Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Obama’s Tale Of Two Speeches

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

President Barack Obama delivered two speeches last week that had many in a state of anxiety and anticipation. One was his classroom talk to school children; the other, an address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform.

A president speaking to school children seems benign enough. It’s been done before: once by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and again in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush. After the Bush speech, then Democratic House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt said, “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.” Former Democratic Rep. William Ford even ordered an investigation as to the speech’s legality.

While no such actions were considered by Congressional Republicans initially concerned with Obama’s classroom address, there was uneasiness with the lesson plans that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had distributed to classrooms. Here is one example of what the material contained: “What can you as a student do to help the president achieve ‘his’ education agenda?” A more appropriate question might have been: What can you do to help achieve “your” education goals?

Before Obama spoke, the classroom material was scrapped. The president delivered a good speech that could have been given by a conservative president. He stressed personal responsibility saying, “You can’t drop out of school and into a good job,” and, “If you quit on school, you’re quitting on your country.”

So was this dust-up much ado about nothing? I think not. Conservatives were right to oppose the lesson material. In doing so, they undoubtedly helped reshape the focus of Obama’s text away from his agenda, to rather encouraging students how best to achieve their goals. Obama often says, “I get it.” In this case he did.

The same cannot be said about his speech the following night to Congress - an apparent last ditch effort to try and save his flailing health care initiative. In spite of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NEV., calling the speech a “game changer,” Obama delivered no bombshell to alter the fundamental dynamics of the debate. This too was a good speech, delivered with rhetorical genius and passion but absent of substantive details.

In an ABC interview prior to Obama’s health care address, the president admitted he was caught flat footed in August when opponents of his health care plan aggressively reshaped the debate. He added that the intensity of the public’s opposition at town hall meetings was unexpected.

Obama is trying to frame health care as another “urgent” crisis. We’ve witnessed it before with the passage of the stimulus bill which has done little to improve our “jobless recovery.” The Labor Department predicts unemployment will reach 10 percent by early next year. However, Obama says we can’t wait to fix health care because people are dying. The president spoke of his proposed insurance exchange where people without coverage will be able to buy insurance that will save lives. Few would argue against saving lives. These changes will not take effect for four years, so what’s the dang rush?

Obama’s problems aren’t just with Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, but with liberals as well. “I must pressure the left as much as pressure the right,” he said. One of the biggest sticklers to bringing both groups together is the government’s proposed public option for insurance. Liberals say they can’t support a bill without it. Blue Dogs and Republicans can’t support a bill that includes it. Liberals had to be disappointed when Obama said he would no longer insist on a public option as part of his reform. While a good first step to breaking the stalemate, there remain other issues.

Obama said, “… federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” The president was less than candid. The House bill under consideration would permit a public option to cover all abortions as well as permit federal subsidies to purchase private insurance that covers abortion. This is a deal breaker with Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Increasing insurance competition across state lines and tort reform are two additional stumbling blocks. Republicans have proposed that health insurance companies be able to sell on a national basis, making insurance costs more competitive. The Democrats say this can’t be done because there are too many obstacles to overcome. This is absolute nonsense! If the president wants choice and competition, he and the Democrats would embrace this reform.

Conservatives also insist on tort reform. Critics argue the savings gained from reducing “jackpot justice” would be minimal. Perhaps, but they’re missing the main point- the cost of physicians practicing defensive medicine.

A Massachusetts Medical Society survey of 900 doctors revealed that 83 percent of them practice defensive medicine for fear of being sued. For these doctors that meant 18-28 percent performed additional tests, procedures, referrals and consultations and had 13 percent more admissions to hospitals. The cost in Massachusetts: $1.4 billion annually; nationally an estimated $200 billion. Reforming health care must include tort reform.

Obama said his health plan, estimated to cost up to $2 trillion, won’t add ten cents to the deficit. If it does he said he won’t sign it. Much of the money to pay for the changes being proposed will come from squeezing savings out of Medicare. With Medicare dangerously close to bankruptcy, it makes little sense to risk weakening one health care plan to create one more inefficient one.

Most Americans want meaningful, fiscally responsible health care reform that will make insurance more affordable and increasingly accessible. Obama understands that. But when it comes to how best to achieve it, he simply doesn’t get it!

Obama keeps insulting his opponents, calling them liars in fancy terms, and also insulting them by saying things that are simply insulting in how stupid we would have to be to believe them. This last above is an example. Obama says that he will not sign health care if it adds “ten cents” to the deficit. In reality he means it. Since he knows that it will add billions, not ten cents, he can sign it and get the huge government bureaucracy he wants and laugh at us for being gullible enough to believe him.

Bob did not comment on the Joe Wilson furor, but I think that it is the most important aspect of the second speech Obama gave. Barack Obama DID LIE. So why is John Boehner so determined to make Joe Wilson apologize for saying that? Why is Boehner not explaining that Democrats cannot have it both ways. If they insist on interrupting the President for standing ovations during his speech, then public denunciation during the speech has to be permitted for opponents. The speech is on national TV. Why should only Democrats get to show their feelings about the speech? Is free speech a one way street that only Democrats get to drive on?


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