Sniffer Report: The RNC Pulls the Trigger on the Nuclear Option to Oppose Health Care Reform—Or Maybe Not?

Sniffer Report: Revised and Updated:

Cue shrill klaxon.  “Detonation in three…two…one…Click…

If you are reading this post from my New York Times comment, “Majority Rule on Health Care Reform,” my guess is you’re madder than a hornet at my criticism of the Republicans, the Republican National Convention led by Michael Steele, and the entire congressional contingent of the GOP.

Sometimes, you write a brilliant, passionate statement, and, well, it doesn’t make it into the comments section of whatever Op-Ed to which you’re replying.  So, if you are reading this post, you’re, heavy sigh, just reading this post because you decided to visit Extreme Thinkover.  Thanks so much for that!  I also appreciate how many of my comments do get published in the New York Times Op-Ed pieces, as well as those by Paul Krugman, and other columnists.

So read what I wrote by clicking here, and then if you are madder than a hornet, etc.,  the next paragraph will make some degree of sense.

Good.  You should be mad.  Just not at me.  You see, for several months I’ve been following and analyzing the organized opposition to health care reform with a hypothesis.  I called it my “radiation sniffer” and even came up with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek image to accompany it:

The Sniffer: Ever vigilant for the tell-tale radiation signature of the nuclear device designed to kill health care reform in one massive blow.

The Sniffer: Ever vigilant for the tell-tale radiation signature of the nuclear device designed to kill health care reform in one massive blow.

The Opponents were planning to ramp up the rhetoric (little did I know how much shouting, screaming, enraged caterwauling that would really entail), and at some point, detonate the equivalent of a nuclear blast to destroy health care reform once and for all.  I’ve called it the “nuclear option.”   I assumed the GOP, in league with various elements of Big Medicine had a strategic plan, which was confirmed when Wendall Potter, former Cigna executive, described in detail how they developed and implemented exactly that.

I honestly thought finding evidence for the Nuclear Option would be tougher to ferret out.  Silly me.  What helped, however, is the proponents of health care reform are actually organized and have their own strategies for countering what the nay-sayers are putting out there.

The trick, though, has been looking for the trigger.  At first I thought it might be the whole, “killing Granny” gambit, but that had run out of steam by mid-August.  The Death Panels, a la Sarah Palin, was astonishing for the traction it got;  it was fun to say (deeeaaath paannnelll), and made a good chant for the Astro-Turfers, but I didn’t think it was the trigger.  Palin is just too much of a loose cannon to have been a key component in the Nuclear Option plan, though her rants probably helped the Opponents stay under budget on their advertising.  The whole Town Hall disruptor concept was really impressive on one level, because it covered the entire August Recess for Congress, but it got old, too, and with the exception of the wing-nuts carrying guns to presidential appearances (notice how deafeningly quiet the NRA has been on that whole thing????), even the recess-mania would have died out sooner.

The drone of the GOP representatives and senators, except when Sen. Grassley, and now Sen. Enzi, say something really inane, has become so much background noise.  Nobody’s heard anything from Boehner or McConnell in a couple of weeks.  Orrin Hatch and John McCain have been caught off guard because they had such good relationships with Teddy Kennedy, whose death from cancer, and valiant fight for life, has to have really messed up the Opponent’s playbook.  They started whining about “not politicizing” his death for Democratic advantage before the poor man’s body was even cold–that’s a clear sign of desperation.  It’s also not going to work.

Enter Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Convention.  As August has worn on, Steele has been more vocal.  But he’s got a problem.  He kind of talks with a logic that is a combination of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, which is to say, unless he’s ticking off the predetermined talking points, he just doesn’t make very good sense.

And face it, he has gotten the whole Medicare thing tied into such a crazy knot, nobody knows what he really believes, much less what he means.  Unless the plan is to get everybody to confused: the Republicans can always claim they are right, which is certainly a possibility.  It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as you can talk in circles so circuitous people lose track of what you’re saying.  I think that’s called a shell game.  It’s great if you’re at a Penn and Teller show in Las Vegas, but if it is coming from the senior executive of a political party that can be elected to govern the country, it’s terrifying.

And now to the “Survey.”

Here’s the actual question #4:

The Worst Survey Question in the History of the World.  Courtesy of the RNC Health Reform Questionaire, August 2009.

The Worst Survey Question in the History of the World. Courtesy of the RNC Health Reform Questionnaire, August 2009.

So, is this the trigger to detonate the Nuclear Option?  Or is it a diversion thrown into the public arena by the GOP/Big Medicine operatives to pull our attention away from what really will be the blast to end all blasts?  It, of course, hit all the blogs, as well as John Stewart’s show, so if this is the trigger, whoever wrote the question will be nominated for the “Inartful Nincompoop” award by the National Association of Survey Question Writers.  It has been suggested that the government of Myanmar could use a survey question writer with exactly these skills.

Ah, but the question is: who will be revealed as having “suggested that the government would use voter registration, etc.?”

The drama is beginning to take on the scope of a Cecil B. DeMille film, only this time named “The Ten Survey Questions” with Michael Steele playing the part of Moses (now that Charlton Heston is dead–BTW, did they ever pry his gun from his cold dead hands–Has the National Enquirer cleared that up, yet?), pleading with Pharaoh Obama (this will send the birthers into fits of apoplexy; his forged birth certificate is from KENYA not EGYPT, you idiots!) to let his people go to escape the inglorious servitude and slavery to a world-standard health care, forced onto their backs by their Democratic taskmasters.

I hope they consult Google Earth before they go.  That last 40 years in the wilderness thing was a real drag.  Besides, mass migrations by 30 or 40 million Republicans with lots of guns and a big chip on their shoulders is going to have some logistic problems, let alone getting visas, parade permits for 40 million, all that stuff.  They can’t even go to Texas and secede.  The Constitution won’t allow it (I looked it up).

But here’s an idea.  Maybe the plan by the GOP/Big Medicine is to unleash ten plagues.  H1N1 already has some folks suspicious it’s a manufactured virus.  But that won’t work, because then you’d need lots of access to medical care for your own people so they’ll survive the plague (lamb’s blood over the door-casing isn’t going to work this time), and the government will have to coordinate the emergency care, and, darnit, you just have to stand on principle and oppose that.

The drama continues.  The Sniffer is working around the clock.

“The envelope please, Mr. Steele.  And the winner is…”   Click.

How the Texas Long Horns and the TCU Horned Frogs Saved Health Care Reform

I just finished watching clips from NBC’s Meet the Press, which featured Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) discussing the status of the “public option” in the health care reform debate. It wasn’t much of a debate, despite host David Gregory’s best effort to provoke something other than party-line blather from either senator.  He wasn’t having much success.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Sen. Schumer made a comment that snapped my attention to full alert. He compared the public plan competing against private health insurers with public and private colleges and universities.  (If you watch the clip, it comes right at 2:00 minutes.)  I had to back it up and watch it again to confirm I actually had heard him correctly.  Gregory didn’t catch it, which he should have; Sen. Hatch, if he caught the comment, either had no response, or was so close to dozing off, he just kept mumbling the same old script.  I couldn’t really tell.

Schumer’s statement was a new characterization; I hadn’t heard it before. I’m not sure he even recognized the significance of it.  But it is an intriguing way to look at the public option. And since my PhD is in Higher Education, this is something I actually know something about.

Every state in the country has private and public universities.  Take Texas, for example, where the idea of the public option is more anathema than the Long Horns losing to Oklahoma.  The University of Texas in Austin is a public university.  Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft Worth, where I earned my Master of Divinity degree, is a private university.

Hook 'em Horns.  University of Texas Football

Hook 'em Horns. University of Texas Football

According to the prevailing dogma of Republican and Free Market devotees, the government should never be allowed to compete against free enterprise and the private market, because the government will always do it worse, waste vast amounts of money in the process and destroy competition, thereby threatening the American Way of Life.

Does the public university “system” in the country drive out the private schools by being too competitive for them to survive? They could in theory, because student tuition in the state schools is subsidized by taxpayer dollars (although that has been shrinking dramatically over the past twenty years–the states all too often are short on cash), attracting more students than the private schools. For example, UT is a lot bigger than TCU (50,000 vs 9,000!). But private colleges, which were the original American academic institutions (Harvard was founded in 1636), continue to compete and flourish, despite the apparent advantage the public schools have. The typical model for what we think of as a state college or university did not come into being until after 1862 with the passage of The Morrill Act.

TCU Frog Fountain and Campus

TCU Frog Fountain and Campus

There are a lot of reasons, but the one relevant to our discussion about health care is that federal financial aid creates portability and allows students to choose (in concept) to attend any school in the country. I have two degrees from private schools and two degrees from a public school. Why did I choose those schools? Because in each instance it offered the academic program I wanted to pursue. Federally funded financial aid guaranteed that I had a choice. That is higher education’s equivalent of a “public option.” (now this isn’t the place to argue about the issues in financial aid such as student loan debt, etc–it is beside the point for this discussion).

We come up with this formula, thanks to Sen. Schumer’s insight:

Federal F/A= Choice + Access + Desired University (public or private) + Academic Degree

So when we look at America’s higher education system, a combination of private and public institutions that arguably is the best in the world (granting it has its own imperfections and needs for reforms), which allow the schools to provide their services in a competitive but mutually beneficial market, and provides students (as consumers) a huge amount of choice, both in program and in cost, it is just plain wrong to say that “government” can’t do anything right and to assume that a public option would destroy competition in the health care market.  The success of higher education contradicts the assumption and renders it null.

We Horned Frogs are justifiably proud of our private Texas Christian University. But if I was a bettin’ man, I wouldn’t place a red-cent on a wager that a University of Texas grad, dead-set against the public plan in health care, would admit that his/her “government education” was inferior in any way, shape or form!

Therefore, applied to the Public Option, the formula becomes:

Federal Public Option= Choice + Access + Desired Coverage (public or private) + Appropriate Medical Care

Responses anyone?

TCU Horned Frog Mascot

TCU Horned Frog Mascot

Go Frogs!