If the Democrats obey Obama's commands and pass health-care reform legislation by the August recess, they will be committing partisan suicide, akin to lemmings going over the cliff en masse.
Obama's insistence that we completely make over our health-care system -- and that we do it two weeks after the first bill was marked up in the first committee -- is too arrogant by half. It smacks of the same kind of overreaching as doomed FDR's second term in 1937 after his landslide victory in 1936, when he proposed to pack the Supreme Court to reverse their anti-New Deal rulings.
Americans are increasingly turning against his program, in any case. The Washington Post poll has public approval of the plan below 50 percent, and Rasmussen has it trailing in approval 46 percent to 49 percent. Doubts are mounting. For Obama to ride roughshod over their concerns about a matter so intimate will be too much for them to take.
What is the rush? Americans will ask. The bill is not even slated to take effect until next year! We passed the stimulus package, they will note, in a similar rush during the first week of his presidency only to see it fall flat amid administration reinventions of history. Now, spokespeople for Obama opine that the package was never intended to have much effect this year.
How, voters will ask, can we cover 50 million new people without any new doctors or nurses? The answer is to ration health care, with the U.S. government deciding who will get hip and knee replacements, heart bypass surgery and all manner of medical treatments. And what does rationing mean? It means that the elderly will be denied care, which they can now get whenever they want it.
The Obama plan effectively repeals Medicare. It puts a Federal Health Board between the elderly and their doctors. The board will instruct public and private insurance carriers on what procedures are to be approved, at what cost and for what patients. The bulk of this rationing will, of course, fall on the elderly. We will have to revisit the idea that the elderly have, in the words of former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, "a duty to die."
The more word gets around about what the bill contemplates, the firmer opposition is going to become. That's why Obama wants to push it through now, while he still has some popularity left.
And, if the bill passes, then what? The howls of protest from the elderly the first time they are denied health care will be something to behold. It will become evident that immigrants -- legal and not -- are being given the health care now reserved for the elderly, and the anger will be enormous and instant.
Most Americans are not sick and don't use medical facilities frequently. But the elderly are in constant touch with their doctors and medical providers. The curtailment of that access will become immediately apparent -- in more than enough time for the 2010 elections.
There are some votes that live on and on. They don't go away. People remember. From the time Bush Sr. passed the Kuwait resolution for military action against Saddam Hussein until Bush Jr.'s Iraq War began to go south in 2004, the gold standard for an appropriate attitude on national defense and security policy was how one voted on the Kuwait war resolution.
Clinton chose Al Gore for his ticket in 1992 largely based on his vote in favor of the invasion. It sent a signal that Gore and he were "new kinds of Democrats." This health care vote is a matter of similar consequence, and the impact of this vote will last long and linger for years.