Watching his long overdue speech on healthcare tonight, I think maybe it's a race between the two of us to see who is the pokier.
Obama seems to be slowly learning that if you're not willing to call out evil monsters for what they are, then what you're doing probably isn't worth a damn.
And maybe I'm slowly learning that, at the end of the day, Obama doesn't really care to do anything that's worth a damn after all.
Nevertheless, Barack came out of the barracks tonight, if only just for a couple of inches of tippy-toe time. You could see him trying on the political warrior's uniform, and it looked only slightly more comfortable on him than that tank outfit did on Mike Dukakis. Obama seemed visibly nervous to me, trying to draw lines in the sand, something about as constitutionally comfortable for the Capitulation Kid as Dick Cheney doing empathy. He muffed the delivery of his tough guy lines, as if his knees were knocking too violently, as if he was the 90-pound weakling in high school who finally decides to confront the defensive tackle who's been tormenting him all year.
Does it mean that Obama has finally realized that there are some nasty people out there who want to do him harm? In fairness to the president, it hasn't necessarily been obvious that that is the case. I mean, it's not like people have been calling him a socialist, a fascist, or a murderer of senior citizens or anything. It's not like people have been questioning his very legitimacy as a United States citizen, and therefore his eligibility to be president, or something as vicious as that.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to the question of what he's really up to, though I lean toward the latter explanation. It's a measure of his failure that a mere nine months into his presidency (and actually a lot earlier), Barack Obama has already lost my trust. I no longer find it appropriate to scratch my head in puzzlement at how a well-intentioned president could be acting like George W. Bush. Indeed, my working assumption now is that his intentions are no more well than is the hospitalized patient known as the American healthcare system.
I mean, how is it that the president can talk in his speech about the insurance industry as some sort of rogue elephant while simultaneously cutting deals that will bring it enormous profits in the coming decades? And if these deals are so much in the public interest, why did they need to be done in secret? I could be grossly wrong here, but something tells me that Obama is not making secret deals with MoveOn to do something that actually benefits the country. And they didn't even get hammered in his speech.
There's more to what he said tonight that rings hollow to my ear. As I understand it, the White House is talking about funding half of the $900 billion cost of this bill by finding "waste" and "inefficiencies" in Medicare and Medicaid. You know, there aren't very many laws of political science we can identify, like gravity or other laws of physics, but surely one of them is that every time you hear a politician use this line, it's a lie. And when he sings it to the tune of 450 billion bucks, it's a lie big enough that whales could swim in it for decades without ever bumping into the shore.
And why do we have to wait four years for this plan to go on line? If tens of thousands of Americans literally die every year from lack of healthcare, how do we square that with this supposed call to conscience? How is it that this country can defeat both Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in less time than that?
Obama was also noxiously disingenuous about the public option, having already booted the negotiation of that provision away. It's really not news to me that "an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange." Sure we CAN. We CAN also make Ode to Cannibalism the national anthem. But should we? Need we? Those are the questions that a president is supposed to sell us answers to using the bully pulpit. As in the campaign, Obama's "can" construction regarding the public option - itself the onlyremaining progressive crumb from what has already been taken off the table - seeks to have it every way at once. Joy to liberals, joy to moderates. In reality, nothing for either. (But especially liberals.)
There are certainly some specific things to like about Obama's plan. Few crimes, for example, are more morally offensive than the idea of insurance companies finding bogus rationales to throw gravely ill patients to the gutter in order to make fantastically wealthy shareholders even richer. Few things are authentically more disgusting than denying people healthcare coverage - which effectively means denying them healthcare - because they were sick before at some point in their lives. But does anyone think that if Obama manages to end these highly profitable practices that the insurance companies are going to just walk away from those profits? What stops them, most obviously, from simply raising premiums even higher so that they can maintain their bloated bloodsucking extractions of the few remaining dollars still inadvertently lurking about in the creases of our wallets?
I wonder why, as well - if Barack Obama is so passionate about his plan - why didn't he call on Americans to support it? Why didn't mobilize them to lean on the members of Congress whom he all but outed as treasonous liars? Why didn't he go to his base and use his massive email list to fill the streets of Washington with people who are really angry about healthcare and - unlike the folks we've been watching in action all this summer - are not also certifiably insane from old-fat-white-Southern-cracker disease?
Maybe he doesn't dare. Indeed, rather the opposite is occurring. Tens of thousands of his campaign staff, volunteers and contributors had to resort to buying a full-page New York Times ad to let the guy know that they'll find somebody else, thank you very much, in the 2012 primaries if this clown continues to serve Wall Street while ignoring every other street in America.
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