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The International Writers Magazine: US Politics + Readers Letter

Health Care Summit?
Death Rattle With Suits
James Campion
The forty-fourth president of the United States appears to be as possessed by a doomed agenda as the last one.


Maybe at this point Barack Obama has no choice. It has now been over a year and there is still no National Health Care Reform Law, only a massively incoherent pile of legislation that now only a minority of Americans want and less understand, a Democratic Party if not split, certainly splintered over, and a Republican opposition that despite hundreds of its amendments added to the thing, continue to rail against it for political leverage.
     If the 2/25 Health Care Summit between lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle chaired by the chief executive displayed anything, its that whatever remains of the National Health Care debate is merely a death rattle, some distant bugle call over a bloody and silent battle field.
    For the most part, the crazy talk was over. It was lawmakers doing what lawmakers do, muddy the facts and refute the rebukes. Over seven or so hours of speeches and debate, boring presentations of facts and figures, and the obligatory spate of pointless drivel, there remained the same conclusion as when it began; the current Senate version of Health Care Reform is vehemently opposed by every Republican, hardly endorsed by moderate Democrats, and barely a boon for Liberal ones. 
    What began in spirit as a negotiation continued in a series of disjointed debates. And as hard as the president pained to keep it civil and above-board, many on his side and the other reduced it to talking points and posturing. There was serious points made, but just as many derided. So, as my beloved maternal grandmother, Carmella Martignetti, the great political philosopher of the twentieth century once mused; "It is over, but it doesn't know enough to lie down."
    For his part, the president revealed a side to him that I once believed, and to a lessoning extent still believe is his strongest asset, the ability to rise above the fray, beyond mere politics and generation, someone who is not tainted by Boomer angst and old-line rhetoric. It is a side that was rarely seen during his first tumultuous year, wherein this massive undertaking of national legislation which makes up roughly 17 percent of the federal budget was not enough to send him to the Hill but once. This legacy-making moment came and went, came again and then went again, with a steely resolve and almost robotic detachment.
    Only one speech given at a special assembly of congress last year, arguably Obama's only effective oratory to date, could begin to budge events, but even that was not enough. Bringing us to yesterday's performance, which was even and presidential, a true display of leadership, and not in that phony, affected way you might have seen by pros like Reagan or Clinton, but more down and dirty with a bit more polish than the "everyman" version utilized by the last guy. An objective observer, if there is such an animal anymore, would have to admit to its courageous outreach and balanced effort to determine the agreements, differences and spaces between both when coming to difficult conclusions about a major overhaul in federal legislation. 
    But what was the point really?

    Firstly, it is far too late. This should have been done, as clearly and concisely with a trust in the electorate to comprehend, from the very beginning, rather than the lofty presentations and bully-tactics that ushered it in and pushed it through. But most importantly, there is no time, never mind the four-to-six week psuedo-deadline given by the president at summit's end, to cobble together four or five or ten disparate philosophies over spending, the extent of government involvement, regulatory ceilings and floors, and the stemming of insurance and dictatorial fraud both in the private and government levels.
    The next and only step for this president and his Democratic majority is to turn to Reconciliation, an oft-used process of avoiding a filibuster threat with a mere majority of fifty-one votes over the required sixty that is always vilified by the opposition until it gains power. It is pure democratic politics, as the law allows. Democrats and Republicans alike have used it to great effect, most dramatically with the infamous Contract With America in the mid-nineties. There is nothing to deride beyond its premise, which is another debate entirely. And although ramming a bill through a Reconciliation vote is an easy target to bash as one-party tyranny, as both the president and vice president decried when used several times by the previously Republican-controlled congress, it is now the only way any Health Care Reform bill is turned into law.
    The Republican stance that there should be a new, drafted-from-scratch or piece-meal bill is at best naïve and at its worst, and probably more to the point, vindictive. It has no basis in reality. It would be tantamount to opponents of the Iraq War asking for the troops to be sent back to the ships and re-deployed the moment they reached the outskirts of Baghdad. The mere idea that anyone would articulate this in public is as hilarious as it is frightening.
    And so the political fallout of Reconciliation, the only option beyond backing down for the president, will be devastating. Independents are gone for Obama now. And although National Health Care was one of the central themes of a stirringly successful 2008 campaign, in the face of ten percent unemployment, a dipping housing market and a slower recovery than anticipated, it has not only lost national traction, it has become a political albatross.
    The president has three years to win the disbelievers back or get them to crawl back if the Republicans send a weak retread like Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney in opposition, or if a true conservative voice like Ron Paul emerges in a populist TEA Party configuration and hands the White House back to him on a silver platter.
    For congress, the overwhelming majority of which is Democrat, it must do what it has never done; stand united. There are as deep divides among Democrats as Republicans over many details in the bill. There is even a deeper distrust between House Democrats and their colleagues in the Senate, which deconstructed the House bill and executed any chance of a Single-Payer Option, the treacherous Third Rail of Health Care Reform. 
    It is an election year. The Democrats are looking at substantial losses. The Republicans have shown no interest in compromise and the majority party has shown it does not care. This president, like the last one, has bet it all on one hand, and as he wisely stated at the summit's conclusion, the results will out and its denouement is what elections are for.

© James Campion March 1st 2010


Due to the overwhelming response to HEALTH CARE SUMMIT? Death Rattle In Suits -- we pause from the National Health Care debate and see how Reality Check readers are weighing in.

The health care summit was what it was: an exercise in rhetoric. Republicans reprised their familiar routine of propaganda and political theater. Democrats dug in, sticking mostly to the same talking points they've been repeating for over a year now. And the President persistently attempted to bridge the gaps and break the deadlock between them, to no avail.
    Unfortunately, it was obvious from Senator Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) opening remarks onward that Republicans never intended to have a real conversation about health care. Rather than focusing on areas of potential agreement, like medical malpractice reform, the senator chose instead to misrepresent the facts about health insurance premiums.
    Behind a facade of phony fiscal fortitude, the G.O.P. blindly obstructs legislation essential to our economic recovery, hoping that this cynical strategy will return them to power.
    Moreover, by repeatedly refusing to engage in a serious exchange of ideas, Congressional Republicans fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth behind health care reform: that it is an economic and social necessity.

Armchair Firebrand

I do believe that President Obama's ability to "detach" himself and appear robotic to most (not all) people is the result of his innate class and good manners, combined with a brilliant analytical mind that actually THINKS before answering a question.  I love the guy, but he HAS to stop being so professorial.
     Many Americans, especially politicians, are not that bright and resent being informed by ~ of all people ~ a black man!  (Oh YES, don't even bother denying that aspect of the 'problem' with this administration...)
     The GOP is the 'old white guy' now, just waiting to take back 'their' White House and end the Silent Civil War of the new millennium.  Lovely.  This country has a very ugly history that just may ultimately be its doom.
     "Instant Karma's gonna get you, gonna slap you right in the face..."  John Lennon was a prophet.

Paula DeMarta Mastroianni

This is like when a company or school or parent or any entity in charge does not want to do something mandated by the people. They load you up to the gills with crapola and say " See I told you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


It is true that the Democrats are divided. The Democratic Party has always been one of diversity under a big tent. However, in all my life as a Democrat, I have never seen Democratic supporters so divided; but then, I've never seen a media so saturated with political opinion - and such opinion peppered with misinformation.
    On Right and Left, I think it's time that the talking heads were consigned to the dustbin and people just started listening to established facts and learning to judge for themselves.

Emilia Romagna

I don't think the Dems have the cojones to go for Reconciliation. Seriously, they need to just say "Go ahead, GOP, filibuster this bill, live on CSPAN for the next umpteen hours. Let your constituents know what kind of petulant, foot-stomping children you are." But they haven't yet, and I fear they won't. They've caved on every filibuster threat to date... why haven't they told the repugs to put up or shut up?


There is no need to start from scratch to develop a bipartisan approach to universal care--it already exists and is called the Healthy Americans Act, offered by Wyden (D-Oregon) and Bennett (R-Utah). Call your Congressman or Senator and demand a hearing of this! BTW- it's only 170 pages!

D. Claud

When it comes to healthcare, why not ask a Dr? The gentleman from Texas has a creed and that creed is the Constitution. The document that ALL federal US policy should be measured by. The Constitution documents that our rights are inalienable NOT granted by the Constitution but by our Creator. Our right to freedom of religion, free speech, a free press, to keep and bear arms, to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure, to life, liberty and property, to be protected from having your property taken by the government without due process of law and without just compensation, to confront the witnesses against you, to be protected from excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, to vote and others have been unjustly denied to millions of Americans by the very Congress and President that took an oath to govern based on the Constitution.
    Dr. Paul appeals to ALL true Constitution supporting Americans. It's not about which political party a person supports. It's not about religion, it's not about race, it's not about any of the issues that have been distracting us as the Constitution is shredded before our very eyes. It's about being governed by the document that has been the creed of the most successful and freest society the world has ever seen.


Wow, if you think the Repubs' "piece meal" tact is "at best naïve and at its worst...vindictive" what do you call the Dems' "we've got some plumbing problems in the house so we're just going demolish it and build a new one" approach?
    Reasonable? Now who's naïve? Oh yeah, that was said in public too, courtesy skitso Henry Waxman. That doesn't frighten you? God forbid we buy h-care across state lines, deal with the bureaucratic waste or the outright theft in the system. Guess that would just be fucking crazy stupid, yet forcing someone to pay into the system or face jail time isn't.
    If life were a comic book you'd see a "What the...?!" balloon right about now.
    Here's the scoop for those who don't get it: government can't control costs. I'll give all you government-should-do-everything-so-I-can-feel-better-about-my-white-guilt losers a minute to process. Whenever government, foreign or domestic, has tried to control costs they've ALWAYS gone up. Supply and demand are constants, like gravity. You fuck with gravity and only bad craziness results. Anyone remember the good 'ole USS of R? Hammer and Sickle brand toilet paper $5 a roll? Commie bread lines around the block while a glut of tanks, screwdrivers, toasters, Lenin bobble head dolls, etc sat unused and unwanted in dank red warehouses? That's what happens when government controls costs. Uncle Sam has been soft-fisting the healthcare market for decades, yet we all think that same ilk can fix it? Now THAT'S frightening.

Ken Eustace

Single-payer, "the treacherous third rail of health care reform?" Yes, but not for the people, the majority of whom want Medicare for All -- and from the comments I'm reading more and more are coming on board all the time. Single-payer is only a third rail to the Repubs in Congress (there are many single-payer Repub advocates among the people), Obama and the rest of the Dems that are bought and paid for by the insurance industry and Pharma.
    The MSM likes to give the impression that the people would never accept Medicare for All. They refuse to report on any of the numerous rallies that are held for single payer. When was the last time anyone saw organizations like the PNHP, Mad As Hell Doctors get broad coverage?
    As Dr. Margaret Flowers has said, the decision to drop any talk of single-payer came from the WH -- it came from Obama, it came from Rahm. The House was talking to single-payer advocates in the beginning. Why wasn't the arrest of the single-payer advocates at the Senate Finance Committee hearings broadcast on MSM news? I wonder how many Americans, who don't watch CSpan -- or have access to it -- would have been outraged had they seen this, or seen the smirks on the faces of Baucus, Grassley, et al. as these doctors and nurses were arrested? I wonder if the American public, seeing this on their evening news broadcasts, would have found this funny?


If HCR was so terrible for the country, the Republicans wouldn't be so summarily opposed to it, in the Senate that is. In the House, 140 voted for it. Maybe this is why 20 Reps and 7 Senators have decided to not run come 10/12 (with rumors of more Repub retirements on the way).
    Considering that, according to the most recent Gallup poll, only 21% of the nation identifies themselves with the republican party, is it any wonder? Maybe that's the death rattle we're hearing.

American Dream Warrior

OMG!!! The Democrats are going to resort to...gasp... reconciliation. And then the Republicans will trumpet the dire news to the electorate...who will then say 'Reconsilly, what?' and the Republicans will say 'Well they cheated.' And the electorate will say, 'Well how did that happen?' And the Republicans will say, 'Well they had more votes than us.' And the electorate will say, 'Oh you mean like democracy?'
    But in truth, no one will remember or care how the bill got passed. So the only real question to ask is will it be good for most people? So now that the Democrats can stop diddling around with the hopelessly recalcitrant GOPers maybe they can put some real help for Americans in the bill. It's not too late for a real public option.


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