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The Torch Has Passed, President Obama, Don’t Let It Drop

Posted on | August 31, 2009 | No Comments

Kennedy passes the healthcare torch to Obama, who drops it in favor of compromiseIf you weren’t in a coma, or just weren’t paying attention because the Daily Show and Colbert Report were showing re-runs, you will have noticed that Ted Kennedy passed away from the brain cancer that has afflicted him the past year. Our condolences go out to his family and, indeed, to his larger family, the people of the United States of America. Kennedy wasn’t in politics for what he could skim off the top for himself. He wasn’t in it just for the people of Massachusetts, although no one worked harder for his constituency. Ted Kennedy was in politics to do whatever good he could for everyone in this country. Kennedy had a very “Catholic” attitude towards wealth–one that was shared by his two brothers, Jack and Bobby. God does not give you wealth as a sign of his favor, as the Calvinist would believe–rather, God lets the roll of the dice decide who’s wealthy and who’s not. His interest is, what GOOD will you do with your money? This is a lesson that frankly has escaped a lot of very wealthy people in this land–the idea that the wealthy have the obligation to use their riches to help others. They don’t have to impoverish themselves, but they have to leave this world a better place for their having been given the resources to do it with. We were lucky to have one such as Ted Kennedy to work for that end so hard for so long.
But enough theological speculation. Now we turn to the “What would Teddy do” game. Let’s name the health care bill after Teddy! HUZZAH! Now let’s try and pass it…huzzah… Senators on both sides of the aisle are starting to claim that Teddy would do–whoa, I stand in amazement–exactly what THEY would do. John Kerry has touted Kennedy’s willingness to compromise–a strategy that smacks more of Kerry than of Kennedy. Yes, Teddy would compromise–he’d also wheel and deal and he’d know when to hang tough and when to relent. Kennedy was not about compromise–he was about getting the job done.
But does the current state of the health care legislation really get the job done? When you look at it head-on, Obama’s negotiations with insurance companies and Big Pharma has resulted in a lot of empty promises. We’ll lower our profits by $80bn! Lower them from WHAT? What kind of profits did they expect to be making that they could toss that much away and STILL make ungodly profits? Then there’s the waffling on the “public option” which seems to be supported by the White House or considered “not to be a deal breaker” with each change of the wind. Without that public option, there’s no way to keep the insurance companies to their word and continue to ply business as usual. Then there’s Obama’s insistence on a bipartisan solution when the Republican party has declared that they will break him by not passing any reform. You can’t satisfy anyone who’s got their fingers in their ears…and their thumbs someplace else. Especially when they’re being egged on by Fox News and the goon squads who’ve been showing up at the town hall meetings to prevent any serious discussion, a la the brown shirts. Not to mention the revolt of the blue dog Democrats, whose campaign coffers have been heavily contributed to by the insurance companies for the purpose of stymying any real reform.
Heck, even the NYTimes is pushing for a majority vote so health care reform can be passed despite the bad faith and obstructionism of the Republican party. But, someone’s going to have to pull the blue dogs into line. That’s where we’re really going to miss Teddy–for his ability to pull the party together, wheel, deal, and maybe even threaten the recalcitrant to get into line. Obama wasn’t in the Senate long enough to know where the skeletons are buried and Harry Reid doesn’t have the clout. But unless the bluedogs are brought into line, we’ll either have a gutless wonder or nothing at all, which the thugs will claim as a win. The Ted Kennedy Health Care Bill? Let’s make sure it’s a reform that’s worthy to carry his name. And pass it. And that would be a fitting memorial to Teddy.

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