Obama’s Arrogant, Partisan Health Care Speech
As the reform supporter and professional skeptic Mickey Kaus noted before the speech, “Obama doesn’t need to get ‘Republicans on board.’ He doesn’t need to get Blue Dog Democrats on board. He needs to get voters on board.” And if there’s any tactic less effective at wooing skeptics than number-fudging insincerity, it’s number-fudging insincerity coupled with attacks on the veracity, motivation, and worldview of the skeptics themselves.Obama’s problem is simple: he has a hidden agenda. He wants a complete government takeover of health care. He wants health care rationed, as it is under systems of socialized medicine. He wants taxpayer money to pay for abortions. He wants illegal immigrants covered. He doesn’t mind if the deficit is drive up even higher.
Again last night, Obama invoked the boogeyman of “special interests” who “lie” in order “to keep things exactly the way they are,” despite the fact that the special interests in this case are lining up to support the president, and that the critics of his plan tend to bemoan, not defend, the status quo. Opponents of his plan, he said, were “ideological”; Ted Kennedy’s support for health care reform, meanwhile, “was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience.” Obama said his door was “always open” to those bringing “a serious set of proposals,” and he slammed that door shut on any attempts to break the almost universally unloved link between employment and insurance. He yearned to “replace acrimony with civility,” then got Democrats stomping on their feet with attacks against the Iraq War and “tax breaks for the wealthy.” The center of the debate, as always, was wherever he chose to stand.
And above all else, Obama chose to shadowbox against the more extreme claims of the Sarah Palins of the world, rather than engage the most serious of the skeptics’ arguments. No, the administration doesn’t “plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens,” but what about the possibility of government cost-cutters frowning upon expensive hip replacement surgeries for the chronically old? No, the proposal doesn’t amount to a complete “government takeover” of health care, but it does continue to expand the government’s role (and, promises aside, expenses) in ways that make a deficit-whiplashed nation nervous. No, “no one would be forced to choose” a public option, but what about the argument that incentives would eventually push Americans from private insurance to the public plan?
But the public wants none of those things. Thus Obama simply has to lie.