Obama's Big Health Care Speech: What He Should Say — and Shouldn't Say
On Wednesday, President Obama will address Congress to give what is being described as a “make-or-break” speech on health care. With polls indicating most Americans oppose President Obama’s vision for health care reform -- and are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Obama himself -- the administration felt it necessary to roll the dice in order to salvage what Obama considers to be his chief domestic priority. Reforming health care was supposed to be the defining moment of Obama’s legacy, his signature achievement. Therefore, it is not an understatement to suggest the nature and content of this upcoming speech -- how it is delivered, how it is received by the rest of the country -- could dictate the course of Obama’s presidency and provide either a catalyst or hindrance to accomplishing the rest of what he wants to achieve in this term.
The stakes could not be higher. So what will Obama say? Perhaps the better question is: what shouldn’t he say?
For starters, President Obama shouldn’t use straw-man fallacies to caricaturize his critics. He is incredibly fond of this rhetorical tactic. Key phrases to watch out for: “some say” or “there are those who say” -- dismal strawmanese followed by an extraordinarily ridiculous statement or argument nobody is saying or has ever said. Making up your opponent’s argument is the oldest trick in the book. It’s beneath strong leadership and gets the country nowhere.
Additionally, Obama should avoid resorting to platitudinous drivel that insults our intelligence. As Charles Krauthammer elaborates, “When ordinary citizens understand they are being played for fools, they bristle.” President Obama likes to promise everything to everyone and often prefaces these promises with “let me be perfectly clear” -- a telltale indicator that he’s about to talk to us like we’re children, eschewing substance and reason for cliché and innuendo. Smart citizens can see through this nonsense almost immediately. They bristle.
There is a silly “status update” floating around Facebook like a chain letter. It reads: “No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.” Convoluted baloney like this is beneath national discourse and Mr. Obama should treat it as such. It is not only intellectually infantile; it’s slanderously asinine.
Should Obama dare to imply something similar -- that opponents of his health care proposals are accomplices to, or worse, proponents for, letting poor people die -- the sincerity of the entire speech would be compromised. It would be transparently desperate, constituting a bridge too far. Key phrases to be on the lookout for: “we must bear witness” or “we are our brother’s keeper.” The moment you hear this -- subtle theological jargon, no doubt -- the jig is up and Obama has resigned himself to intellectual dishonesty.
Furthermore, Obama should reject Orwellian euphemism. We’ve seen this phenomenon in foreign policy, where “terrorism” has become “man-caused disasters” and the “war against terror” is now called an “overseas contingency operation.” On health care, the administration is likewise unabashed. For example, health care rationing is called “comparative effectiveness research” -- Obama-Pelosi’s brilliant idea of “government bureaucrats [assessing] health treatments to determine whether or not they are cost-effective and can be approved for payment.” This kind of focus-group, poll-tested doublespeak engenders cynicism amongst the population -- and understandably so. He should quit it.
Correspondingly, Obama should drop the Saul Alinsky-like taunts and derision. Last year, Obama implored his supporters to confront their Republican neighbors and “argue with them and get in their face.” Regarding McCain supporters, Obama promised, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” -- before, of course, condemning the rancor and partisanship in Washington and hilariously promising to deliver us a “new kind of politics.” On health care, President Obama has been similarly snide. He’s told his critics to stop talking and “get out of the way,” lecturing: “Don’t do a lot of talking.” His administration has instructed congressional Democrats to “punch back twice as hard” against their constituents who oppose ObamaCare.
Since then, Democratic congressmen have called town hall attendees protesting socialized medicine every name in the book: political terrorists, mobsters, Nazis, evil, swastika carriers, Timothy McVeigh admirers, brown shirts, and more. One protester, a St. Louis resident by the name of Kenneth Gladney, was physically assaulted and hospitalized by a half dozen Obama-backed union members -- strictly for his views.
And yet President Obama’s insouciance has only added fuel to the fire. The union thugs, who were at the St. Louis town hall in support of ObamaCare, were simply punching back “twice as hard.”