"Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the health care bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism." That is a quote from a piece written by Camille Paglia in Salon. How could anyone watching and listening to the President last night deliver his lecture on health insurance reform not agree?
The President and his administration are in desperation mode. Having horribly misjudged the influence of ordinary citizens rising up and protesting the government takeover of a most basic personal issue like health care and the massive financial impact it will have on the country, Obama stepped before a joint session of Congress and declared the Republicans liars. Then he demanded civility in the argument.
Hence the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine emerges.
Republicans have been shut out of the legislative process. Many have tried to meet with the President since last May, under the impression he was honest in his pledges to work listen to all ideas. The most dire of election consequences is prevalent in Washington today - one party rule. And, now, the President seems intent on passing major, transformational legislation without a single Republican vote.
The President called together a joint session of Congress to twist some Democrat arms on the subject. The last time this happened the year was 1994 and the President was Bill Clinton. He held up a shiny plastic card and said every American would have one. He would accept nothing less. He allowed Hillary to write a huge health care bill in secret with unnamed 'experts' and no accountability. The public and the politicians said no. Republicans were voted back into power, too. Clinton now says it was because the Democrats failed to pass the legislation. In reality, it was because the American voter said no. That dynamic is in play today.
President Obama has hung the success of his presidency on health care reform. He is not a leader, but a campaigner. He is counting on letting his Democratically controlled Congress moving legislation and he'll fly around the country delivering stump speeches on the issue du jour.
The problem is not with Republicans but with his own party. As of today, there are not enough Democrat votes to pass the Pelosi style legislation. And, in the Senate, there are not 60 votes. The Blue Dog Democrats were taken to task by their constituents after allowing their leadership to talk them into voting in favor of cap and trade legislation and all the tax increases that will follow. Now Pelosi and Reid are twisting arms again. There is resistance now and rightly so. These Democrats will likely not win re-election in 2010 if the general mood persists though out the country. The voters simply have had enough.
President Obama offered no ideas on how the trillion dollar reform will be financed. Voters know. It will be taxes on small business and on those not desiring insurance coverage. They will be 'fined', which is code for tax. Doctor wages will be reduced. Hospital reimbursements will decline. You get the picture.
Another interesting moment happened when the President declared there are 30 million uninsured. That number is down from the number normally bantered about - 47 million. Why? The lesser number takes out the illegal immigrants. Obama has to make the claim that illegal immigrants will not be covered.
The President called the death panels "a lie". He bashed opponents - the Republicans, talk show hosts, cable tv personalities, "prominent politicians" - as being deceitful and fear mongers. Then he called for civility. To say the inner thug of the Obama personality was showing is an understatement.
"We will call you out", he told the audience, on any perceived misstatements on his plan. Problem is, he has no plan. He has some bill moving around Congress but he didn't participate in the writing of the legislation and he appears to not know many details in the 1300 pages of legislation to be voted on in the House. He is deliberately short on details, falling instead into talking in campaign style talking points.
Last night, instead of a copy of the President's speech as is customary, members of Congress were handed a laminated card with talking points printed out on it. It could have been a burger joint menu. That speaks volumes.
The President did nothing to move the ball. He may receive a bump up in his falling poll numbers for a bit but soon will be back in the same spot. Senior citizens and Independents no longer trust the legislation. That is huge. When asked, health care is number three in the ranks of American concerns - employment and the deficit are the first two. More than 80% are happy with their insurance coverage.
Reform is needed. Republicans have good ideas. The President himself lies when he builds the straw man that Republicans have no plan and only want to say no for political reasons. Representative Joe Wilson called out "liar" during the speech. That was wrong and he apologized. A real apology - not a Democrat-style one that said he was sorry "if anyone was offended". He said he was wrong. The President was also wrong to call his opposition liars. No apology from him yet.
The President cannot call for civility in one breath and in the next continue on with his partisan speeches. He is the President of all of us. He must rise to the occasion and be a leader, not a campaigner.