President Obama appeared on the David Letterman Show Monday night mostly to talk about his health care proposal.
As an aside, I have to admit that when you apply for Letterman tickets months in advance and find out when you get there that the guest is the President, that has to be like winning the lottery, without the money or accountants.
And yes, Dave, the President’s job is a lot harder than yours.
But this is what the office of the Presidency has come to. I understand that with viewership down for most of the major news outlets, and given the fairly low esteem with which most journalists are viewed these days, the President will take a venue where he is not likely to be challenged in any credible way to sell his plan. It makes sense, really. Dave and Paul Schaeffer were practically slavish, and Dave would be the first to tell you he’s no journalist. Yet there he was, sitting in a position most serious journalists only dream about. Face to face with the sitting President of the United States before a national audience.
President Obama explains his health care plan well, and frankly, if it does everything he says it will do, for no cost, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. But color me skeptical. Anyone who has spent any time following issues such as this knows that what comes out the end of the sausage grinder usually bears very little resemblance to what went in. That’s what sausage grinders do, and we all know the old adage about watching legislation being crafted is like watching sausage being made. It’s often not pretty, and you just hope that the herbs and spices that went into the process are what’s needed to make it tasty.
It just seems a bit Pollyannaish to think that insurance companies are going to go down without a fight on this bill and accept the reforms being proposed. Families dealing with job loss and pre-existing conditions are, I’m sure, hopeful to hear about a guarantee of affordable coverage that can’t be denied because you actually need the insurance, and can’t be dropped when you need it most. They’re wonderful words, and they play into that whole “Hope and Change” meme that was so prevalent during the election. On this issue, people are hopeful for change.
But at the end of the day, when you actually go out on the open market to buy the insurance, where will the loopholes be … because you KNOW they are going to be there. Should this bill pass, President Obama will have someone in the gallery for his State of the Union address in February who was without insurance and was basically uninsurable, but the new health care reforms solved all his or her problems. Republicans will tell stories in their response about someone who still was unable to get more than the most basic coverage, had to change doctors, was denied coverage for something … for whom the system doesn’t work. You can practically write the script today. Big government programs always have at best little tiny cracks, and at worst gaping chasms, through which people fall. I haven’t heard anything yet to make me believe this time will be any different. And deficit-neutral? I was born at night, but not last night.
Meanwhile, it’s been suggested that no matter what plan comes out of congress, congresspeople should be force to use it. No more of the “best health care in the world,” unless that’s what you’re offering to us as well. As independent contractors (elected officials), if it’s good enough for us, it should be good enough for you. That’d get us something maybe we could live with.
Watching the President Monday night, I was reminded of an old W.C. Fields bit where he was selling a tonic that “Cures Horseness!!” As Fields faked a “stubborn case of horseness coming on right now”, he drank down the tonic, was magically cured, and was selling tonic as fast as he could hand them out for a dollar a bottle.
I would never compare the President of the United States to a snake oil salesman, but last night’s appearance on Letterman was certainly a sales job. The President knows he has a long row to hoe getting a bill passed, despite his casual demeanor on television. He’s smart to find agreeable hosts and receptive audiences for that purpose. In that, President Obama was successful on Letterman. But for many in an America that is very, very skeptical of its elected officials of any stripe, he’s got a long way to go.