Health Care Sequel: The Empire Strikes Back
It’s almost too bad the health debate has moved so slowly that it missed the Oscars. Perhaps our newly indignant president would have been eligible for a Best Actor nod. But then again, sequels rarely do well with the Academy. And this act clearly isn’t anything new.
President Obama has been fighting and losing the health care reform battle since he first took office. In fact, his only major legislative victory was the passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill. After that, the American people were more afraid of his passes than they had been of Bill Clinton’s. Voters wouldn’t let him pass anything and it showed. His popularity dropped. The Democratic Congress’s popularity dropped even farther and health care reform went from blockbuster to disaster flick.
Still journalists are out there pushing Obama’s latest sequel, even though the whole plot has been done and done again. CBS “Early Show” co-host Harry Smith treated this installment like it’s the final chapter in a series. “President Obama makes a tough final push, going on the offensive against health insurance companies. Will it work?” he asked during a March 9 broadcast.
“Final push?” Since when?
Since last summer when Obama first made his final push? Not hardly. No, it’s the final push since Obama decided it would be and journalists have repeated it like it’s a realistic expectation. ABC anchor Diane Sawyer made that claim. “President Obama says the debate is over on health care reform, the vote must be taken. And the train is moving out,” she told viewers March 3.
That certainly was the media’s party line as the president tried to bully his heath care “reform” through Congress. “Every idea has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said. I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform,” he told an unhappy public.
Only, none of that is especially believable from an administration that said they had to get reform done by last summer. The administration kept changing the release date. Summer, fall, they couldn’t decide. Both the president and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed to get the House vote done by August. Then Obama started making predictions about when it would get completed. “We've got to get it done this year,” Obama said to CBS News.
ABC’s Matthew Dowd predicted even then that Obama would succeed back on Aug. 12. “I think something will get done. I think when you have 60 members, Democratic members of the Senate and you have Congress by a large margin and you have the White House, you have to get something done.”
He wasn’t even close. Neither was Obama. That script ran straight into the critics who panned it in town halls across the nation. And so-called “reform” was pushed back.
So in August, the Democrats regrouped and pushed again, targeting September or October as their goal. And once again, they failed with almost an identical script. Obama’s goal of getting it done “this year” also failed. Then the Massachusetts Senate race provided a new subplot and yet another sequel.
Now we are told that health care reform will happen again this time. By March 18 before Obama goes overseas. Honest. Yet Obama is no more believable on this point that Lucy was when holding a football and daring Charlie Brown to kick it. Every time the initiative gets close to failure, he and other Democrats change the rules.
Even if they buy off recalcitrant Democrats, steamroll Rep. Bart Stupak and his principled pro-lifers and pass this bill, the battle is far from over. Sure Obama would sign it into law. That isn’t the question. The question is can he keep it law?
Opponents think that maybe he can’t. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of
And if the GOP wins even the House, they will stall Obama’s reform and ensure we have sequels that last us until 2012 when health care will be center stage once again.
So when the president and the media tell us health care reform must happen right now, it’s fair to wonder whether they should include a laugh track with those comments. It’s also ironic that the news industry that celebrates deadlines, ignores them when it comes to a president it celebrates even more.