Monday, September 07, 2009

When the White Patrician Guy Talked Politics to School Kids ...

No one complained (well ... the Dems held hearings afterwards); he WAS the President, after all.

When our first African American President talks to school kids about staying in school, making good grades, and being responsible ... it's INDOCTRINATION?

This is simply a continuation of the town hall freak shows by a vocal UBER-MINORITY whose aim is to marginalize our President as the other, to be feared and despised. They call him a socialist, a fascist, a communist, Hitler-like, they dream of a "great white hope." They call the President's citizenship into question, and spread outrageous lies about death panels and a "government takeover" of healthcare (as if servitude to the health insurers is a good thing). All this name-calling propaganda is ludicrous for its excess, but the fringe elements are too ignorant to know the inherent contradictions and the Republicans are content to play the dangerous game, fan the flames of extremism.

This is the 21st century manifestation of RACISM. It's ugly, it's transparent, and -- because this is the United States, where hate crimes are still committed on a regular basis -- totally predictable.

Beyond this, it's just another "silly" distraction. Shadow box and feint, that's been the Republican Party's sole contribution to the healthcare debate. They may be slightly ahead on points, but we've got one hell of a left hook. Time to corner the bastards and go for the knockout. Drop them cold.

Recent political history repeats itself. Republicans are riding the extremist fringe. The media is complicit for buying into the false Republican narrative, pushed by Public Enemy No. 1, Senator Chuck Grassley, that the vocal extremists represent a majority of the people. Aside from a handful of individuals, it's just too much work for the media to actually break down the affiliations of town hall screamers, rather than simply cover the screaming.

There are only two polls that matter: 77% of Americans support a public option. It's popular throughout the country. At the same time, 60% of Americans do not believe the President has adequately explained his healthcare reform proposals. These are not mutually exclusive. When pundits such as Chris Matthews deliberately mischaracterize the debate by claiming the public option a is a "far left" demand rather than having broad mainstream appeal among the people, or the right wing propagandist Bill Kristol spreads the myth that the public option is opposed by a majority of Americans when in fact the opposite is true, or when Tom Brokaw (RETIRE ALREADY!) says the public option will increase costs when in fact the CBO estimates it will SAVE well over $100 billion from the final bill, then the public has every right to be confused.

And where is the "responsible" media in all of this? Shall we count the ways the media has shirked its responsibility to accurately reflect the health care debate? Yes, the media should be taking it on the chin for allowing itself to be rolled by Republicans and right wing extremists, and for being too lazy to dig up the facts. If only the media were accountable. And so we're down to the blogs and grass roots organizers. The President's indispensable keys to victory. (Hit the "Rocky" theme.)

Progressives are fighting back. Hard. As of Friday, More than 200 former Obama staffers, 13,000 Obama volunteers, 23,000 Obama donors, and thousands of Obama voters signed a petition: A bill without a public option would not be "change we can believe in." It's not that complicated. Healthcare reform NOW is critical, not only to the public's well-being but to the nation's. We can't maintain a competitive advantage with countries in which healthcare is off the table, e.g. Japan and the European Union. We can't take insurance company reforms that hand the same companies a non-competitive monopoly and SUBSIDIES to insure millions more. That's not "change we can believe in," nor will it achieve the critical task of lowering costs and ensuring competition.

Word has it that President Obama will drop the public option, or at least not fight hard for it. He delivered a Labor Day barn burner at the AFL-CIO annual Labor Day picnic. "There are certain things that are worth fighting for," he said, rallying the crowd with his old campaign story, "fired up and ready to go." He's in fine campaign trim.

However apocryphal this story may be, FDR reportedly told liberal supporters, echoing the same theme to Eleanor, his liberal causes lynchpin: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." By that he meant, create the conditions for a desired outcome, create a groundswell of support, and I'll come in and close the deal. The President hardly mentioned the public option today, but it's still on the table.

Progressives must keep up the pressure, not only on the White House and on Democrats who rely on us for electoral support nationwide, but also on Republicans whose primary voters may say NO to reform. They will need to explain a NO vote on healthcare reform based on a pack of lies to a general state electorate that will be demanding answers. I'm thinking specifically of Grassley's Iowa. No matter how this debate turns, I will personally work for his defeat in Iowa, given his despicable lies and bad faith posing as a healthcare negotiator while making statements all along to undermine the process as a shill for the insurance industry.

The President knows we've got his back. The American people overwhelmingly support a public option. Despite the cliché floated by some to not make the "perfect the enemy of the good," the fact is voting for a bad bill and calling it health insurance reform is not an option. The White House is reportedly looking at a so-called compromise by Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine to add a trigger of a public option to kick in if the insurance companies do not behave to curb costs, like the model corporate citizens they are. That's like kicking the can down the road and right into the gutter. In other words, it's a nonstarter.

This past Friday, I received an email from my Senator, Dick Durbin, who is the Senate Majority Whip, second to Harry Reid and responsible for counting votes in the Senate. It was a reply to concerns I had expressed in a message to him about the Democratic Party's commitment to healthcare reform (emphasis mine):

Dear Carlos:

Thank you for contacting me about proposals to give Americans the choice of a public health insurance option that will compete with private insurance plans.

I believe Congress should work to bring meaningful health care reform to American families. Health care reform should reduce costs for families, businesses and government; protect people's choice of doctors, hospitals and insurance plans; and assure affordable, high-quality health care for every American.

We are crafting a reform bill with these goals in mind. Those who like the health insurance they have will be able to keep it. However, a public option will provide a valuable alternative to today's private health plans for those who do not like their current plan or cannot afford coverage.

Too many Americans cannot afford the health plans offered by today's for-profit insurance companies. A public option will provide competition that will hold private plans accountable and help moderate the price of health insurance. No one will be forced to join a public option - it will be a voluntary choice available in addition to existing plans.

I will continue to work for a reform plan that provides stable and secure coverage, stable and affordable costs, and better quality care.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

If you are among the 77% of Americans who believe in meaningful healthcare reform with a public option, please get in touch with your senators and congresspersons, and let them know. It won't take long and it makes a difference. I have the Senate Majority Whip on record and I intend to hold him to it, or should I say, remind Senator Durbin of his strong commitment to a public option. Those senators and congresspersons who have not committed to a public option should hear from the silent majority that support it.

The real question is whether there are 60 senators with enough backbone, with a little prodding from we, the people, to vote for meaningful healthcare reform. If not, there are alternatives. We'll have to go it alone and pass a Democrats-only bill on reconciliation. Let's make the Republicans vote against healthcare for the people, and then watch them try to demagogue it in 2010.

We'll be watching with interest the President's address to the nation. I only hope we'll be pleasantly surprised. Is it too much to ask the President to call the Republican obstructionists and liars on the carpet? Perhaps. But Rham Emanuel and David Axelrod should know that progressives don't take their marching orders from the White House.

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