You may have thought the summit President Obama presided over today was all about health care reform. It wasn’t. Health Care Reform was the topic, but the subject was a six-plus hour seminar in front of a national audience on how to be bipartisan led by the professor-in-chief, Barack Obama, J.D. The pundits and bloggers, well, like, me are pounding away at their computers trying to wring every bit of meaning and nuance from the day’s-long exchange.
Health Care Reform was the topic, but the subject was a six-plus hour seminar in front of a national audience on how to be bipartisan led by the professor-in-chief, Barack Obama, J.D.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. How do I grade the debate on health care reform? I give the Democrats a C, and that’s generous. Their acting like they are close to the Republicans in the substance of the bill was stretching credulity nearly to the breaking point. But I give the Republicans a D- and that is because they went out of their way to avoid any semblance comprehension what the summit was really about. Just a whole day of props and talking points without as much as a single original thought.
Sorry, Mitch, John, Lamar and Eric, starting over isn’t an option. It wasn’t about how many minutes each side gets to speak, Mitch (that has to be one of the most sophomoric gaffs of your career). You know as well as I do that it is empty rhetoric. It’s impossible to start with a clean sheet. The sheets in the health care debate are not paper. They are hospital bed sheets and have over a half a century of political grime ground into them. There are no clean sheets. You can’t rewind history. The perpetuation and dissemination of ideas follows the one-way arrow of time. Health care reform does not exist in a bubble undisturbed by the flow of reality in the present environment of human medical needs.
Republicans: It’s time for you to step out of the way and let we Americans have access to medical care that meets our needs, covers us without regard for preexisting conditions, and sets the stage for a era of wellness through preventing those medical conditions that can be prevented. Your ideas won’t work because your plan has an inherent stinginess to it that is, well, just incomprehensible in a nation that thrives on being generous.
Republicans: Your ideas won’t work because your plan has an inherent stinginess to it that is, well, just incomprehensible in a nation that thrives on being generous.
Now, on to the real subject of the summit today. Prof. Obama led the seminar in bipartisanship. Neither political party really figured that out, however. They have over the past year (two? three? twenty?) been overwhelmed by the drumbeat of talking points drilling themselves so deeply into the daily consciousness of our congressional representatives, that it appears almost as if they have lost the capacity to speak in any other manner or with any independence of thought.
Prof. Obama conducted a very well run seminar in what can easily be described as a highly-charged setting. The representatives of the two parties, both Senators and Congressional Representatives have been sniping at each other, saying some of the most outrageous things ever entered into the Congressional Register, attacking with a ferocity just shy of out and out fisticuffs. It’s a good thing the debates in the wells of both Houses are not near windows. The amount of acrimonious bile spewed at each other could have led to the defenestration of any number of the members in the tradition of the Bohemians in Prague, first in the 1400s and again in the 1600s.
It’s a good thing the debates in the wells of both Houses are not near windows. The amount of acrimonious bile spewed at each other could have led to the defenestration of any number of the members in the tradition of the Bohemians in Prague, first in the 1400s and again in the 1600s.
But neither side got it. At least neither side wanted to be the first to admit that they got it. As soon as they walked out of Blair House and across the street back to the Capitol, the auditory hallucinations of hyperpartisanship appear to have kicked in like throwing the main breaker on a mental trash compactor.
Regarding health care reform, the lack of substance was arguably all that could be expected. Regarding reestablishing a beneficial and productive dialogue between the two parties, it was right there for all America to see. The professor, behaving at his presidential best, conducted an exercise in statesmanship. The comments, although, at times impassioned, were respectful and under the watchful eye of the Professor-in-Chief. The two sides were able to carry on a debate that did not devolve into shouting or irrational charge and counter-charges. The summit was a demonstration of political civility on the TV screens or computer monitors for all America to see.
So, now we will see how the introduction of statesmanship into this debate will be able to work its way through the consciousness of both our elected leaders and the American people. Will it grow over time; were seeds planted that will germinate and change the landscape of the national political scene?
Health care reform, just a few weeks ago declared dead on arrival after the Massachusetts election, has survived. Is it healthy? That remains to be seen. But the recovery of reform is proceeding in ways that could be best compared to an intensive rehabilitation program.
He left no doubt that his skills as President of the United States have grown and matured in ways that give great encouragement to his supporters and equal concern to his opponents.
The summit today, however, was historical for what it may have saved for American politics, more than the result of the final disposition of health care reform.
Professor-in-Chief Obama is undoubtedly exhausted after today’s intensive experience and exercise in democracy. But one thing is certain. He left no doubt that his skills as President of the United States have grown and matured in ways that give great encouragement to his supporters and equal concern to his opponents. I have said on several occasions that America would have to get used to a very smart president. Today, we just saw one reason why.