Everything you need to know about the unmovable obstacles that Barack Obama's big health care speech to Congress will face on Wednesday--and why the mainstream media can't figure it out--was encapsulated this week in a news story on the front page of Monday's Washington Post. The headline reads, "Obama Readies Reform Specifics/In Health-Care Address, President Is Expected to Take Firmer Positions."
The article takes a serious, but optimistic tone: Summer is over, and the President is back from his vacation, rested and ready. He has learned from his mistakes--not being "firm" enough--and is now poised to push ahead with his agenda.
By way of providing context, The Post notes, "From the earliest days of his presidency, Obama has made a top priority of twin goals: to extend coverage to millions of Americans and to slow the fast-rising rate of inflation for medical care." Yes, that's the Obamacare agenda in a nutshell.
But as I have argued at SeriousMedicineStrategy.org, what the American people really want is an all-out effort--a war, not to put too fine a point on it-- against illness and incapacitation. To declare, for example, with John F. Kennedy-esque moonshot-like resolve, "We are going to cure Alzheimer's" is, I think, a much more popular goal than "health insurance reform." And if conquering Alzheimer's--or cancer, or strokes--is not cheap, well, I don't think the American people would object to spending money on Serious Medicine to vanquish those killers and extend their own lives.
But in Monday's newspaper, after reciting Obama's twin goals, "extending coverage" and "slowing costs," The Post adds its own take on what went wrong this summer for Obamacare. The Post's account, strangely enough, completely meshes with the liberal Obama-ish line: "In August, opponents seized control of the discussion, elevating side issues such as abortion and end-of-life counseling." [emphasis added.]
But let's not just add emphasis to those two words, "side issues." Let's really dwell on them: "elevating side issues such as abortion and end-of-life counseling." To Right to Lifers, is abortion a side issue? Uh, no. And since 51 percent of Americans count themselves as pro-life, according to a Gallup Poll released in May, concern over abortion is hardly on the side--it is front and center. Indeed, it's fair to say that plenty of Americans who see themselves as pro-choice still have mixed feelings about including abortion in taxpayer-funded health-insurance plans.
And let's take a look at the other alleged "side issue" cited in The Post: "end-of-life counseling." Is that a "side issue" to the elderly? Or to those with serious illnesses or disabilities? Sarah Palin caused a firestorm last month when she accused the Obama administration of wanting to set up "death panels"; while the words "death panels" do not appear in the legislation, it's obvious that there's more than a little bit of "nudge" toward death in the legislation that came forth from Capitol Hill.
That was the point made by Jim Towey, a former Bush 43 administration official, in a landmark op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last month, "The Death Book for Veterans," in which Towey quoted from a 52-page booklet published by the Veterans Administration during Bill Clinton's presidency--and revived under President Obama--which suggests to vets, if they fear that they might be a "financial burden," or fear becoming "a vegetable," or if they just can't "shake the blues," well, maybe it's time for them to go. And the V.A. can help.
If the government will do that to veterans, then how could the rest of us be safe?
Meanwhile, overseas, in countries that American liberals and leftists look to for political inspiration, the scary stories keep coming. Last week, for example, the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported on euthanasia in Britain's National Health Service; the story was headlined, "Sentenced to death on the NHS/Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors have warned."
Which is to say, abortion and end-of-life-counseling are not "side issues" at all. They are central to the debate. And that's why Obamacare opponents "seized control of the discussion," as The Post put it, because the majority of Americans were on their side. That's why it was easy for the opponents to seize control. After all majority rules. And to the vast majority of Americans, the purpose of health care is to protect, improve, and lengthen life. Life is the primary goal; issues of health care financing are secondary.
But for the political left, "universal coverage" is an end in itself. Everything else is to the side, by definition. Liberal-leftists don't seem really to care what kind of coverage is offered, so long as everyone is covered. It's the neo-socialist principle that we should all be part of the same plan, part of the same big thing, that seems to be paramount in their minds.
And if there's element of power-grabbing, whereby politicians of a certain party get more money and power--and whereby "bioethicists" burrowed into the bureaucracy get to make the most profound decisions of life and death over others--well, that's OK, too.
Lost completely in all such politics, of course, is the fundamental point of medicine--life. Medicine is about cures. That's what the Hippocratic Oath is all about; the doctor swears that he or she will do everything possible to help the patient. There's no mention, in that sacred text, of politics.
The American people can't recite verbatim the Hippocratic Oath, but they know it and revere its essential message. That's why most folks feel affection for doctors and medicine; they certainly like docs and meds more than they like politicians.
But don't expect to hear about the Hippocratic Oath from Obama on Wednesday night. Expect to hear instead, again, about "extending coverage" and "controlling costs."
And as for those "side issues"? You know, abortion and end-of-life-counseling? And other concerns, such as involuntary organ harvesting? And coverage of illegal aliens? Don't expect to hear much about those concerns, other than, of course, a few carefully focus-grouped weasel words.
And that's why Obamacare will fail--because the American people are on to it. And they oppose it.
But The Washington Post will probably hail the speech, and that will be yet another indicator that the MSM just doesn't get it.