Come On, Mr. President: No More Mister Nice Guy
September 4, 2009
The editors of THE ECONOMIST magazine say
health care debate has become a touch delirious, with
people accusing each other of being evil-mongers,
dealers in death, and un-American.
Well, that's charitable.
I would say it's more deranged than delirious, and
definitely not un-American.
Those crackpots on the right praying for Obama to die
and be sent to hell - they're the warp and woof of
home- grown nuttiness. So is the creature from the
Second Amendment who showed up at the President's rally
armed to the teeth. He's certainly one of us. Red,
white, and blue kooks are as American as apple pie and
Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if
still a great nation. I should have said it's the
greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in
civics about the Founding Fathers - we're the children
of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak
show was the forerunner of today's talk radio.
Speaking of which: we've posted on our website an essay
by the media scholar Henry Giroux. He describes the
growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial
elements in a "culture of cruelty" increasingly marked
by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others,
coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward
any political figure who believes health care reform is
the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the
central issue of life and politics is no longer about
working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive.
So here we are, wallowing in our dysfunction. Governed
- if you listen to the rabble rousers - by a black
to kill Sarah Palin's baby. And yes, I could almost buy
their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass
destruction, only I think he shipped them to
and trained in the alchemy of money laundering, which
turns an old- fashioned bribe into a First Amendment right.
Only in a fantasy capital like
morning talk shows become the high church of
conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as
holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to
boil down to lower taxes for the rich.
Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of
nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the
Republicans kick him.
No one's ever conquered
constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to
cut your throat.
Let's get on with it, Mr. President. We're up the
proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This
health care thing could have been the crossing of the
Revolution - the moment we put the mercenaries to rout,
as General Washington did the Hessians at
could have stamped our victory "Made in the
could have said to the world, "Look what we did!" And
we could have turned to each other and said, "Thank you."
As it is, we're about to get health care reform that
measures human beings only in corporate terms of a
cost- benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy - we
should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.
As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker,
has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil
and criminal - yes, that's criminal, as in fraud -
penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the
subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in
a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet. And these
are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and
the White House would deliver us?
Come on, Mr. President. Show us
circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a
democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just
come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during
the campaign last year that you want a government run
insurance plan alongside private insurance - mostly
premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate
income people. Open to all individuals and employees
who want to join and with everyone free to choose the
doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would
sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing
up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and
Wall Street investors whose only interest is a
company's share price and profits.
Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall
to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the
website talkingpointsmemo.com. He's a journalist and
historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things
down the middle and call it a victory for the masses.
He's offered the simplest and most accurate description
yet of a public insurance plan - one that essentially
asks people: would you like the option - the voluntary
option - of buying into Medicare before you're 65?
Check it out, Mr. President.
This health care thing is make or break for your
leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more
Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.
That's it for the Journal. I'm Bill Moyers. See you next time.