Ever wish you could sit down and talk to President Obama? Such a conversation might go this way....
Sir - if I may - you're at risk of losing the narrative on health care, and your reform program with it.
Good to see you back for another chat. I wish the town hall discussions were as civil as ours have been. The vicious hostility voiced at some of them recalls for me nothing so much as the hokeyed-up anger at the "tea parties" last spring.
Sir, I'm here to help you. Even in the most transparent administration in history, your ObamaCare may be headed the way of HillaryCare.
A coupla things. First, it's no longer health care reform - it's health insurance reform. My people in my weekly Wednesday night polling meetings tell me precise terminology is crucial. In this, everybody except government is dishonest. The No. 1 enemies are doctors, the insurance industry, and the pharmaceuticals - Big Pharma. Combined, they're ripping off the public. Second, I've got this one under control. I don't need your help - and I'm not sure I want it.
Isn't that part of the point, Mr. President - that on health care or whatever you want to rename it, a major cohort of the public doesn't feel the need for federal help? Combine that cohort with those on Medicare who will see cuts in their care options (as you have said), plus those confused and anxious about what the final plan will mean for them, plus those rattled by horror stories about rationed care and dismal service and diminished quality and too many people dying on waiting lists under the British and Canadian plans so often cited favorably by you and your team - and you've got two things.
What two things?
A lot of unhappy people - also known as voters - and a closing window for ObamaCare.
Look. These town halls often are mobs of the misinformed fed "disinformation," as my communications officer for health care, Linda Douglass, so aptly put it for CNN. The Senate Majority Leader, the distinguished Harry Reid, was right when he said the attendees are "taking their cues from talk show hosts, Internet rumor-mongers...and insurance rackets." They're stirred up by far-right zealots and Republican scare-tactic organizing - by the same sort of people who define the proactive reform we have in mind for the nation's health insurance system as "socialized medicine." And by people like Sarah Palin. Can you imagine - "death panels"? On what planet did she dream up that one?
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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