President Barack Obama was trying to put the rhetoric and angst against healthcare behind him. All of us have seen the town hall meetings with people on both sides of the issue foaming at the mouth. Granted, one side has a lot more foaming people than the other, but there was rhetoric coming from both directions. But the era for civility and calm conversation will have to wait just a bit longer. In the middle of his healthcare address, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson yelled from the floor two words, “You lie!” This was in response to Mr. Obama’s statement that his plan for healthcare reform would not cover illegal immigrants.
Now Mr. Wilson might want to explain away his rudeness as a momentary lapse of civility based on his passion for the subject at hand. Supposedly, Mr. Wilson is a firm opponent of illegal immigration. He might even try to blame his emotional outburst on his latent turrets syndrome that manifests whenever he sees an authoritative black man. But one of the television cameras in the house chamber panned over to Mr. Wilson. He was holding a sign in his lap saying, “What bill?” It should be obvious that Mr. Wilson came prepared to do his impersonation of a typical town hall foamer ready to cause a ruckus for ruckus sake and not ready to listen at all.
In response to Mr. Wilson’s outburst the chamber erupted in a wave of disapproving boos. Mr. Obama held Mr. Wilson with a harsh gaze for a moment and calmly responded, “That’s not true.” As Mr. Obama went on with his speech, both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden continued to send eye daggers Mr. Wilson’s way. Mr. Wilson looked around at all the people giving him their own stairs of disapproval as if to say, “What?” For the remainder of the night, his attention was focused on his Blackberry.
Mr. Wilson’s actions did much to reinforce Mr. Obama’s words. As if prepared for a shameful display of Mr. Wilson’s caliber. “What we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government,” said Mr. Obama. “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed,” he added, to Democratic cheers.
Well, in Mr. Wilson’s own words, you lie Mr. President. There will always be time for bickering and for lies and for mistruths for political gain. There will always be time to put self serving political agendas ahead of what’s best for the nation. There will always be a time for a politician to scream an improper comment from the safety of the sidelines. There will always be time for people to be obnoxious when there is plenty to support the notion that others are ready to support and reinforce obnoxious behavior with their own obnoxiousness.
Many other Republican Party politicians expressed open contempt for Mr. Obama by tweeting during the speech, scanning their BlackBerrys, or holding up copies of Republican healthcare reform bills during the speech. Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said that he was incredibly disappointed in the tone of Mr. Obama’s speech. He said that he found Mr. Obama’s tone to be overly combative and believed he talked in a manner beneath the dignity of his office that will make it more difficult to find common ground. The way Mr. Graham speaks you’d think Mr. Obama simply walked over to the Republican side of the House and just bitched slap them all, not that they and their Democratic associates, don’t deserve it.
So this morning, it’s clear that the speech didn’t do much of anything. People on the left are still on the left. People on the right are still on the right. If anything, the trenches just got deeper, the heights of the stonewalling has a new layer of stone on top. There will always be a time for entrenchment. It seems to be the natural order of things. If anything, it is the time that we can achieve anything that resembles reform or at the very least a bipartisan effort that looks like it might lead to reform, is what has come to past. The idea that we can set aside differences and come together for the true benefit of the American people is a bold lie.
I was watching Meet the Press with David Gregory with guests Joe Scarborough and Tavis Smiley discussing President Barack Obama’s failure to sell the healthcare reform plan to the American people and, consequently, to both houses of the Congress. The popular belief is that the President took a hands off approach to making a plan and instead simply laid out goals leaving the legislature to work out the details. Unfortunately, this left an opening for some of the President’s political opponents to take advantage of one of the President’s weaknesses. Some of these opponents would rather work to weaken the political position of the other party rather than work to provide honest to goodness healthcare reform to the American people.
Joe Scarborough is a staunch conservative and strongly supports the Republican Party. It was his contention that the President’s plan wasn’t succeeding because of anything the minority of Republican’s in the Congress was doing or not doing. The Democrats in the legislature control both houses of the legislative branch as well as the executive branch. If the Democrats honestly believed in their President, they would support his program. Unfortunately, some Democrats, blue dogs are some of the most notable, come from districts where there isn’t overwhelming support amongst the constituents because of the fear many plant with predictions of death panels and other nonsense. Not all the Democrats want to support their President. Therefore, Mr. Scarborough reasoned, if healthcare reform doesn’t pass, the Republicans have nothing to do with it.
But here’s the problem with such an assumption. The Republicans aren’t exactly walking a neutral path here. The Republicans have a vested interest in watching the President and the rest of the Democrats lose face with the American people. The Republicans have decided to vote against healthcare reform as a bloc and welcome each and every Democrat who joins their effort because each Democrat who turns makes it easier for the President to be defeated and increases the chances of a Republican Party revival during the midterm elections.
If Republicans really want to appear blameless against any defeat with healthcare, they would remove themselves from any vote on the subject instead of coming out as a totally negative bloc. That way, the pass or defeat of the measure truly becomes the responsibility of the other party. But instead, in order to pass a healthcare reform bill the Democrats have to counter each Republican vote against with a vote in favor before there can be any neutral ground. And then what votes remain will determine the fate of healthcare reform. That hardly makes the Republicans impartial and the passage of the bill entirely a Democrats affair.
But this is more of the smoke and mirrors of politics. The Republican Party continues to successfully make the passage or failure of this reform plan appear to be the responsibility of the Democratic Party. And the conservatives continue to play on people’s fear that healthcare reform is going to destroy people’s world. Fears of death panels for the infirm and elderly along with fears of socialism because it’s such an awful concept that benefits no one and other fears like a government chomping at the bit to take over medicine and turn entire hospitals into euthanasia centers hell bent on sending people to places like Burr Oak cemetery are all distractions that keeps us from discussing the real issues of the ever escalating cost of healthcare with so many people being denied healthcare coverage while health insurance companies continue to make wonderful profits.
One fear that is real is that if Mr. Obama and the rest of the Democrats are able to reform healthcare in any meaningful way conservatives know that their impact on the political stage will continue to diminish to levels so insignificant that as a national collective they would barely influence a bond issue regarding a local library.
Real healthcare reform has become Mr. Obama’s Waterloo. It is depicted as a decisive battle that will trigger an end to his political popularity and the resurgence of the Democratic Party. If healthcare reform passes as a bloc the Republican Party can point the finger of fault at the Democrats and say that it is all their fault. If healthcare reform fails, the Republicans will point a different finger to the Democrats and say that they were too disorganized and too unwilling to work with each other to be trusted with the nation’s welfare. It’s a no lose situation for them. Unfortunately, the real losers wouldn’t be the Democrats but the people who’s access to healthcare will continue to languish under a system geared more for making profit than for saving people’s health or life.
If the little woman holding the President Barack Obama with an Adolph Hitler style moustache knew anything about Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank she probably would have thought twice about making a reference to the infamous German Party when she asked her question at one of these town hall meetings held to promote some debate about healthcare reform. The woman stepped up to the microphone proudly holding her Obama as Hitler sign and explained the rather incredulous leap of how Mr. Obama’s push for a public option is similar to Hitler’s Action T-4 program. The Action T-4 program was a government sponsored euthanasia program in which incurable patients were killed. She followed her brief history lesson with a question to Mr. Frank, why are you supporting this Nazi policy?
Mr. Frank responded to the woman’s question with a question of his own, on what planet do you spend most of your time? He then accurately referred to her rhetorical question as “vile, contemptible nonsense”, for she truly did not want an answer but an opportunity to voice her two cents of derision for Mr. Obama and his attempt to reform the healthcare system. Mr. Frank went on to say to the woman that, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table. And he had no plan to argue with a table in anybody’s dining room. Mr. Frank is Jewish and more than likely he didn’t appreciate his work and the work of the Congress being dismissed as nothing more than a Nazi policy.
It’s about time somebody slapped some sense into these cry babies. In currently popular conservative fashion, this woman came to the podium swinging her contempt around like a set of light saber nunchucks. But instead of being the adult opponent and politely listen to a verbal barrage of disdain and disrespect, Mr. Frank pulled out his own copy of Just Tell People to Shut the Fuck Up for Dummies and started putting it to use. However, I suspect that Mr. Frank will eventually issue an apology to dining room tables for the suggestion that they would be stupid enough to bring an Obama is Hitler sign to a political rally to discuss healthcare.
While other politicians will coddle their contemptible constituents, Mr. Frank is ready to say enough is enough. It isn’t helping anyone to understand the issues at the heart of the matter when people start their questions comparing healthcare reform to a Nazi plot. What could have been said to convince her that right now America needs the healthcare reform that she believes is synonymous with an organization responsible for one of the darkest times on this planet? Mr. Frank assessed the situation and deemed any attempt at an intelligent dialogue and exchange of talking points was a waste of time. She wasn’t there to listen. Mr. Frank wasn’t there to indulge her.
Now one thing we have to take into consideration is that Mr. Frank represents a district where he enjoys the support of a majority of his constituents, despite the best attempts of people like the woman with the Obama as Hitler sign and her conspiracy theory that Mr. Obama is waiting to kill Americans citizens off and Mr. Frank is one of his accomplices. He has the luxury of telling one of his constituents to have a hot steamy cup of shut the fuck up. Other political representatives are not so lucky. Other politicians recognize the fact that they walk a fine line that keeps them from losing their temper with even the most dimwitted of their constituents lest they lose even a single vote to a political rival. So it has become the norm to see politicians trying to placate the hysterical potential voter.
But all too often, there is no placating people so steeped in their chosen beliefs no matter how bizarre they may be. President Obama, the nation’s first chief executive who wasn’t a while male, is chomping at the bit to sully his name and the name of his children so he can kill the infirm and the elderly. The outlandishness of such a theory truly defies comprehension for anyone who thinks with anything with even a remote resemblance to rational reasoning. And since rational reasoning was thrown out the window, what’s the point of engaging the bizarre and trying to hold a conversation? What could Mr. Frank or Mr. Obama or anyone else to this group of people with this mindset of doom and gloom to put their fears at ease their anxiety at bay? I would fathom a guess of nothing. Time would have been better spent talking to that fore mentioned dining room table.
So to the little lady who asked a Jewish man why he endorses a Nazi style policy as she waved her Obama is Hitler sign, graciously donated by LaRouche PAC who had set up a table and handed the signs out to anybody who wanted one as people walked into the meeting, I say thanks for giving Mr. Frank the opportunity to show other politicians just exactly how you handle crazy.
People are being allowed to carry guns, even a military style AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, to the various town hall protests that are popping up all over the country. Outside the convention center where President Barack Obama was giving a speech some protesters have openly displayed firearms in the crowd. Advocates for people’s rights to carry arms say that these people are simply exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and their other right to protest. But it wouldn’t take much imagination to support the theory that this is little more than an awful disaster waiting to happen. It might be little more than a matter of time.
All of these gun wielding citizens were well within their rights. No crimes were committed. At least no crime on any books was broken. Still, the just because there isn’t a law doesn’t mean people didn’t have to exercise common sense. There may not be any legal responsibility to keep these guns and rifles out of the area, but what about the personal responsibility factor?
Because some idiots want to flaunt their right to bear arms, somebody else will come along and say that since these people are too irresponsible to exercise some good judgment, maybe we need a law to keep firearms away from these political protest when there is a very good chance that they can become tender boxes of passions that could easily be provoked into something a lot more serious. Gun wielders everywhere will protest people taking their rights away. All too often some of us forget that with rights comes responsibility. It’s not just a one way street that allows us to abuse rights without consequences.
From the moment it became obvious that Mr. Obama was a serious contender for the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, a lot of people were openly hostile against his achievements. First, it was just people denying that he was a viable candidate because he had no executive experience. Then, people tried to rally the dominant community against Mr. Obama because he was a Muslim at a Christian church with a pastor that hated white America. And then, when that didn’t work, people tried to paint Mr. Obama as a racist because he called his grandmother a typical white woman. People attacked his wife and called Michelle Obama an angry black woman who never had pride in America. Soon thereafter it morphed into some claim that he wasn’t a United States citizen despite the fact that the state government of Hawaii has confirmed over and over again that Mr. Obama was indeed born there in 1961. Then, after Mr. Obama won the election, a lot of people rushed to the gun stores as if there was a book signing for a new Harry Potter release. After the inauguration, people started throwing tea parties in protest to Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan because suddenly they woke up and realized that as American citizens they had to pay taxes as if it never occurred to them before. And now, we have a debate on healthcare and people now want to show their disgust over the whole matter by brandishing guns along with signs suggesting that some time of altercation is just a moment away.
Taking a gun to a political protest is, in a very absurd way, a political statement. It is a very loud proclamation of frustration and bitterness and a hint of dangerousness. But people fail to realize that not putting up with people exercising their right to openly brandish their weapons is also a political statement that should be recognized for its own level of frustration, bitterness, and its own level of dangerousness. Instead of people content to allow a happy compromise to exist that accepts the fact that people are entitled to bear arms and some of us are in fact legally armed, we have to deal with people who prefer to throw caution to the wind and challenge our arrangement based on civil sensibilities.
People who are willing to push the envelope by taking guns to political rallies already proven to be emotionally provocative are putting us all at risk. These people forget that we live in a culture that tolerates such mindless regulations as nothing larger than a toothpick can be taken through a metal detector at the airport. Women were not allowed to take breast milk through a TSA checkpoint lest somehow they’ll use it to pull a MacGyver and convert it into some kind of explosives using their toothpaste and lipstick. The rest of us might not be inclined to take guns away from the majority of the public in mass, but we certainly will not tolerate everyone bringing their guns down to the city center just to make a political point.
At Republican Party conventions last year, before the election in November, there was a story circulating that some conservative convention goers were openly threatening the man who would become President. And now we allow some of these same conservatives to tote their guns at these political events. That’s just plain collective stupidity. It makes the situation dangerous for everyone involved. People assigned to keep the peace and our President safe now have another factor to worry about. And it’s only a matter of time before somebody who really wants to make a name for their self tries something stupid to go out in a blaze of so-called glory. After all, we all have the right not to exercise good judgment.
How often have you turned to some national news show only to see two people on opposite sides of an issue arguing with each other? Usually it goes something like this: The host of the news show will put out a hypothetical question. Coming up next we’ll find out which is more racist, the Democrats or the Republicans? We’ll discuss this question and more with a high profile member from the Republican Party and another high profile pundit from the Democrats.
Now how many people will actually tune and listen with an unprejudiced ear? It is rare to find a person in America who truly holds no opinion either way on any of these subjects and will open themselves to be influenced one way or the other in five minutes of two people throwing explicit and implicit insults at each other. Some people might call this fair and balanced news reporting. But in all honesty it’s nothing more than a slightly more civilized version of the Jerry Springer Show.
I haven’t really paid much attention to CNN lately and decided to do something different this morning. Instead of my usual of watching the local broadcast from the CBS affiliate KMOV-TV I decided to see what was happening on CNN. It didn’t take long for me to regret my decision. This morning the public was treated to a new segment where one of the whacky crazy antics of zanies from the far left is compared to a single crazy antic from one of the zanies on the right. I turned the television off and dragged my disgusted ass to work.
As I drove to work I thought of the implications of CNN’s new segment. Right now the chaos over healthcare is being ratcheted up to seriously scary levels. On the conservative side we see people holding up signs calling the President a socialist or a communist, we see pictures of the President done up in makeup similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker from one of the Batman movies or donning a mustache ala Adolph Hitler, we see people taking handguns to protest holding signs with subtle threats about shedding blood and offing bureaucrats, and we see conservative politicians easily stirring up this hornets net of fear with insinuations that the current government administration wants to employ “death panels” that will make the decision to kill the elderly and the infirm and whoever else they deem unworthy of life. On the other hand, we have the Speaker of the House saying that the over the top protests of shouting and the refusal to listen is un-American. But picking one from each side simply makes all the zaniness look even handed.
It’s a familiar tactic. It is one of the tactics that has been employed against any talk of racism. The moment somebody says we have racial disparity you can count the seconds before somebody says something like, I’m a white person and back in school a black person beat me up and stole my lunch money. But it’s a rather asinine attempt to equate racial disparity to somebody getting their lunch money stolen by somebody who’s on the other side of the racial divide. But if we follow the method of comparing a single event from one side of a wrong to a single event on the other side, we can make the illusion that both sides of the racial divide are equally wrong.
It is a fact of life that on any issue between peoples there will be jerks on both sides. But simply because there are jerks on the other side of the divide doesn’t automatically equate the wrongs of the two. Just because somebody is an idiot on one side doesn’t negate or equate to all the idiocy that occurs on the other side of an issue.
CNN continues to do a disservice to the public by doing its unfair share of fanning the embers of disorder and confusion in order to make the most out of any controversy. And instead of reporting on all the stupidity we’ll focus only on one fringe act and that way people won’t get the complete picture in order to make a completely informed opinion. So CNN reports only a small part of the story and then asks people to call in with their opinion of what’s happening. And even the reporting of the opinions won’t be an accurate picture of how people truly feel. CNN will pick two opinions from one side to read and two opinions from the other. It gives the impression that the split is straight down the middle when it may be anything but.
But controversy and a confused public and an impression that things are even is an easy formula for good ratings. It works for Jerry Springer. He started out trying to be serious about informing the public. But he quickly discovered that controversy was good for ratings. Mr. Springer gave up his show about informing the public for the current circus he is infamous for. CNN started off trying to be serious as well. But with each and every change they make to their programs they become more like a circus as well.
Never in my wildest dreams would I consider any President of the United States as actually trying to kill any group of American citizens. While I will admit that there is enough evidence to show that President George Bush and his administration stood by and willfully ignored the plight of thousands of Americans along the Gulf coast in the days after hurricane Katrina made landfall, I would never think that a modern day President would even consider the intentional mass murder of any group of American people.
But there are people ready to toss such an accusation at President Barack Obama without the slightest proof to support their contention. In the past few days I’ve heard people say that the healthcare plan being pushed by the Obama administration is a cloaked attempt to kill off old people and ration healthcare. Conservatives have accused Mr. Obama of trying to put together death panels that will kill grandma and will murder anyone who is infirm.
Even worse is the fact that there are a lot of American people who actually want to believe such tripe. There are people who are still defending the Bush administration’s choice to look the other way as hundreds of Americans perished in flood waters. And then, people who survived the floods had to wait four days for the United States to put together some kind of rescue and people can pull any and every excuse why things took so long. People in government didn’t know how to respond to people drowning and this was a learning opportunity.
When we’re trying to put together a discussion on healthcare reform to talk about the issues, people are ready to put hyperbole into high gear and throw common sense under its wheels. We can’t honestly discuss anything associated with real healthcare reform because people are coming to the discussion with imaginations running wild that Mr. Obama eats children and the elderly. I would not be surprised to see a correlation between the number of people who believe government storm troopers are coming to kill them off and the number of people who believed the Mr. Obama palled around with terrorist and was a card carrying Muslim without a valid American birth certificate because he was born in Kenya.
Conservative talk show hosts have made insinuations that Mr. Obama is a dictator without conscience. I guess that explains why such an effort is being made to discuss healthcare reform in a public forum. Dictators do that kind of thing every now and then. The comparisons are nonsense and instead of people in the media who should have more rational thought processes speaking out against such rhetoric, they try to stay neutral and simply turn to the opponent as if to give this growing radical fringe legitimacy on the public stage. It’s good for ratings to show conservative people shouting at their political representatives.
The rancor against Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan replete with death panels and granny killing federal agents is very real. Unfortunately, the panel and the granny killers aren’t. But, that really doesn’t matter. If Mr. Obama and his supporters made the most perfect healthcare plan the world could imagine, some people would turn their imagination to picking it apart with accusations of mandatory termination dictates for anyone who meets a secret set of criteria calculated on NORAD computers by a secret panel deep inside Cheyenne Mountain. And people who are driven to believe every conspiracy about Mr. Obama will be more than happy to jump at the chance to hang their hat on yet another one. The perfect healthcare plan can be damned.
Whether or not healthcare reform is good for America isn’t even close to being the issue anymore. The issue is whether or not we will sit by and allow the government kill off a segment of our population. Even after the downright incompetent response to one of the most devastating natural disasters to his this country by the previous administration I would never think that any President would intentionally make any decision to proactively kill part of the population. I would even give the previous President and his keystone cop administration the benefit of a doubt.
Unfortunately, there are way too many Americans that are unwilling to give Mr. Obama and his posse the same. And Mr. Obama has yet to simply stand by as Americans drown and people are ready to lynch him in effigy and make all sorts of accusations against his character. People are worried that Mr. Obama’s plan includes a death panel. The very idea is preposterous. If anything, there are people ready to put healthcare reform in front of a death panel before it has a chance at any kind of life.
Harry and Louise are supposed to represent the typical racially generic middle class American couple. They originally appeared back in the early nineties in a commercial designed to help destroy the 1994 healthcare plan by the Clinton administration and headed by Hillary Clinton. Harry and Louise are supposed to be the average American’s middle aged next door neighbors, coworkers, friends, and etcetera. We are supposed to be able to relate to this couple. Their concerns are our concerns.
The Harry and Louise commercials were developed by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), a health insurance industry lobbying group, who spent seventeen million dollars in its battle to persuade the public that passage the Clinton’s version of universal healthcare would have been devastating for the country under bogus claims that people would lose their choice of doctors, that insurance would become so expensive employers would drop it, and every doomsday scenario applicable and inapplicable.
However, this time around, instead of trying to derail a national health reform plan, the new Harry and Louise commercials and their developers are promoting health insurance coverage for the more millions of uninsured Americans. The new advertisements find Harry and Louise’s in their kitchen just like the first time around. The change of heart has not been lost on the majority of health policy pundits. During the Clinton’s attempt at healthcare reform, the Health Insurance Association of America was very much aligned with conservatives and Republicans’ interests. This time around, the health insurance lobbying group appears to be more aligned with Democrats perspectives.
Like the actors who portray Harry and Louise the health insurance lobby doesn’t operate with any sense of what’s best for the community’s interest. The only thing that matters is the basic, what’s in it for me. The only reason Harry and Louise have changed their tune is that the person paying them, the HIAA, wants to hear them sing a different song. It’s in Harry and Louise’s best interest to do anything their employers wants them to do despite whatever their conscience may say. That is, of course, assuming that they have a conscience in the first place.
The HIAA worked hard to defeat any universal healthcare plan at work in the early nineties. Instead of bringing their concerns to the table in order to be debated and addressed, this organization played on people’s fears that our demise was imminent if we did anything to make change. Like a contestant on an old Let’s Make A Deal episode we made a collective choice to keep our booby prize instead of taking a chance that something better might be behind door number one, two, or three. At that time, the costs were manageable. While premiums may have already been rising to the stratosphere, there were still manageable. And when people made claims, there was still a reasonable expectation that the insurance company would pay the majority, if not all, of any healthcare expenses.
These days filing a claim with a health insurance company is like playing Russian roulette. All kinds of preexisting conditions can disqualify a claim from being honored. Filing a claim for a head injury? There better not be any documented proof that you took an aspirin in your lifetime. People are finally beginning to wake up and see what we have come to and where we’re headed. The HIAA knows that the winds of change are blowing and they are blowing hard. And even though that wind is blowing against an immovable force of people who have a lot to gain by keeping things exactly the way they are, it is only a matter of time before more of us are negatively impacted by industry practices.
Like Harry and Louise the HIAA knows what tune it needs to sing if it wants to continue to earn a profit. Now that conservatives and the Republicans don’t look as formidable as they once did the insurance lobby finds it more advantageous to hedge its bets by playing both sides of the issue. Promote the idea that the lobby wants to help with reform that consist of timid, little steps. But at the same time, continue to consist of a bunch of companies that stand to remain hugely profitable if things remain stagnant. It looks like a no lose proposition.
Hopefully looks can be deceiving. Hopefully people are looking at Harry and Louise and are seeing nothing but a couple of actors who may not care if healthcare reform passes. Hopefully people will see that the HIAA’s change of heart might fit the same category. Yes they say we need healthcare reform. But the type of reform this lobby of the insurance company is pushing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to make the type of change that keeps our healthcare system the same.