On the Nose: Barney Frank on Looney Americans

I’m sure there are legitimate concerns about the Obama Administration’s health care reforms. No plan is perfect, and the problem of health care in this country is so complex that no plan can solve it’s problem. But anyone who thinks that Republican and Right Wing resistance to this plan is about anything but fighting the president is naive or in denial…or both.

The Dark Lords of the Republican party know that if the Democrats can deliver health care to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, the world as they would like it to be may never come to pass. They can never whip up the kind of frenzy over gay marriage and gun control and evolution if people can have access to the “best doctors in the world” because people simply won’t care. After a sound economy (or perhaps even more important than a sound economy) people want to have access to health care and, more importantly, they want it for their children.

I think it’s too soon to say Obama and the Dream Team has failed at this endeavor. As Jason Linkins points out over on The HuffingtonPost, the press is chomping at the bit to write the obituary for the Public Option, and their premature announcement of its death is whipping up the anxiety of the left. This is not necessarily a bad thing if it galvanizes people to productive action and forces those Blue Dog Democrats to straighten up and fly left, but what I really want to see more of is the kind of exchange Barney Frank had with some idiot in Dartmouth, MA:

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Obama on Healthcare

The White House hasn’t done enough to counter the all the noise about “turning the country Socialist.” This is in part because, as the New York Time reports, the same network of voters who helped propel Candidate Obama to the White House has not taken on the hard work of advocating for President Obama’s health care plans.

I’m not surprised. Health care is complicated and messy, and it doesn’t lend itself to the soaring rhetoric of a political campaign. “Yes we can” has given away to policy prose that the Democrats have not yet learned to distill to catchy phrases.

What we really need is will.i.am.

He needs to come out with a health care video featuring a mix of real-looking Americans who are suffering as a result of our diseased health care system…in poetic prose…to a simple beat…that kind of feels like a Gap ad… and the people have to be attractive and photogenic. See the problem?

I’m not losing faith in the team that took down the Clintons, but the Republicans are at their best when they are whipping up fear and reducing complicated ideas into easily repeated sound bites, and the media has seen something shinier to focus on–screaming citizens (sometimes with guns) wringing their hands about the socialism of America. The truth and common sense are on the verge of completely buckling under the assault of media broadcast ranting.

This week’s town hall meeting in which Obama referred to the current system as a “Disease-Care System” is a good start, but more needs to happen, and the only way for the media to cover the other side, the side of common sense and human decency, is if that side is more interesting to put on camera.

Until then, it’s a good idea to forward Obama’s Weekly address to everyone you know…especially those inclined to disagree with you. It might be more productive than yet another e-mail about how women are better than men or men are better or women or how black people are always late.

Our Easy Instincts

What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.

—Barack Obama Philadelphia

I’ll admit that I thought Barack Obama’s “historic train ride” was kind of hokey, but given then I got all weepy and inspired when I stumbled upon CNN’s coverage of it, maybe hokey is the order of the day.

One of the many things to admire about Obama is his ability to offer so much in so few words, to pull language from the past and use it to pull us forward. He does that in this single sentence. He’s right. As a new administration attempts to pull a divided country together, it’s the easy instincts we all must resist. This does not mean disconnecting our critical faculties, and I hear it as a charge to the left as much as it is a charge to those on the right. In fact, I think this applies more to the left than to than it does to anyone else. Liberals, Democrats, Lefties, “Progressives”—whatever you choose to call them, me—have spent the past eight years seething at the inadequacies and atrocities of the Bush-Cheney years. We’ve been chomping at the bit to make the world right again, and we are just smug enough with our righteous notions of what it means to be right that our easy instincts could well be mistaken for our better angels.

The blessing and the curse of the left is its lack of uniformity; the power of the right has, until recently, been its discipline. In the crucial early days of the Obama administration, let’s try to take a second, even a third look at our easy instincts. He knows what we want:

  • Universal health care
  • Bush and Company held to account
  • Guantanamo closed
  • Reversal of Bush tax cuts
  • Our soldiers out of Iraq

The list goes on and on…and on. And apparently the majority of Americans polled understand that it will take a long time to move on some of these goals. I hope this patience lasts, and I hope the left can channel its critical faculties into multiple directions at once. Speak out when President Obama makes decisions that undermine our country’s principles (inviting Rick Warren to participate in anyway in the inauguration) at the same time that we continue to answer his call to service and learn to talk to moderate conservatives. We should choose our battles carefully and gird ourselves for the roller coaster rider ahead. Most importantly, it’s vital to remember why we voted for Barack Obama in the first place and do what we can to support him as he leads the country out of the morasses that entangle us.

This is truly a rare moment, an awakening for so many, but it will be easy to forget the feelings, the emotion, the goosebumps when the messy business of governance overtakes us all. It is then that we’ll need our better angels. We’ll have to find them; too much is at stake.