substance, delivers another example of thoughtful commentary today.

“In an election year dominated by concerns about terrorism and the war in Iraq, domestic problems such as the cost and availability of healthcare have been overshadowed,” writes Brownstein. “Yet the healthcare system is facing pressures similar to those that inspired President Clinton’s failed attempt to ensure universal coverage a decade ago.”

Rather than offer his own take on some issue du jour spoon-fed by the Republicans or Democrats, Brownstein elevates an obscure report from the George Washington University School of Public Health, couples it with some of his own reporting from a neighborhood clinic last winter, and writes persuasively about an issue almost forgotten in the pack journalism that is campaign coverage.

Brownstein lays out the scope of the healthcare crisis, the growing burden on small clinics and emergency rooms, and the economic and social consequences on low-income families and those attempting to care for them.

He writes: “President Bush has displayed a schizophrenic attitude toward the strains on the [healthcare] safety net. He has significantly increased funding for federal community health centers that treat the uninsured; last week in Youngstown, Ohio, he noted the clinics served almost 30 percent more patients than when he took office. Yet while increasing direct grants to the centers, Bush has also pursued cutbacks in Medicaid that could undermine the very public clinics and hospitals he aims to promote.”

The Brownstein column works because it has all the necessary elements: Information, analysis, opinion, good writing — and a message of substance.

Susan Q. Stranahan

Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.