Belmont Club

Take your medicine

The Political Ticker describes one Blue Dog Democrat admitting to an angry crowd that the President’s health care proposal may have been a mistake; that it might be better to start over; that perhaps a kind of incremental approach  fixing what was broken instead of trying to redo the whole system was a wiser way to go. “Never have I had this attendance … ”  And faced with that hostility, the administration is maneuvering across a broad front after unexpectedly stiff opposition at Town Hall meetings. Polls confirmed that the health care proposals were going over like a lead balloon. The confidence was certainly ebbing. An administration which once promised to punch back twice as hard at opponents it called “Astroturf” was shutting down the tip line designed to identify those who dared oppose it.

Following a furor over how the data would be used, the White House has shut down an electronic tip box — [email protected] — that was set up to receive information on “fishy” claims about President Barack Obama’s health plan. E-mails to that address now bounce back with the message: “The e-mail address you just sent a message to is no longer in service. We are now accepting your feedback about health insurance reform via”

The New York Times reported that the President, for the first time in a while, avoided speaking on the subject of his health care proposals. David Axelrod denied the President had lost heart, using a curious double negative to express his confidence.

For the first time in several days, Mr. Obama did not directly address health care on Monday as he appeared at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix. And Mr. Obama is not scheduled to devote much time to promoting that agenda this week, aides said, as he tries to cool an August fury that has emerged around the issue. … David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said the president had “absolutely not” concluded that it would be impossible for a bill including a public plan to pass Congress. With lawmakers in recess and the president preparing for his own vacation at the end of the month, Mr. Axelrod said he expected discussions to resume in September.

But there is a distinct atmosphere of playing things down. The frontal assault to take over the health care industry may be over for now. But it’s probably only a matter of time before the flank attack begins. Within the Democratic Party there is a strong belief that health care “reform” is impossible without some sort of ‘public option’. Howard Dean expressed those sentiments when he said that you couldn’t do anything meaningful without it.  If the administration’s health care proposals comes back in any guise at all, the hook of a public option will be buried within the bait, and buried deep. The Left wing of the Democratic Party will see to that.

“It will be an ugly process,” said Dean, speaking to 2,000 people attending the 2009 Netroots Conference. He urged them to fight, saying the Democrats had the numbers.

“The only piece of reform left (in the bill) worth doing is the public option,” Dean said. “We have already compromised.”

That compromise, he said, was leaving single-payer health care off the table from the beginning. Despite any disagreements within the Democratic Party, Dean said he believes a bill with the public option will survive and every Democrat will have to vote for it. …

Asked about the contentious town halls that have been held around the country, where lawmakers have been shouted down and, in some cases, faced threats, Dean said “the debate is over.”

“The town halls are not about health care,” he said. “They’re about being angry.”

It’s also about generational change, he said, indicating the majority of the protesters at the town halls were older people, and their group was getting smaller and smaller.

“They don’t look anything like the generation that voted for Obama,” Dean said. “These people feel threatened.”

Howard Dean may be right about the anger, but for the wrong reasons. Maybe the public unease has nothing to do with a reluctance to discuss health insurance, or even an aversion to going in the door of the public option if they were sure they could come out of it again. Perhaps it is nothing but an instinctive drawing back from the settledness of the discourse; from the strange assumption the debate is over. There is something disquietingly spooky about Howard Dean’s sense of destiny; his dead certainty over the direction  “generational change” must take, the overeager willingness to consign an earlier dream of America to the boneyard. It is that which may give people pause. That doubt Dean senses in the public is ironically the flipside of his own assured righteousness. They feel his fire and are afraid. But no matter.  Andrea Mitchell raised the possibility that Americans may not know what’s good for them. If so, they must be saved from their own antiquated dreams. It would be a duty to perform the office of freeing them from their illusions. And perform it they will. For the true believers know that the public — and politicians for a fact — are weak and no match for their will. It’s well to recall that the British Medical establishment once opposed the establishment of the National Health Service, until they were persuaded with lucre.

Bevan had to get them onside, as, without doctors, there would be no health service. Being a shrewd political operator, Bevan managed to push through the radical health care reform measure by dividing and cajoling the opposition, as well as by offering lucrative payment structures for consultants. On this subject he stated, “I stuffed their mouths with gold”. On July 5, 1948, at the Park Hospital (now known as Trafford General Hospital) in Manchester, Bevan unveiled the National Health Service and stated, “We now have the moral leadership of the world”.

The “moral leadership of the world”. But is it real? Or the cynical kind of morality that is merely a commitment to the memory of all they once believed? A toast to the men they used to be? The dead hand of an old generation may be the Left’s resting on America’s shoulder.  How many ideals do Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod and Barack Obama have between them? Well maybe a lot, in a crazy kind of way. Dreams are along time dying, even when they become at the last, only dreams about dreams.

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