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Obama on Letterman

Tom PattonPresident 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 forced 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.

2 Responses »

  1. Tom, when it comes to crafting a disingenuous jab, you're no slouch yourself: "I would never compare the President of the United States to a snake oil salesman, but . . ."

    As to the President's "not being challenged in any credible way to sell his plan," perhaps you mean that his challengers (and they are legion) are incredible. Some are, while others actually make sense. You're among the latter, when you note that any Congressional reform to health insurance will be riddled with problems. I'm with you there, although I say, let's pass something now and then start fixing it. But if you're suggesting that this President is catching a free ride or just phoning this job in, well - that's incredible.

  2. I agree with Tom on this one. Obama is being disenginuous, and therefore falls well within the prameters of being a snakeoil salesman.

    Many are attempting to hide Obama behind the dignity of the Office of the Presidency. Most of those people are only concerned with this principle when their elected candidate, or their Party's member is in that office. This is the ultimate level of snobbery. I would propose that Obama has denigrated the office, the title, and the normally expected honor that comes with the office because he has violated the decorum that he's supposed to chracterize while holding that office. For example:

    He has defaulted any respect from the American people when he stood before a joint session of Congress and lied about his policies. (example: Joe Wilsons assertion was correct).

    His demeanor recuses him from the honor that goes with the office (flippng the bird to those he succeeds against in an election contest) and yes,

    The assumption that Americans are going to believe him when he says a draconian policy will be deficit-neutral. Everyone knows "it ain't gonna happen that way".

    In short, the President has demeaned the office, those who say so aren't the villans: that moniker belongs to the originator of the situation: Obama himself.

    It is not wrong to proclaim the "Emperor has no clothes"!