Friday, August 21, 2009

Obama's Health Care Pitch - The Right World War II Analogy

The most vicious and, perhaps most uninformed of those opposing the House's health care reform package have compared our president to Adolf Hitler, who ran Germany with an iron fist from 1933 to 1945. Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and gays were rounded up, shoved into dilapidated slave labor camps, and then killed.

One can, however, compare his negotiating tactics to the now mocked Neville Chamberlain, the United Kingdom's prime minister who was forced to resign in disgrace after his strategy to buy Hitler's peace through appeasement failed. Mr. Chamberlain gave Hitler the go-ahead to annex Austria and the then German-populated Sudetenland section of Czechoslovakia and re-militarize the Rhineland. Hitler said he merely wanted to reunite the German peoples under one nation. His ambitions didn't stop there, however. He took the rest of Czechoslovakia by force, invaded Poland, Norway, Denmark, the Low Countries, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Mr. Obama promised health care reform but wanted to usher in a new era of bipartisanship as he did so. He compromised on the economic stimulus package but got not one House Republican to vote for it. He fared a little better in the Senate - three Republicans jumped on board.

The president ceded the health care reform process to a gang of six Senators (three Democrats and three Republicans) who sit on the Finance Committee at the get-go even though he had a fifty-seven seat majority (59 - 2 absent Democrats)) in the Senate.

Though he expressed his support for a "public option", the president said he could drop it from the plan to win over Republican votes even after Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) took his seat. He congratulated three Republican Senators - Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) for negotiating with him even before he obtained their commitment to back his reform package. No Republican member of the Gang of Six has committed him or herself to support Obama's health care reform package. He ceded the government's right to negotiate for lower, imported brand x prescription drugs in return for their decision to remain neutral (as opposed to support) in the health care reform debate.

Last week Senator Grassley upped his demands for a compromise. The senator at first insisted upon the removal of the public option. The president, in suggesting that the "public option" is not vital, has basically granted him that wish. Then, at a town hall meeting the senator ran from the president and his agenda and gave up on the pretense that he was negotiating in good faith by (a) reinforcing the mistaken notion that there are "death panels" in the health insurance bills making their way through Congress and (b) by suggesting that he was trying to slow the process down to allow them to protest and kill the bill.

Obama praised the Republican senator even though he said he could not support a bill that did not win four + Republican senators. Ne suggests he cannot support a bill that fails to win 75 - 80 senators (15-20 Republican senators) and yet the president still praises him in his own town hall meetings.

The president, like Chamberlain, behaves as if he is negotiating from a point of weakness even though he is the one in power (Hitler's Germany wasn't ready for World War II when its leader first pushed for Austria). And he continues to behave as if the senator from Iowa is negotiating in good faith when in fact it is clear to many of us that he is trying to kill health care reform.

The president is being criticized on the right for being too forceful when in fact the opposite is true. He's behaving like a wimp. Was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on to something when she pejoratively referred to him as "Obambi?" I'm beginning to think so.

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