Testing Obama’s fortitude

(NNPA)—It is time for testing on several fronts as the health care debate becomes the platform for a general uprising over President Barack Obama’s governing program. His very life is being tested, as people, like William Kostric, show up to a New Hampshire Town hall meeting with a gun strapped to his leg. In an interview with Kostric, he claimed his right under New Hampshire law, to carry a weapon openly, but he also had a sign with him carrying the words saying that “it is time to water the tree of liberty.”



This was a phrase from Thomas Jefferson who that inferred that liberty often required the shedding of blood, and it had been the same phrase carried by Timothy McVeigh when he blew up the federal court house in Oklahoma City several years ago.

The strange thing about this is that there are no news reports of the Secret Service securing this individual quickly, given that the president of the United States was there.

Federal law, which should take precedence in that case, prohibits any citizens from threatening the president of the United States and Kostric most certainly would have seemed threatening having a loaded weapon on his person.

When I saw that, my mind went back to 1988 when the Secret Service uncovered a plot by some White supremacists in St. Louis to kill Rev. Jesse Jackson when he was running for president. Their admitted motive, captured on tape by an informant was that, he was getting too close to being the president.

Barack Obama is already the president and one doesn’t have to think too much to sense the haters plotting to do harm whenever they have a reasonable opportunity.

Rather than the media denouncing such practices and the vitriol that has accompanied these town hall meeting, they appear to want more drama, following the president out to town hall meetings in the midwest in anticipation that he will be confronted personally. He has done well in those settings, but you could not tell it from the subsequent reportage. Rather than praising him for his clarity in explaining difficult concepts of health care that are on the table, he is being chastised for not having said this or that, done this or that, and taking little leadership. Where have these people been? What guides their conclusions?

I understand the polling that has taken place much better than the opinions of the pundits. The questions in recent polls have asked how has Obama handled the health care debate. It has found him at 43 percent, with 48 percent thinking he could have done better.

But it is more difficult to handle a debate where fear-mongering is the most potent resource and where the confusion around the lack of a settled piece of legislation feeds into the fear and indecision.

The insurance industry is a master at this. They have fielded television ads that appear to support reform, but are larded with subtle questions that propose to support a “bipartisan” solution, meaning a solution that is favored by Republicans as well as Democrats. That is increasingly unlikely as one can see by the leadership in the Senate of Grassley of Iowa, the minority leader on the Senate Finance Committee who is working with the chair, Max Baucus.

Baucus is already compromised because he has been given more money from the health care industry than any other senator except for Grassley, but his deference to Grassley makes it all the worse. It was the same during the Clinton years in the 1992-1994, when Clinton tried to get a health care bill through.

He did craft a bill, but there were also several others developed by other members of Congress and none of them made it out of the relevant committees due to the power of the insurance lobby. So, the issue is whether Obama will have the guts to stand up to them or negotiate reform away, seeking to get anything to set him up for re-election in 2012.

Already, the wheels of the “government option” seem to be coming off. This measure had been sold as a mechanism to provide competition to the 1,300 health insurance companies to bring down costs.

Now, his secretary of health is saying that is the same thing can be achieved without this option, it might be done.

He needs to not be intimidated, but to understand the raucous town hall meetings as nothing more than the massive rant of those who lost the election, that things will clarify when there is a bill and the American people will most probably swing behind it and him.

(Dr. Ron Walters is professor of government and politics emeritus at the University of Maryland.)


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