The Health Care Debate: Fear and Loathing in Guadalajara

As the health care debate reaches a fever pitch in the US, President Obama weighed in from Mexico and attempted to deprive his detractors of a major talking point: that the US’s health care system could become like Canada’s.

“I've said that the Canadian model works for Canada. It would not work for the United States, in part simply because we've evolved differently…we've got to develop a uniquely American approach to this problem,” Mr. Obama said.

The President joined his North American counterparts, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at a press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the three had held a two-day annual summit.

The slight against Canada’s health system didn’t seem to faze Harper, who merely brushed it aside, “On the American health care debate, on the debate over the system of health care, as we know, as you know well, Canadians support their own health care system. As for the rest of this question, my only answer is that this is an American debate…”

The Obama administration has decried the all-out brawling that has broken out at health care town halls around the US of late, saying much of it is manufactured by opponents of health care reform. But as those debates continue unabated, President Obama praised the mere fact that the national conversation is focused on the topic, “With respect to the health care debate, we are having a vigorous debate in the United States, and I think that's a healthy thing. The reason it's necessary is because we are on a currently unsustainable path.”

The President assured Harper this would not be the last time someone played the “Canada” card. “I suspect that you Canadians will continue to get dragged in by those who oppose reform, even though I've said nothing about Canadian health care reform. I don't find Canadians particularly scary, but I guess some of the opponents of reform think that they make a good boogeyman.”

Obama vigorously defended his southern counterpart Monday in Guadalajara, for his efforts in fighting the drug traffickers, which are permeating Mexico's society.

"I have great confidence in President Calderon's administration applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels, but doing so that's consistent with human rights," President Obama said as he joined Canadian Prime Minister Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a regional summit.

The issue of human rights stems from US concerns over what some see as heavy-handed tactics by Mexico's military as they carry out Calderon's anti-drug war. It's those concerns which have delayed the implementation of the entire Merida Initiative aid package, in which the US is providing anti-drug equipment and resources to the Mexican government.

Calderon appealed directly to Obama for the money when the two met upon Mr. Obama's arrival in Mexico Sunday. Obama is giving Calderon the benefit of the doubt in his "courageous effort" in dealing with the crisis, which has ramifications for US security, as well. "The biggest, by far, violators of human rights right now are the cartels themselves that are kidnapping people and extorting people and encouraging corruption in these regions. That's what needs to be stopped," the President said, alongside Calderon.

Calderon strove to assure the international press gathered that his government is playing by the rules and he challenged anyone to show him otherwise, "In the struggle for the security and safety of the Mexican people, obviously we have a strong commitment to protect human rights of everybody, the victims and even of the criminal themselves. And this is how it has been; this is how it will continue to be. And this is how the federal police will act, the attorney generals and armed forces will act...And anyone who says the contrary certainly would have to prove this: any case, just one case, where the proper authority has not acted in a correct way, that the competent authorities have not punished anyone who has abused their authority, whether they be police officers or they be soldiers or anyone else."