Point of View Columns

Fake Fuss over Obamacare

The frenzied farcical furor surrounding the technology challenged rollout of the latest phase of the Affordable Care Act would be laughable if the subject matter wasn’t so serious. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, was passed into law in order to address a critical challenge for the people of the United States – quality affordable healthcare being made available to a third of a billion people. While the record is quite clear that Obamacare has begun to address the healthcare inequities of Americans, the Usual Suspects are only too happy, indeed gleeful, to celebrate even any misstep.

A bit of historical perspective is always useful. At the beginning of the 20th century President Theodore Roosevelt advanced the concept of universal health care, an obvious product of the Progressive Movement that initiated so many beneficial reforms in these United States.

Since that time, many presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton have all tried, and failed, to implement a universal health care system that would guarantee medical care for all Americans. And since that time virtually every developed country on this planet (and many that are not so developed) has implemented a universal health care system for its citizens.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009 over 40 million Americans had no medical insurance and millions of other Americans were hopelessly underinsured. And this societal disgrace existed in a country with the best medical technology in the world and the highest medical costs in the world. That the Obama administration was able to shepherd a healthcare bill through a Congress that was already careening towards the partisan poisoned train wreck that it is today, will one day be noted as a great legislative and political achievement.

It should be no surprise that the Teapublicans have led the full throated disparagement of every aspect of Obamacare. But they are silent when it is pointed out that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied health insurance – an established procedure in the health insurance industry prior to the passage of Obamacare.

They are also silent when it is pointed out that, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act Americans can no longer lose their healthcare coverage when they are afflicted by a catastrophic illness. Dropping people with such illnesses from health insurance coverage was standard operating procedure prior to the passage of Obamacare.

And the Teapublicans simply don’t want to talk about the fact that millions of Americans can keep their children covered by the family health care plan until that child turns 26. This is another new feature that was the stuff of fantasy before the passage of Obamacare.

So why would the Teapublicans and their right wing cohorts want to repeal Obamacare? The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare 47 times. The right wing zealots who populate that chamber have shut down the federal government and taken the entire global economy to the brink of an unthinkable cataclysm – all in the name of derailing a law which provides healthcare to Americans.

It has to make one wonder what is it about Obamacare that makes the Teapublicans cross-eyed crazy? Can they be so opposed to children with cancer receiving healthcare? Are they that opposed to men, women and children being able to see a doctor without the specter of bankruptcy looming over them if they get sick? And, have the Teapublicans ever offered a credible alternative to Obamacare?

The answer to the last question is “no”. And the answers to the other questions are probably “no” as well. In which case it is clear that the magma of hate for President Barack Obama has spewed forth in a volcanic eruption of opposition, confrontation, disrespect and invalidation that continues to this very day as Teapublicans are holding up President Obama’s third judicial nomination to the United States Court of Appeals. And there should be no doubt that there is a racialist and racist source to the white hot magma that flows through the halls of power of Washington.

And now we are supposed to believe that the Teapublicans are caterwauling over the technological missteps in the next phase of Obamacare because they care about the healthcare of Americans being jeopardized. Their record of crass and senseless opposition to All Things Obama makes them all look like they are crying crocodile tears.

The computer failures of Obamacare will be fixed. Obamacare will continue to be the law of the land. More Americans will have access to affordable quality healthcare because of Obamacare. And the opponents of Obamacare will find themselves being footnotes to footnotes of history.

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Point of View Columns

Don’t Ask? Don’t Tell?

It is with a sense of wonder that I have watched the continuing debate over whether gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military while being “open” about their sexual orientation and gender preference.

Opposition to allowing millions of American men and women to serve in the military honestly is difficult to understand except for the obvious homophobic undertones. Morale issues are cited. Presumably the notion is that soldiers in combat who are primarily interested in staying alive, will now be forced to divert their attention from survival to concern about the sexual orientation of the artillery commander who might save their lives.

What is more difficult to understand is how the opponents to gays in the military are willing to obliterate the principle of civilian control of the military. Recent polls indicate that well over a majority of Americans support the concept of gay men and women serving openly in the military. In 2008 American voters elected as President a candidate who unequivocally stated his support for the abolition of the much maligned “Don’t Ask, don’t tell” policy. There would seem to be little doubt that any referendum on the issue would result in a similar outcome.

Nevertheless, the Congress and the Department of Defense have gone through this very expensive polling of the members of the American military to ask how they “feel” about gays serving openly in the military. The charade has continued as Senator John McCain, waving his internment as a P.O.W. like a cloak that is supposed to confer omniscience, suggests that the wrong questions were asked in the poll and that, in any event, the poll results are ambiguous and do not warrant a change in military policy. We should await full clarity on the matter.

To quote Representative John Boehner, “chicken crap”.

A bit of history is in order. Black soldiers served in integrated military units during colonial times, through the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After that the U.S. military was segregated, even during the Civil War over 180,000 black troops fought for the Union in segregated units.

During World Wars I and II black and white troops were segregated. But in July of 1948 President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order abolishing racial segregation the military.

It is very clear that if President Truman had asked the military leaders for their opinion integration would have been delayed for decades. Future President Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II commanded a fully segregated military. He only had black troops fight with white units as an emergency measure during the Battle of the Bulge. And even that life-saving move was opposed by many generals and members of Congress.

But President Truman signed an Executive Order. The order was clear and the military, observing the institutional deference of the military to the civilian government of this country, complied.

During the ensuing sixty years the American military has been a leading institution in promoting racial progress, if not complete harmony.

Think about the America in which President Truman signed this executive Order. In 1948 black men and women were still being lynched. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in schools was years away and Till, Chaney, Schwerner, Goodman and Evers all thought that they still had lifetimes ahead of them.

The opinion of the members of the military on the issue of gays in the military is not the issue. The duly elected President of the United States, aka the Commander in Chief, has been clear. To continue this charade is pitiful and dishonorable and only serves to further erode the principle of military deference to the civilian branch of the government.

We are approaching a slippery slope. Today it is the issue of gays in the military. Tomorrow it could be whether or not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan (remember General Stanley McChrystal?).

We need to wake up before the Night of the Generals is upon us.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 27, 2010

The last weekend in the month of August has arrived and in this era of the 24 hour news cycle it is clear that there is something happening here, there and everywhere all of the time. This past week is no exception to this nerve-shredding rule:

The Son Also Rises……
Having written two novels, I have wrestled with editors and my literary agent over what flights of fancy are implausible, even within the realm of fiction. And then I follow the news and realize that truth will always be stranger than fiction.

It was 22 years ago that Dan Quayle was elected Vice President of the United States and continued his successful quest to be perceived as some sort of national joke. His lack of knowledge of even elementary facts, his deer in the headlights look at press conferences, his public failure at spelling “potato” in front of a first grade class……the list goes on. Thankfully President George Herbert Walker Bush was a healthy man and, at the end of his one term, Dan Quayle faded into the obscurity that he (and we) so richly deserved.

And now? Someone named Benjamin Quayle (there’s that name again) appears in a congressional race in Arizona. And this someone is the son of Dan Quayle. And Benjamin Quayle proves that stupidity can be inherited as he took inanity to a new low in winning the Republican primary.

His campaign slogan is eight words (by his count), “Barack Obama is the worst President in history”. It should be noted that in 19 months President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, appointed two women to the Supreme Court, passed the most comprehensive health care legislation in American history and brought the country back from the precipice of financial ruin.

The invisibility of James Buchanan, the corruption of Warren G. Harding and the dogged persistence of George W. Bush to steal a presidential election, deceive this country into a war in Iraq that should never have been waged and nearly collapsing the national economy all come to mind when I think of worst presidents.

Clearly Benjamin Quayle is as good at comparative history as his father was at spelling.

Mano a Mano?
This week the outgoing commandant of the United States Marines, General James Conway, stated that “an overwhelming majority (of Marines) would like not be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual”. A stunning statement in a year of stunning statements, although to his credit, General Conway opined that Marines were “pretty macho”, inferring that since they are willing to fight and die for their country they could probably summon the courage to share a dormitory with someone with a different sexual preference.

One wonders if General Conway is confusing cross-dressing with homosexuality as it is not clear how someone is “openly homosexual” during the course of performing military duties and tasks. I shudder to think that this country is being protected by macho Marines who would cringe at being in the same dormitory with someone with a different gender practice, keeping in mind that sexual activity – heterosexual or homosexual – is prohibited conduct in military dormitories.

And, this statement should be taken within the context of Defense Secretary Robert Gates having ordered a survey of active duty and reserve troops regarding a proposed change in policy that will permit gay men and women to serve in the military without having to misrepresent or lie about their gender preference. The new policy would be, in effect, the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

And once again we are witness to the determination of the rights of a minority by pursuant to the perceived will of the majority. The very first Secretary of Defense was James Forrestal, who appointed in 1947. In 1948 Secretary Forrestal was called upon to carry out President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9841 which eliminated racial segregation in the military.

Even a dimly informed student of American history (Benjamin Quayle anyone?) knows that in 1948 segregation was the law of much of this land known as the United States. Lynching of black Americans was commonplace and any “survey” of the military of the American public or the military would have resulted in a resounding roar of disapproval of such a policy. But President Truman did what was right.

Decisions of morality or constitutionality cannot be subject to a voice vote, because the naysayers will always be the loudest ones and the voice of justice may be muted if not extinguished.

We should wish General Conway all the best for his years of service to this country. We can only hope that, whatever the results of Secretary Gates’ survey, this Administration will do the right thing when it comes to the rights of gay men and women in the military.

It Hurts So Bad
So President and Mrs. Obama went out to dinner during their vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. So Michelle Obama wore a colorful print shift. As is the case with her every public moment, photographs of her latest attire flew around the internet. And then the knives came out – again.

On some level I can understand that some people are compelled to give voice to their inner fashionista and let the world know their opinion on every garment worn by every person of note. I can even understand that some people might care.

What I cannot understand or countenance is the venom and anger and pure vitriol directed at the First Lady because of her choice of clothing. I am forced to think that the source of the venom and anger and vitriol has nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with hatred and envy and ignorance. And that is truly a sad commentary on an aspect of what passes for public discourse in these United States.

Have a great weekend!

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