Sunday, April 11, 2010

How (and Why) Obama Shrank His Base – Why It Matters To You, But Not To Him

There was a teachable moment in the recent self-congratulatory speech in Iowa Obama gave to the nation, in trumpeting the just-passed “Patient Care And Affordable Care Act" and its companion of fixes, the "Reconciliation Bill of 2010”. At about 7 minutes into his speech, a young male yelled out “what about the public option??”; Mr. Obama was knocked off his square, as we used to say back in the day. For a moment he looked like someone had pissed in his birthday cake. He stuttered, “there’s no need to shout young man, we didn’t have the votes for it in the congress”, and repeated the stale calls for continued action in the future, that the bill “wasn’t perfect”. Not a word was really given in explanation for why such an important component was lacking. Here on awkward display was the issue that rubbed salt in the wound of those that had put the elbow grease in the campaign that had purchased this president’s turn in the White House. There was – and is – simply no good reason for having the treasured “public option” so dissed, when it appeared to be quite within the grasp of the congress if only someone would allow a vote on it! And who was that ‘someone’? Was it the Senate majority leader, who had the last word in what was brought to the floor of the Senate? Was he doing it at the behest of the President, who despite his early deference was later shown to be merrily wheeling and dealing behind the scenes like a classic corrupt Tammany Hall politician, helping arrange the so-called “Cornhusker Kick-back” and the “2nd Lousisiana Purchase”? Or was it simply at the urging of his member senators, who were lying to the public about their support for this most sacred of Democratic goals? It certainly wasn’t due to the Speaker of the House, who had already shepherded a public option through her chamber.

For many, the “public option” is the ONLY cost-control mechanism available, it’s the most politically popular (no wonder, it would save hundreds of billions of dollars more not so much from the federal pocket but your OWN pocket), some would even say the most moral of all. If there is one thing the society should help arrange is decent health care for its citizens, that allows private enterprise (so long as they don’t get an unfair advantage, like the special exemption from the anti-trust laws that the health-insurance industry enjoys) but ensures that every citizen has the right to their basic health. Unlike insurance, a public health program isn’t a gamble, though it isn’t perfect and is as all these things are subject to the morality and wisdom of those in charge of it. At the very least, we wouldn’t have a situation whereby the foxes are still guarding the chicken coop (though the Obama administration has ‘deputized’ them, hollowly selling this as true reform……the equivalent is putting thousands of Iraqis through a 2-week course at a police academy, giving them uniforms and a badge and then using their number to somehow ‘prove’ to the outside world that they are capable of operating the new nation-state that’s expected to act like a stable democracy). We haven’t even addressed the issue of the individual mandate yet, either, which is the only way to even begin to see how this new health-care ‘reform’ could possibly have an effect – forcing every citizen to purchase private health-insurance. With a public option and the removal of the anti-monopoly exemption, the market would “bend the cost curve” (a euphemism for keeping price hikes from being too steep too quickly) without the need for a mandate, but the focus of this effort has been on herding everyone into the failed business model of “private health-care insurance” to prevent the death-spiral from eviscerating the current system. With everyone now being forced (although technically no-one can be penalized for not buying into the system, which makes it a paper tiger) into purchasing insurance, those that are healthy will be paying for those that are too sick, which is where the mistaken accusation of “socialism” was born. People don’t have a problem in helping those less fortunate, they just want it to be done rationally and not be bamboozled or forced into doing it in such a disingenuous way. And propping up the insurance “industry” of parasites is certainly disingenuous.

Beyond that, and on the flip side, the citizen has a responsibility that balances this right to health, and that’s to expect a certain portion of their income to go to such an arrangement. Does anyone disagree with that? What could be more mainstream? Is that so “leftist”? No, it’s both more corporatist and progressive, whereas the ultimate conservative would simply say “pay the full cost charged by the doctor [i.e. the insurance company] yourself”. Instead of providing the ideal compromise (private health insurance continues, but will have to provide more competitive care than a publicly-controlled system if they want to continue in business), the cowards of the congress played “hide the public option” even as enough signed a letter pledging support and the remainder to provide the last handful of votes necessary were on the record publicly as having vowed to vote for it.

But Mr. Obama made sure it never came up for a vote, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was the only conclusion that could be drawn when hearing of the hospital lobbying association’s Chip Kahn assert – following a meeting he had at the White House – that he had been assured there wouldn’t be a “public option” in the final bill. That was early last year, barely months into the new administration. How did they know, unless they themselves didn’t want such a solution put into the mix? It was clear they were prejudiced against even the idea of a single-payer system, which was taken off the table and not even used as a bargaining chip of any kind. No, the Obama brain-trust, led by Rahm Emmanuel apparently, in this case, felt that the deal for keeping $150 million in ad money either “at rest” or working for them was worth their sacrifice of the “public option”.

It was this sordid quid pro quo, the death of the public option at the cost of $150 million in advertising dollars (supposedly), that – together with the lack of accountability and the continuation of Bush 43 anti-civil liberty policies – has produced what may be the most curdled idealism in a generation. Just when they had it within their grasp, even the retiring senators couldn’t simply stand firm and do what the vast majority of Americans wanted – create an optional public health-care program that would keep the private insurance companies honest. Perhaps the attempted murder of his wife and child scared Sen. Reid even as much as it angered him, and resulted in the message being driven home NOT to allow the public option to even come to the floor of the Senate for debate.

Whatever the excuses, the entire nation (and world, for that matter) watched as the US Senate and House of Representatives kept trying to put the onus of not allowing the public option into the final bill of reconciliation on the other chamber, like a hot potato no-one wanted to take responsibility for. And through-out the entire process, the president said not one word, in fact I don’t even think he’s on record as ever even using the very phrase “public option” after last summer. In his hollow self-congratulatory speeches, in which he appeared to exude an almost-arrogant Bush-like confidence, he portrayed the entire debate as being between the “single-payer” system that “those on the left” wanted, versus doing nothing at all (which is supposedly what “those on the right” wanted – just to be clear, the “right” wanted essentially only the following: ‘tort reform’ {shielding doctors from career-destroying malpractice lawsuits}, the ability to sell insurance across state lines {which on examination conflicted with their cherished states’ rights} and further deregulation, including the removal of the special anti-trust exemption the health-insurance industry STILL enjoys despite Speaker Pelosi’s herding through the House a bill that would remove it, with a bi-partisan vote that garnered nearly universal support in the House). In short, the majority of Americans as well as the majority of their congressional representatives (supposedly; we have yet to find out who and how many were lying, if they were at all), not to mention an even higher majority of doctors, were on the record as supporting enthusiastically a “public option” (i.e. administered by a public agency) to the private health-insurance companies – yet somehow this most treasured ideal was supposedly fumbled away and without anyone to hold accountable?

In essence, he was using the same tactic as Karl Rove had popularized in his Bush 43 playbook, which was to cast the choice as “you’re either with us, or against us”. Meaning, “you’re either for health-care reform [OUR VERSION], or you’re against it.” Which is known as a false choice. Intelligent voters, who spent more than the cursory 10 seconds a week keeping themselves apprised of the civic life of the nation, saw through this. Some voters, who tend to trust their party whether right or wrong, accepted what Obama touted, rationalizing it as a “necessary compromise”. To those voters, I would ask, “when did Obama explain his abrupt turnaround on his campaign promises? When did he show he fought for what he said he believed in?"  Is everything promised in a campaign subject to such immediate and complete reversal, with no attempt to explain it, not even the appearance of a token fight, something to show the ‘courage of conviction’? Was everything done truly “transparently”, as this president had insisted on throughout his presidential campaign and right into his March 2009 White House forum on Health Care Reform, that was attended by not only his best pal Eric Whitaker of the Univ. of Chicago Med. Center but also by Chip Kahn, the afore-mentioned lobbyist for the hospital association? Was it at the party afterwards when the deal to kill the public option was struck? When did Rahm get his marching orders to go see Reid in the Senate majority leader’s office, and quietly give him the word to marginalize the public option?

So having reviewed the events that show Mr. Obama’s lack of conviction for his campaign promises regarding health-care reform – both his support for a public option and his rejection of an individual mandate – we can then look at other policies with a skeptical eye and ask the same question, “why not?” Why hasn’t DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) been repealed, or at least an executive order issued that puts a hold on discharging military personnel who have been ‘outed’? Even the current, as well as at least one former chairman of the Joint Chiefs has called for an end to it, and the idiocy of those who are too insecure in their own sexuality can’t justify the stupidity of the policy. It’s anti-libertarian, on top of everything else. Also, and most importantly in the eyes of this writer, why hasn’t the policy of warrantless surveillance and electronic eavesdropping been rolled back and reformed? Is it because it would force the administration to admit what both the President and Vice-president are aware of, that the Earth is about to undergo a poleshift of such magnitude as to ultimately cause the death of 90% of humanity? And that an estimated 43% of the population is expected to go insane during the coming events leading to this eschatological event, which is expected to occur sometime between the late summer of 2010 and the winter solstice of 2012? Is it the fear of this awareness spreading that has lead to a continuation of the paranoia of those in power? This alone is reason enough to question whether this president has the requisite leadership skills to shepherd this nation through this most challenging period in all human history. Does he have what it takes, or will he continue to act ignorant of the situation, pushing the “cap and trade” crock as if he genuinely believes in the “global warming” coverup story? Unfortunately only a few thousand other individuals, most of whom will remain quiet until the last weeks unfold, know of this awareness by Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, so most of the currently clueless citizenry will probably buy his public pronouncements of former ignorance when the signs become unmistakable.

What the civic-minded citizen can take away from that awkward teachable moment Mr. Obama displayed in Iowa is that he apparently undervalued his own bases’ sentiments regarding the so-called “public option” and “individual mandate”, though it’s more likely he knew full well how they felt since he was aware of the polling that showed the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was due to the embrace of the turkey bill by the Democratic candidate with no ‘fight’ for a public option. So, why did he continue on with his attempt to press for passage of an unpopular bill and remain so silent on the aspects that could make it a wildly popular bill? Because he is in the process of exchanging his progressive base for the imaginary ‘center’, including all the Republicans horrified over the prospect of a den-mother like Sarah Palin gaining her party’s nomination for president. In other words, Mr. Obama is more concerned with extending his political power by stealing what he believes is the American political center from the remnants of the Republican party, even though polls show that the independents that are actually more representative of that center have started to leave his side in droves as they witness his craven “political-ness” emerge, that essential quality that insults the intelligence of the thoughtful voter even as it seeks to capture the trust of the “average” voter.

What we will have shortly is the newly-remasked (with the jack-ass instead of the elephant) Corporate Party, slightly left of center, with the right-wing marginalized to the so-called “Tea Party” and the left-wing marginalized to the “progressives” {shhhh!!! Don’t tell Glenn Beck, or he’ll get his blackboard out to prove how you really are a Communist!!}. The teabaggers (as they themselves wanted to be called, until they learned of how the term is used by gay men) or tea partiers as they now prefer, are essentially hard-core “ex”-Republicans, ultra-conservatives, and libertarians. For the most part, they’re self-sufficient enough to have been born into relatively comfortable circumstances and watched as their illusory world has been threatened with changes on every front – their sexuality challenged, their purchasing power reduced, their prideful patriotism challenged as the jingoism it’s dengenerated into thanks to the dumbing-down of the malevolent machinations of the Cheney/Bush team, their living costs raised to unbearable levels, and their resulting insecurities amped up by the Prime Propaganda machine called Fox News. When we heard Bush 43’s speechwriter (the one responsible for the “Axis of Evil” phrase) David Frum comment that he and his fellow conservatives were waking up to the fact that Fox didn’t work for them, they worked for Fox, we saw how his paycheck was abruptly cut off. That certainly showed the power of Fox, compared to the American Enterprise Institute (the conservative think-tank Frum worked for). The good thing is that Mr. Frum will probably join with other ex-Republicans like former Bush press secretary Scott McLelland to form the “right wing” of the Obama National Corporatist Party. That is, if a tea party-girl like Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin gets ‘the nod’ in 2012, forcing the remaining rational elements of the GOP out rather than having their donors’ dollars paying for the lesbian domination the party faithful seem to delight in so much. (Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing bad about lesbian domination art clubs, but they kinda go against the whole “family values” thing, don’t they?)

Thus it is that Mr. Obama has made a crafty calculation, which may on the surface seem like a political winner in the long run when you know you’re at liberty to sacrifice your base if by doing so you capture the ‘center’, but upon reflection it really isn’t so. First of all, you really didn’t have to sacrifice anything, especially because it would have shown the genuineness of your claimed convictions. People like someone who stands up and fights for what they say they believe in. They like to know they’re not the only ones fighting ‘the good fight’, especially when you say you’re for one thing and against another. Even though Bill Clinton didn’t succeed in his effort to reform health-care, people remember him fighting for it. Perhaps he shouldn’t have “fought” and instead negotiated the minimum he would accept without fighting for what the people clearly showed they wanted. Maybe Mr. Obama might have done well by taking a page from Virginia Gov. McDonell’s recent playbook, when he signaled his own base – according to a good friend from Virginia – by signing the law proclaiming April as Confederate history month and doing so without a mention of slavery. In the resulting firestorm, he did the “right” thing by then amending the proclamation to include a statement on the “sin of slavery”, but the original message had been sent – “I’m one of you”, it meant. Such subtlety seems to have escaped Mr. Obama, who doesn’t even need subtlety despite the extra sensitivity he needs to show as befitting the first African-American US president. By moving to achieve the goals he claimed in the campaign, he had no reason to be defensive, no need to go so far to achieve “bipartisanship”. A mandate pre-empts any need to be “bipartisan”. After a genuine offer is made, to include the opposition in all deliberations, then any refusal can be seen simply as petulance and not due to any ideological differences. This is all the more true because, when you examine the technical details of the health-care reform bills of 2010, you see almost the exact bill that 1996 GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole was trying to sell as an alternative to “HillaryCare”. Amazing what a few years and a different salesman can do to an idea.

This, in fact, is the real reason why it should matter to Mr. Obama that he’s lost a good-sized chunk of his base. It has to do with the lack of accountability. If you fight the good fight, and lose, or are prevented in achieving your goals because there’s enough opposition that has enough power to prevent you, that’s one thing. That can be understood. But to claim you are for something, and then when you have the opportunity, the power, to make it manifest, and you not only don’t, you remain quiet about it, or even reinforce the policies you’ve supposedly been against, it makes people wonder just how solid your core beliefs are. It may sound loftily idealistic to let criminals go free with airy and condescending comments about “not playing the blame game” and how you’re “not interested in looking behind, only forward” (not to mention that excuse for accepting mediocrity when real progress is within your grasp: ‘Don’t let the enemy be the perfect of the good’, which is a euphemism for “Don’t even think about getting half a loaf or even a slice when these crumbs should suit you just fine”). Sure, those axioms may play well in a campaign speech in Iowa, but ultimately the people need real accountability. Some might equate that to “scapegoats”, but whatever you call it, people who break laws, who usurp the constitution, who authorize torture and act fraudulently, need to be held accountable. Not just because of the need for vengeance, but because if that basic desire for justice can’t be fulfilled at the cost of the true criminals, the weight then falls on you. It is this fundamental human need that Mr. Obama has apparently not understood, choosing instead to attribute the anger and ‘tone’ strictly to the birthers and teabaggers (excuse me, ‘tea partiers’). This is somewhat surprising, as he had heretofore presented himself as much more intelligent than that. Common sense and some real-life experience teaches these things, even if Harvard and Columbia University don’t.

Why this matters to the reader – and I’m aware that folks from the tea party to the far “left” will be reading this – is because of what’s pending in our near future. Even though it may be true that the claims made by the Zeta Reticulans to our erstwhile leaders through the ‘secret government’ agency known as MJ-12 were made in order to encourage the selfish cabal within it to prematurely steal the US presidency in hopes of being in control at the time of the poleshift, it does NOT necessarily follow that the duly-elected successor taking over is really all that much better in many respects. In many of the areas in which he made campaign pledges and promises, he’s not only shown little progress, he’s actually reinforced Bush-era policies and extended them. [Disclaimer: Since Pres. Obama, myself, and a few thousand other humans are acutely aware of the pending poleshift, it’s more understandable why he hasn’t relaxed the policies regarding FOIA requests and unwarranted surveillance, since he and his administration appear as paranoid about people finding out how blithely they lie when they talk up the cover stories of ‘global warming’ and how ‘cap and trade’ will actually help solve real problems.] When the earth changes begin to escalate even more than they have been, with earthquakes in magnitudes higher than 7 occurring weekly and gas lines popping daily, bridges collapsing frequently, volcanoes erupting and red dust clogging the atmosphere, someone will need to explain what’s going on. And effectively, too, particularly since a large object will be hovering in view shortly, creating a monstrous visage that’s only appeared in ancient prophecies and in some cases, Hollywood blockbusters. But this won’t be a Hollywood production, and the public won’t be easily fooled, knowing that NASA certainly must have been aware of this …… monstrosity. They’ll need someone they can count on, who has not only preached transparency but practiced it.

Sadly, judging by this recent ‘teachable moment’, it doesn’t look too promising.

© 2010 by Don Deppeller. Reprint freely with attribution.