Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Frank Rich: While Liars And Crazies Ran Amok, Obama Bided His Time

We're constantly being reminded that the public option for health care is fading. If it's politically impossible to have single payer health care in the U.S., a government-run public option is the only option left to keep the private insurance companies honest and responsible–for the very first time. The postmortems on the public option lead one to wonder whether President Obama has dithered on the issue:

That proposal took on a life of its own, but it now appears to be dying, a victim of an ineffectual White House strategy, the president’s failure to argue passionately for the “public option” and all-out opposition by the insurance industry and much of the health care industry.

...Once in office Mr. Obama and his advisers have sent conflicting signals about how critical a government-run health plan would be. He prefers a public plan but is open to other ideas.

Dancing around the issue for eight months, Mr. Obama has seemed, at various times, pragmatic, flexible or indecisive.

Unlike the President, the insurance companies were never "flexible or indecisive"; all along, they have been determined to retain the monopoly that has allowed them to drop consumers from their rolls, deny coverage and refuse "pre-existing conditions" while the cost of their "services" skyrocketed.

Frank Rich (above left), in "Obama's Squandered Summer," comments on the harm done to the President and health care reform by allowing lunatic charges from the right wing to dominate the public debate:

...a certain damage has been done — to Obama and to the country. The inmates took over the asylum, trivializing and poisoning the national discourse while the president bided his time. The lies that Obama called out so strongly in his speech — from “death panels” to “government takeover” — ran amok. for his signature program declined, not least because he gave others carte blanche to define it for him.

...It’s not, as those on the right would have us believe, that Obama’s ideas are so “liberal” that the American public recoiled. It’s that much of the public didn’t know what his ideas were. Even now I’m not convinced that most Americans know what a “public option” really means or what Obama’s precise position on it is. But I’d bet that many more have a working definition of “death panels.” The 24-hour news cycle abhors a vacuum, and the liars and crazies filled it while Obama waited for his deus ex machina descent onto center stage.

That he let the hard-core base of a leaderless minority party drive the debate only diminished his stature. That’s why his poll numbers on “leadership” declined.


Hunter W said...

You've mentioned this before - what "monopoly" are you talking about?

Jeff Tone said...

Hunter: I meant to refer to private insurance "monopolizing" our health care options, without the competition of a public option. I realize now that I'm using the term "monopoly" unclearly. I will refrain from using the term this way in the future. Thanks for pointing this out.