Bob Franken

Health Care: Hard Murmurs

Forgive the self-indulgent self-flagellation, but it’s time to own up. I was wrong. I was one of the many Washington Lemmings who had abandoned any prospect of real change once the Massachusetts rats had jumped the Democratic ship.

Do you know the sound that Washington Lemmings make as they move in a mass? We murmur. And as we marched in lock step through the snows of February we were all murmuring “Health Care Reform is Dead. Health Care Reform is Dead”. Murmuring hell: We were shouting it from the cable news rooftops!

Well that turned out to be just another snow job. Over at the White House Mess, the chefs whipped up a mess of gumption and soon the President and his fellow Democrats on the Hill did a turnaround and began their relentless March march to history.

Which brings it back those of us in the murmuring class. Obviously we need to fill the space with something so now we can be heard predicting in unison that the health care plan will be the defining issue of the November election.

After all, that’s what the politicians are telling us. And if you can’t believe them and us, who can you believe? This, so we chant, will be the signature issue all the way till November…and yes, you can murmur and chant at the same time.

Well, I must DEmur. That probably means I’ll have my Pundit card pulled, my Lemming parade permit revoked. Nevertheless, I cannot agree that any issue…ANY issue can hold our attention for nearly seven months. Seven minutes yes, maybe even seven days. But seven months? You gotta be kidding.

A very wise colleague of mine once observed that we in media “Can only over-cover one issue at a time”. It’s a variation of Andy Warhol’s “15 Minutes of Fame”. Health care reform has had damn near 15 months! It’s way into “Enough Already!!”

Warhol also said “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches”. Health Care Reform can be measured not in inches but miles…thousands of them, slogging all the way into the barren waste of spent issues. So hear my voice from the wilderness shouting that we’re all tired of it. It passed. We get it. Candidates who continue to flog it, should bear the wrath of PETA for beating a dead horse.

Surely, our leaders will find other issues to distort. Surely, there will be other sex scandals to grab our attention. Surely you’re getting tired of my making the same point.

One more time: While it is true, what happened Sunday night was historic and while it is true it impact everyone’s lives and health, there is no cure for a short attention span…not even the amphetamines they prescribe for ADHD will do the job.

So, it’s highly likely health care will not be a burning issue by judgment day in November. Bringing it up could be hazardous to our health. Of course, there is one other possibility: Like the others of my ilk, I am often wrong. That’s a positive because the good thing about murmuring is that most people don’t really hear it.

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