Saturday, March 27, 2010

Doing the right thing

By Don Klein

Armageddon? Hardly. Death of freedom? Not likely. All it was is health insurance for 32 million Americans who could not afford it before.

President Obama finally followed my advice and reaped great results. All right, I wasn’t the only one suggesting he take off the gloves and get fully involved in the health reform controversy. There were scads more people promoting that idea.

It really doesn’t matter who pushed the Democrats to forget about bipartisanship with a recalcitrant Republican in-group committed to fighting any reform on health. We all said it was painful for the majority Democrats to totter away their time when they didn’t really need help from the backswept opposition to bring monumental change to the country.

What does matter is in the end Obama and the Democrats did the right thing. No one is claiming the bill signed into law warmly resembles the legislation that Obama promised during the campaign, but at least there is relief for the millions being shunned by insurance behemoths.

I won’t go into the details of the new law (anyone interested will know the facts by now) I prefer to concern myself with what I see as the consequences of this crucial battle. The aftermath is both good and bad.

1. On the good side. The law is only a great first step. It will have to be amended often and broadened by future Congresses. That makes November’s election of great significance. If the Republicans take over either house of Congress or greatly diminish the Democratic majority, chances for improvements will not be forthcoming soon.

2. Also on the good side, the vote demonstrated to the Republican opposition that refusing to participate in the process does not enhance the party’s political image. Quite the contrary. I don’t know of any candidate who has won a major election on the grounds of being in favor of political obstructionism. Voters prefer candidates who seek something positive – usually changes, always improvements.

3. The lamentable fallout of the vote has been the uncharacteristically bitter attitude by some who support the GOP stance of protecting the status quo. The US use to pride itself in fully debating a subject, putting it to a vote, and everyone falling behind the winning side and working to make the final decision as successful as possible. This apparently no longer is the national credo.

4. Egged on by ugly language from congressional Republicans, many irate onlookers, largely Right Wingers and Tea Party supporters, have behaved in the most loathsome manner. Shouting expletives at Congressmen on their way to the Capitol to vote, spitting on them and finally, the most despicable of all, threatening the wives and children of supporters of the bill. Why they are so incensed is beyond reasoned understanding.

5. Finally, the most brainless strategy of all, the Republicans are threatening to repeal the health care law. They cannot be that dense, but when appealing to their followers on the intellectual level of Neanderthals they think it will work. I refuse to believe there are that many slow-witted people in this country to win an election on that basis.

Already Obama’s approval ratings are climbing after months of slippage during the dragged-out Congressional debate. He used the power of his office and the persuasiveness of his arguments to get the bill enacted. He came out of his eruditious cocoon, put on the gloves and acted like a hard-nosed, tradition-breaking president should.

He may not yet go down in history as a Lincoln or FDR, or even a Teddy Roosevelt, but at least he is heading in the right direction. Basking is his newly exercised power, Obama now has to get three subjects under control and he will be well on his way to becoming one of the great leaders in US history.

First, he has to get a workable and effective economic recovery bill passed which puts millions of people back to work. That is most essential of all current legislation and is the one which will make or break the Democrats in November, not GOP negativity.

Then he must see to it that effective measures to control the miscreants of Wall Street and America’s posh board rooms from causing any more economic damage in the years ahead. He must rein in financial mischief with aggressive policing, formative laws and demanding prosecution.

Finally, this year’s menu of important legislation should include a step or two towards protecting the environment. We don’t have much time left to reverse the global warming trend. The government should ignore the naysayers and provide for curbs or we leave our progeny with dismal futures.

Woefully the Democrats will face continuing rear action sniping from an uncooperative opposition. The Republican Party is a headless monster with no uplifting leader, no creative themes, no positive ideas, so it is easy to fall into demagoguery. We already see the early signs of this with weirdo ramblings from the likes of unelected spokesmen Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin.

Obama still has a majority in both houses of Congress and should use it. He squandered away the first year of his presidency and lessons were learned. Go for it now on these three issues – jobs, financial controls and the environment – and we will see who wins in November. Does anyone in his right mind think that the GOP motif of turning health care back to where it was can float in an era flooded with new ideas and hope?

All right, you may not believe that I was instrumental in getting the health care law enacted. I doubt Obama ever got any of my messages. Now I am giving him a second chance. I’m giving him a chance to do the right thing for the remainder of 2010.