Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

With the deepest respect, please alter your message.

You are a skilled communicator and a brilliant rhetorician. You've given so many of us renewed faith in the political process and in the potential greatness of this country, based mainly on your ability to translate grandiloquent ideals into clear, cogent oratory. But whatever you've been trying to sell about health care policy is clearly not effective enough to permeate the stubborn miasma of thick-headed ignorance and shrill right-wing punditry. Here's the data from the latest Reuter's poll. I'm sure, like most of these things, it was given at a Reno Sam's Club - on some fold-out table cramped between 40-gallon vats of Grape Drink and 20-pound boxes of Cocoa Pebbles.
Obama's approval rating on healthcare was at 41 percent, unchanged from last month, while 36 percent believed his reform plas were a good idea dn 42 percent a bad idea -- also unchanged from last month's NBY/Wall Street Journal poll.

While I realize that part of your strategy all along has been to refrain from presenting a detailed, comprehensive plan (SEE ALSO: Hillarycare, circa 1993), since doing so would give the Republican propaganda slime machine every opportunity to misrepresent it, what we all need to accept is that anything you ever say or do, from here until the end of your presidency, will be attacked mercilessly by the propaganda goons of The Right Wing.

If you, along with 100 other world leaders, were to help devise a fool-proof, multilateral strategy for world peace this afternoon, military contractors and NRA lobbyists would be swarming Congress by Thursday. By Friday, John Boehner would be bitching about being left out of the policy-making process. And by Saturday, Right-Wing PAC ads would be swarming red-state TV waves - interrupting "America's Top Model," "The Real Housewifes of Orange County," "Bridezillas," and "The O'Reilly Factor" (otherwise known, in many of these parts, as the news)"- throughout households in Arkansas, Montana, Kansas, and Wyoming to question the wisdom and timing of such a plan.

World peace: Is it too much too soon?

Inevitably, even Harry and Louise would weigh-in.

Louise: But Harry, it says here that all countries would be fully expected to comply with the new global peace, love, and unicorns agreement. That sounds like an awful lot of government control. Unicorns: Isn't that how Hitler got into power?
Harry: Pretty much, Louise. Pretty much.

Regardless of what you say or how well you say it, Republicans will always find a way to drag your words into the sewer. The solution? Win the propaganda war. Appeal to Americans' emotions and anxieties. Solicit Madison Avenue to make the public option look smart, cool, or even sexy (Jesus, remember when they convinced us that we needed these?)

Turn health care reform into a morality play, Mr. President. People are literally dying while the GOP - pasty, expedient, Kafka-esque bureaucrats and inhumane extensions of Big Pharma - exacerbate the situation by shielding mega-corporations and rejecting reform altogether.
Further, Mr. Grassley said this week that he would vote against a bill unless it had wide support from Republicans, even if it included all the provisions he wanted. "I am negotiating for Republicans," he told MSNBC.

Also, eliminate all the proxies (Pelosi, Reid, et. al.). These people have lower approval ratings than a straight masseuse at a Republican spa retreat. You're the one who should be getting maximum exposure right now. You own the bully pulpit: Order up an hour of prime-time (as most of the good shows are still on hiatus) and get in front of the TV camera so that America can be reminded of why it's in good hands.

Please alter the format.

Can we please cease and desist with the town hall meet 'n greets already? What exactly was the end game here? To give unemployed white trash a venue to vent their deepest fears and frustrations? To force already reviled congressmen and women to articulate health reform proposals that haven't even been fully conceived of yet? To give everyone an opportunity to finally show off their newest sidepiece? And great job sending Republican senator Chuck Grassley out and about. Grassley, whom I presume was sent out to promote aspects of a possible bipartisan plan, instead bragged to his Adel, Iowa audience about how he was responsible for withdrawing an "aggressive end-of-life" patient-physician consultation option (a.k.a. Operation Kill Grandma) from the committee bargaining table.

(Oh, Chuck. Even if you did accomplish something as heroic as preventing the terminally ill from gaining access to home care in their final days, you needn't go popping off about it in front of a crowd that somehow confuses Hospice with concentration camps. Unless you meant to sink this whole gambit all along. Thank you, Fredo.)

Having such a haphazard format in these places amounts to political suicide, Mr. President. It cedes far too much ground to what has proven to be enemy territory. I know you're a sports fan, so here's a baseball analogy: Assuming they were pitted against the loathsome Red Sox in a playoff series, would the Yankees ever agree to play the entire series at uber-hostile Fenway Park in the hopes of maybe converting one or two wayward Sox fans into Yankee-lovers? Exactly: Dumbest idea ever. Then, Mr. President, why are you doing virtually the same thing?

Most of these hostile individuals arrive in droves (thanks to aggressive harvesting by health-insurance-sponsored special interests), forming lines at the crack of dawn and crowding out most would-be sympathizers. As it turns out, these people come to bitch about everything from gun rights to the demise of civilization. In other words, many of these venues have devolved into carnivals of right-wing lunacy. From The New York Times:
But most of those who spoke Tuesday seemed unlikely to vote in the Democratic primary. Many seemed concerned about issues that are either not in the health care legislation or are peripheral to the debate in Washington - abortion, euthanasia, coverage of immigrants, privacy.

I knew it. So after all this, it comes right back down to:
  • The stench-ridden blasphemy of two boys holding hands
  • "Those socialist sum'bitches wanna' take all my guns and ammonium nitrate away."
  • "Those damn Mexicans are takin' over."
  • The sanctity of the sperm-egg merger.
Because these overindulged, right-wing divas have gained so much leverage over American politicians, now they believe as though they can say and do just about anything - including toting around semi-automatic weapons at public meeting places. From contributing New York Times op-ed columnist, Gail Collins:
Meanwhile, over in Arizona, a protester who showed up to meet the local congresswoman at a supermarket was removed by police when the pistol he had holstered under his armpit fell, bouncing on the floor and alarming the nonprotesting attendees. This, too, turned out to be legal, although the dropping part is not recommended.

Also not recommended: Being a large, black, wealthy professional athlete engaged in an eerily similar scenario.

These maniacs need to be called out on their crazy. Be the alpha, Mr. President. Think Dog Whisperer. You're Cesar effing Milan; they're an out-of-control Shitzu-Yorki mix. Here's a primer, in case you're still a bit apprehensive.

Otherwise, eliminate these slow-motion train wrecks of public discourse and replace them with one or both of these:

A nationally televised presidential-style debate over health care policy, in which a competent, impartial moderator (think Jim Lehrer, perhaps the only real newsman left in the biz) presides over a dialogue between you and this week's sacrificial standard-bearer from the opposition party. This idea, proposed by a colleague of mine, is brilliant in its logic and simplicity. In this format, you will have the profound advantage against your opponent, be it Chuck Grassely, Bobby Jindal, Eric Kantor, Michael Steele, John Boehner or any other GOP scrub who's able to compose a complete sentence on-camera. Okay, so maybe not Bobby Jindal.

Why engage in such a debate? Because you're smart, eloquent, virtually unflappable. And because you have the evidence on your side: 45 million Americans are uninsured; an additional 2,000 lose their employee-sponsored health care every day; one-third of private health care costs go to administrative fees alone; two-thirds of American bankruptcies are of the medical variety; private insurers cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, as their policies have repeatedly proven to be wholly unethical and purely profit-driven; medicare and the VA - both fully backed by the government - have been solvent and largely successful for years (You'd most likely have a wheelchair riot on your hands if either were rescinded, replaced, or compromised).

And then there's the ethical imperative: During one day, at an open clinic in Los Angeles, nonprofit Remote Area Medical provided over 1,400 services to over 600 needy individuals - including breast exams, tooth extractions, and pap smears. Here's The Times' slide show.

But if you're really that wedded to the town hall format, why not have one - but on your terms, Mr. President? Screen and hand-pick an audience who have submitted their questions ahead of time. And make sure all attendees are apprised of the specific, rigid ground rules, i.e., no speaking out of turn, no ankle holsters or loaded M-16s, no decrying that the fluoridization of our water supply has rendered our male earthling population impotent and/or vulnerable for an inevitable alien invasion, and no outbursts declaring the collapse of democracy.

I think that's it. Oh, actually, one more thing:

Find a way to hide Max Baucus:

This guy's your point man on health care? Seriously? I mean...seriously?
After speaking at a preventive-care conference here last week, he was swarmed by protesters. Or, in Mr. Baucus's words, "agitators, whose sole goal was to intimidate, disrupt and not let any meaningful conversation go on." There were a couple of people in the crowd "with YouTubes," Mr. Baucus added (meaning cameras)

Mr. President, I hope you take all of these suggestions to heart, as I sincerely believe that they could bolster this country's chances for comprehensive health reform. I think I've also failed to mention that, as a geriatric myself (I am nearly 10 years old), I am more than merely a passive observer in this ongoing issue.

God bless you, Mr. President. And God bless America.

Sincerely yours,

Bean the Bearded Dragon

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Stop the Inanity. by Brock Cohen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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