Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Come On, Mr. President: No More Mister Nice Guy

Come On, Mr. President: No More Mister Nice Guy


Bill Moyers

September 4, 2009


The editors of THE ECONOMIST magazine say America's

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

conspiracy theories.


Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is

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

nationalist from Kenya smuggled into the United States

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

Washington, where they've been recycled as lobbyists

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 Washington could Sunday

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 Washington politics by

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

Delaware, the turning point in the next American

Revolution - the moment we put the mercenaries to rout,

as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We

could have stamped our victory "Made in the USA." We

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 America is more than a

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 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.




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