In the recent roller coaster ride/mud wrestling match that passed
for a health care debate, Obama proved himself to be capable of hanging
on to principles while compromising on politics and getting the job
done. Although he miscalculated the intransigence of the Republican
opposition, and fumbled away the public option in the face of rebellion
within his own party, Obama and his allies were able to rescue the
Senate bill and get it passed.
The one-term senator from Illinois showed flashes of Lyndon
Johnson’s mastery of the Senate and Tip O’Neill’s finesse in the House
of Representatives as he worked his opponents and his party’s caucus to
move the bill forward after Ted Kennedy’s replacement threatened to
shut it down.
When Republicans insisted that the entire year’s work be thrown into
the trash bin, Obama correctly saw that as a ploy to kill the bill, and
fought back with a populist campaign that left the Republicans with
nothing to do but shout “Hell no you can’t” as a response to Obama’s
“Yes we can.” As a result, Obama may some day be known less for being
the first African-American president and more for being the one who
signed the bill that made Americans see health care as a right, not a
I had kept my hopes for the Obama years modest. Living under Dubya
for eight years, progressives had to learn again and again just how bad
things could get. We had a deep hole to dig out of. When Obama was
sworn in, amid concerts and You Tube tributes, fanfare and flag-waving
multitudes, I thought it would be a good first term if he could
accomplish just two things:
1. Stop sending our young people overseas to die.
2. Let our sick people go to the doctor.
That didn’t seem like too much to ask. Now, with the passage of a
weakened health care reform bill, it appears that, unless the
Republicans are serious about repealing the measure, he has
accomplished one of those goals. By the way, if they do try to roll
back the health care bill, we can expect Central and Northern New York
to be a key battleground. Of our three newly minted local congressmen,
two—Dan Maffei and Bill Owens—voted for the bill, while Mike Arcuri of
Utica voted against it. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee
will find the upstate triangle hard to resist.
When fully implemented, the reform will give 33 million more people
access to health care. It will mean that insurance companies can’t kick
you out when you get sick, and they can’t deny you coverage if you’re
not healthy enough. College kids can stay on their parents’ plan
longer, small businesses can get help to insure their workers and no
one can freeload on the system.
The bickering about costs and mandates can’t change the fundamental
fact that now, more of us, although not all of us, will be able to go
to the doctor when we’re sick.
The president deserves a moment of rest. Then, sir, is it too much
to ask, would you bring our troops home soon? We haven’t forgotten. You
have two years plus. You have started to wind the Iraq war down, while
escalating in Afghanistan. It’s time to bring them home.
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week in the Syracuse New Times.