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:

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.

Damon Weaver’s Success

I fell in love with Damon Weaver during the election when he interviewed Joe Biden, so I was thrilled to see that, after months of trying, he finally got to interview President Obama. The questions were good ones, and they really seemed to come from Weaver’s point of view, touching on topics from the painful to the adorable.

Seeing Weaver in his pants that are slightly too long seems like a perfect symbol of what his future could hold. He’ll grow into the suit and into his future…and maybe he’ll get better school lunches for his peers along the way…

“But He Said it First!”

In the hip-hop parlance that Michael Steele has promised to use to raise the GOP’s popularity, on Monday evening he became Rush Limbaugh’s beyotch. That’s not the point of this post, but I made the joke earlier and it got a chuckle, and in the parlance of nineteenth-century British literature (what I “do” for a living) the word “beyotch” does not come up very often. The phrase “smack down” is oddly appropriate, especially when discussing Jane Austen, but “beyotch”—not so much.

Anyway, the news from the GOP trainwreck on Monday that in an interview with D. L. Hughley, Steele, while claiming he was the de facto leader of the GOP, called Limbaugh an “entertainer” and “incendiary” and…who knows what else. It doesn’t matter because hours later he took it all back. What I found interesting, besides the sight of two black men discussing the GOP (it was like a bizarro episode of Seinfeld, and I actually mumbled, “I never thought I’d live to see the day.”) was Steele’s response to Hughley’s challenge that it was wrong for Limbaugh to say he wanted President Obama (black man #3 in the conversation in case anyone is counting) to fail.

Hughley did an admirable job of contextualizing Limbaugh’s statement, explaining that there is a difference between resisting ideology and wishing for failure. Steele’s response was classic and infuriating: “How was that any different than what was said about George Bush?” I couldn’t hear anymore for a minute. Here you watch it:

While everyone is focusing on Steele’s accurate characterization of Limbaugh (and now his spectacular failure to lead), I’m wishing we could get away with this logical construction:

A: You’ve said something bad
B: But he/she/they said it too

That can’t be the end of the discussion. Just because someone else might have wished for Bush’s failure eight years ago does not make Limbaugh’s wishing for Obama’s failure okay. Just because one person says or do something unethical, stupid, or wrong does not others can do the same thing without being challenged. It was an especially stupid thing to say to Hughley because in addition to the occasional guest spot on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” he’s been on CNN for about fifteen minutes. He wasn’t a political commentator with the opportunity to ask…oh wait. To ask whom? Steele never named a lefty liberal who wished for Bush’s failure. I’m not saying such a person doesn’t exist, but given how elected Democrats rolled over for Bush for eight years, I actually don’t think anyone did wish for Bush’s failure.

Of course all of this eclipsed by how well Obama and the left have been toying with Limbaugh and the right. What with Rahm Emanuel, their own tone deafness, and Robert Gibbs those beyotches are getting schooled every day.

Right on the Nose: Hendrik Hertzberg on Wages vs. Salary vs. Compensation

Hertzberg poses the right question in The New Yorker*:

…why is that a manual worker gets paid wages and a middle manager or cop or teacher earns a salary, but a corporate boss condescends to accept “compensation”?

Compensation. I have to say, I get a little dizzy with disgust whenever I hear that word used to describe some C.E.O.’s pay envelope. “Compensation package” is even worse. What, exactly, are these people being “compensated” for? Are they victims of crime? Or is it the long hours, the loneliness, the inability to spend time with their children—so much more terrible than the plight of a middle-aged immigrant mother working double shifts as an office cleaner? Or the fear of having their company go on public assistance, in which case, thanks to Obama, their welfare payment will be slashed to less than $10,000 a week? Or the fear of getting laid off with nothing but a golden parachute to put food on the table and lifetime use of the private jet to get around on?

The poor dears.

*pointed out by a friend