Bob Franken

Heath Care–Another Day of Name Calling and All Around Dopiness

Among the many examples of media dopiness is this shrillness: “As I reported would happen . . .” The writer or excited TV correspondent then goes on to take credit for stating the obvious a day or so before.

Well: As I reported would happen, President Obama has started dropping hints that the August deadline for passing comprehensive health care reform is unrealistic. He still insists that the first draft should come by August — give or take — telling Jim Lehrer it’s no big deal if “it’s going to spill over a few days or a week.”

It sure is a big deal, particularly when he slipped in a new plea: “Let’s pass reform by the end of the year.”

The razor sharp among us will notice that he didn’t specify which year. As a matter of fact, the GOP is saying maybe “next year.”

The president derided those who want to put things off for “another day, another year, another decade,” but he’s clearly playing defense now in this war of attrition against those who would prefer “never.”

Some of the debate is downright foolish. Also high on the dopiness list is the charge of “socialism.” If there were a “dopey-o-meter,” that one would pretty much pin the needle.

And yet, there was the Republican National Chairman, Michael Steele, using the S-word at the National Press Club, a reminder that many in the GOP yearn for the good old days of the Cold War. They’re revving up the same arguments and the same epithets they’ve utilized since they resisted Social Security, the New Deal, Medicare, progress. It’s surprising they don’t scream “socialism!” when discussing public education. (Or maybe not so surprising, considering how many of their kids go to private schools. But I digress.)

First of all, what is it about “no” that they don’t understand? That’s the president’s answer when asked if he favors a government-run option, so insurance predators don’t have such a clear field.

What’s unfortunate is that Obama’s adversaries don’t need the demagoguery. They have a substantive point: Massive change will break the bank at a time when our bank is already busted.

The polls show they’re making some headway. So Obama is pushing back, saying we cannot afford a system in which “health insurance companies have reaped windfall profits from a broken system.”

Of course, he’s trashing an industry that, at the moment, is pledging its cooperation with the administration. One can only assume the president has been warned to be wary of the enemy within.

Proponents of useful change are counting on their discussions to create an unstoppable consensus, where the different interest groups give a little and the public interest gets a lot. Those who are driving that strategy didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. It often works. But the other side owns the truck, and they want to keep the entire load for themselves.

Speaking of dopey, that metaphor might qualify, but what will be really dopey is if the nation doesn’t repair health care.

Otherwise, we could slide right down the tubes. As I reported would happen.

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