If one of the important features of the Affordable Care Act is to insure patients against denial of service for pre-existing conditions, should it also then provide service for someone who appears to suffer from a pre-existing propensity to shoot himself in the foot? It seems that this is an important question that should be put to President Obama himself as he goes about publicly trying to defend what is referred to as his “signature” or “legacy” accomplishment of his terms in office—because I am referring to him in reference to someone with a propensity for self injury such as shooting oneself in the foot. For that is, it seems, precisely what he is doing with his Affordable Care Act.
Indeed, the self-destructive tendencies in our chief executive are a long-term affliction, and the symptoms for his current malady presented themselves early in his first administration with a regrettable disposition for what might be regarded as “doing things by halves.” That is, much of the present circumstance, of which more will be explicated below, owes to the President’s seemingly irresistible need to be loved by his enemies and to placate them by surrendering almost all of the advantage of office and public approval that he possesses to ingratiate himself to those bent upon destroying him, his policies, or the whole freakin’ country if it suits them. Thus, his Affordable Care Act, rather than being formulated upon the type of “single-payer system” that is proven effect by almost every other developed nation in the world, is a Rube Goldberg concoction that retains opportunities for insurance companies to continue to profiteer on the public’s sickness and injury, and fashions a Byzantine process that is proving to cause them to lose faith in it, or get sick just listening to the idiots out to ruin it.
Thus, doing things by halves is a pre-existing condition for shooting oneself in the foot. Public policy fashioned in this manner, especially under conditions of extreme partisan division combined with a political faction possessed of indelible racism and hatred of its author, is a design for potential disaster. Firstly, is the President’s seeming obsession for bipartisanship which, rather than being interpreted as an overture to inclusiveness and compromise, is seen as weakness in him to be exploited. Secondly, is his propensity to place himself in a position to have to negotiate compromise from a position of preemptive surrender of half of what would be the best policy to achieve the objectives of universal accessible health care. Thirdly, it results in a policy that retains some of the worst elements of the pre-existing health delivery system, weaknesses can be subsequently exploited—as they indeed already are—to severely deteriorate, if not result in the destruction of the Affordable Care Act. In taking the single-payer “off the table” at the very beginning of the public policy process, the President set in motion the dilemma that he now faces.
And, (he asked rhetorically) what is the dilemma that he now faces? That dilemma has to critical elements: one, what I will call the Richie Incognito problem; two, what I will call the ineptitude problem.
Richie Incognito, if you don’t waste your time following professional sports, is the 340 pound, white, offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins who wrote a filthy, insulting, racist email to his teammate, a black, 340 pound offensive lineman, Jonathan Martin. This is the sort of stuff that fellow teammates and other simian NFL players say goes on and locker rooms all the time, but apparently Martin took it as bullying and went home. In the ensuing media shit storm Incognito has publicly claimed that he actually “loves” his teammate, whom he referred to with the N-word and said he would do unspeakable things to his mother. It’s bullshit of course, but hey, it’s the NFL, and that’s next to Jesus and the troops. Incognito sounded to me like those slave masters of old saying how much they cared for their “darkies.”
So what does this have to do with Barack Obama and his imperiled affordable care act? Well for one, Obama is a bit like Jonathan Martin, a black guy who has to deal with racist white guys. But at least for Martin, who was playing in a league that is predominantly black in its makeup, one wonders why a 340 pound football player needs to take racist shit from anybody. Why doesn’t he kick Incognito’s ass, he’s a “nobody” anyway. (Sorry, I took too much Latin in school.)
We know what’s wrong with Richie “Who?” Incognito; but what the hell is wrong with Jonathan Martin? Maybe the same thing that’s wrong with Barack Obama. Admittedly, Obama is a (half) black man playing in a predominantly white man’s game, politics; but, godammit, he’s the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, twice elected by his people. So why is he taking shit from the likes of John “Melanoma” Boehner, or sitting deferentially to the questions of an arrogant faux-journalist turd like Chuck Todd? Most people don’t like bullies, but they also don’t have much respect for those who have the capacity, but seemingly are unwilling to defend themselves. People expect their leaders to be strong; if they show unnecessary weakness they lose respect. And the President’s approval poll numbers demonstrate that. He is a man who wrote a book titled the The Audacity of Hope. But he needs to show a little audacity where it counts.
Secondly, the President has shot himself in the foot by not being ready for the rollout of his signature Affordable Care Act. He has access to enormous funds, all sorts of intelligence and the most expert staff if he wishes, he won hjis elections with astute use of media technology; yet he blows the main interface of his policy with the public it is supposed to serve, putting up and untested third-rate website whose failings play right into the hands of his enemies who wish to make it appear that the affordable care act is a public policy that is bad for America. He makes assertions and promises about his policy that are unclear at best and disingenuous at worst, allowing his enemies to portray them as the latter. If this is his signature/legacy piece of legislation we ask, why has he not thought this through? Where are the people who should be advising him on this process? Why has he appointed secretary, Sibelius, who seems weak, incapable of explaining the policy forthrightly, and who allows herself to be manhandled by congressional committees? The answer that seems to emerge, and seems to be again a factor in the president’s declining poll numbers, is ineptitude. The people don’t like inept leaders either.
What adds to this (at least appearance) of ineptitude is the President’s tendency to shoot himself in the other foot by coming off as a whiner; first, going public on several occasions to “take the blame” for the problems with the website, to do a poor job at explaining himself out of his “promise” that people could retain their existing insurers and doctors, and finally backing down by allowing just that for another year. It is all defensive, all giving ground, all giving into the bullies, and all an endangerment to one of the most important pieces of public policy in the last century. Mr. Obama seems capable of the decisiveness of killing bin Laden, sending drones to kill anyone else he chooses, of keeping Guantánamo in operation, deporting undocumented workers, and of allowing his administration to spy on its own people, but he is like a piñata at an ongoing birthday celebration for Tea Party racist Republicans when it comes to domestic policy. They hate his guts, wish him ill, or worse, and will do everything they can to destroy his signature/legacy healthcare legislation including shutting down the government and imperiling the national economy. They not only don’t care about the health of the people, they don’t care about the health of the nation.
There is not much time left for Mr. Obama to wake up and go on the offensive, to stop backing down, to stop giving in, to stop whining, and, since his enemies are so fucking enamored of guns, to point his own gun at something other than his own feet. Yes, You Can. And Damn it, You Had Better!
© 2013, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.16.2013)