speed limit infinityThere are moments in each our lives that we just know are going to be the snapshots our minds will use to remember important events that must never be forgotten.  Sometimes they are snapshots that are uniquely our own, like watching a child’s first steps, or the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse-to-be and felt the invisible lighting wrack your senses. But sometimes they are snapshots that we all share, like Armstrong’s boot hitting the surface of the moon, the last moments of Kennedy’s life as a sniper’s bullets found their mark, or the still vivid horror of September 11th 2001. 
 
Thursday’s health care summit may very well turn out to be the snapshot of the Obama presidency and a seven hour highlight reel of how the 21st century will see to it that Lincoln’s words remain immortal, that a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
 
I originally envisioned writing a different piece  to recap Thursday’s historic health summit. I thought I would be doing what every pundit does, giving you my own blow-by-blow account of who the winners and losers were in this free-to-view, televised, bipartisan match up that was intended to be a political game of Bridge, not only as a metaphor about closing a divide, but as a game intended to see if opposing parties could be thrust upon each other from across a table, check out the cards they were dealt, and try to work as a team to actually win a hand for the American people.  But, I changed my mind. This turned out to be too important and it deserves to be more than that. I can only hope I can rise to the challenge and find a way to articulate the history that I saw unfold Thursday.
 
I’ll admit it.  When President Obama got in front of the cameras during the most viewed television event in history, this year’s Super Bowl, and presented the challenge to Congress to come together and try to move forward on Health Care Reform legislation, something  that has been held just out of our reach for the last five decades, I thought to myself, finally, here will be a forum to separate the posers from the players.  This will be the chance to for the American people to see if their wishes are truly being represented by those they charged with the task to be their voice.  What I was privileged enough to witness instead was a mechanism of transparency that I hope will be repeated with every major piece of legislation that proves to be so philosophically contentious that our legislators simply can not find a way to build bridge long enough to span an ocean’s divide and put the American people back into the conversation.
 
It was amazing to hear from so many old-time career congressmen and congresswomen that they have never been part of anything like this summit in all their years and that they have never seen this body act so civilly with each other for so long when meeting over a piece of legislation that has such deep party lines drawn in the sand.  Why not?  If they don’t normally behave like the quasi-nobles they want us to think they are, why do they insist on calling each other distinguished?  Now we know they can all walk the walk when the cameras are on, let’s hope they can take this obviously new lesson to budget meetings and the endless hours of debate that are required to build a meaningful consensus and hammer out the details on the things that Americans want and deserve.
 
When President Obama made his opening remarks, he tried to set the tone that would be needed for progress.  He didn’t want it to be another day of focusing on the details that divide, he wanted to focus on the details that both parties seem to embrace, things like the unacceptable practice of allowing pre-existing conditions to be used as a device to deny or drop someone’s coverage, bringing down premiums for everyone, and getting decent, accessible health care for the frustrated legions of hard working Americans and small businesses that have nowhere else to turn for help.
 
But the moment I saw the Republican Whip, Eric Cantor, and Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner, walk into the room risking a hernia by lugging in the 2400 page House and Senate Bill, I knew where this was meeting was going to go.  What I didn’t know is that they would be getting my thanks today.  Thank you for sticking steadfast to your guns and personifying the word “unyielding” from a minority position, thank you for having such an obtuse opinion of the American people that you thought courtroom theatrics would provide the smoke and mirrors needed to misdirect the viewing public from the big white elephant in the room.  Thank you for showing us all your true colors.  Thank you for helping America see the light.  And most of all, thank you for lighting the torches for us on the once dark path to a reconciliation vote that will see the simplest and most ancient tenet of democracy find its bloom, the majority rules.
 
Barack Obama did what great Presidents do, he engaged the American public in the process.  But at the same time, he showed us once again what kind of truly unique enigma he is.  Every time he faces an opponent, they think it’s going to be a cake walk.  Ask Hillary Clinton, or even better, ask John McCain what it is exactly that he is reminded of every day. They all seem to make the mistake of thinking that because he doesn’t engage in the customary chest-pounding we’ve grown accustomed to, they will be able to lead him around like a puppy on leash and have their way.
 
Time and time again he proves to be something else, something I can best describe as a shy matador. I know it’s an oxymoron, after all, there is nothing normally shy about a matador, but it sums up what I see in this man.  Before he get’s into the ring the spectacle has already started, the crowd is already electric with anticipation and it is the matador’s job to take charge of the bull’s final passes.  He has to be on his toes and posses the agility of a feline, he has to use brains before brawn, he has to know when to flash red and instigate a charge, and he has to know when to move and allow the bull’s momentum to offer him a clear shot with his blade that will make the beast’s vulnerable spot his undoing. 
 
After a day of the same tired talking points, his closing statement did exactly that, and more. The look on John Cantor’s face when President Obama, Mr. Hope himself, actually mouthed the words that a compromise may not be able to be reached, you finally saw the dumbfounding realization wash over him that they had blown a perfect opportunity to affect the change they want by choosing theatrics over substance, by distancing themselves from opportunity instead of embracing it.  It was almost as priceless as watching Obama completely baffle John McCain by agreeing with him flat out on the point he was trying to make and turning him into a stuttering mess.
 
In 21st century America, forums like this have got to be made common practice. As everyday Americans rehash Thursday’s events with conversations around the water cooler and kitchen tables, as people ask themselves if they want to put their boat in a ”pool” or a lake, as they grapple with the logic presented by both sides and make an educated determination about what is truly best for themselves, I would be stupefied if there is not substantial movement in the polls, now that a lot of the shadowy mystery has been dragged into the light.  If I’m wrong, I’ll grin and bear it, but if I’m right, I will be delighted and filled with a newfound confidence that we really can take our government back if the doors and windows are wide open for all of us to peer in on the proceedings that decide our future. 
 
If these legislators want to keep saying that America rejects this, or embraces that, at least have the common decency to let us see what’s actually behind door number one and door number two.  I think America is quickly getting sick and tired of making every decision based on whether it is stamped with an R or a D.
 
Everyone agreed that health care must be reformed.  Everyone agreed that our current trajectory is unsustainable.  Now that America finally had a chance to hear everyone’s positions loud and clear, I am confident that we will have a law in place by April and I really do hope that Republicans in Congress can look past their own nose and work across the aisle to represent their constituencies and do their very best to get more of their ideas implemented before they are simply left out of the discussion altogether as Democrats have been 16 out of the 22 times a reconciliation vote has been used in our recent history. 
 
If the majority was really against the bill on the table, as every Republican on Thursday professed, wouldn’t it be President John McCain calling the shots? Obama wasn’t miming his intentions to overhaul the system when stadiums were filled with the hopeful and the entire world tuned in for 2 years of tire kicking and checking under the hood.  And I hope that everyone agrees with the mathematical truth that 51% still constitutes a majority.
 
President Obama will not wait to bring desperately needed relief to struggling Americans because time will not stop for anyone. This moment is too important, this moment decides the future, this moment is in our hands.  It’s time to do the right thing.

14 Responses to “Health Care Summit 2010: the Road Forward”

  • Victoria:

    Great analysis. Thoughtful, insightful and well written. btw: I think you’re right!

  • Daniel McKernan:

    Nice job Aris. I loved the matador analogy, it sure fits for President Obama.

  • Donna No Shock:

    Another masterpiece Aris. You have so many great points in this article but this one struck me the most, “Barack Obama did what great Presidents do, he engaged the American public in the process”. This is what sets him apart from so many others and puts him IMO in the class of FDR, Lincoln and Kennedy. They understood the importance of bringing us, we the people, into the process.

    Thank you for an excellent, insightful article.

  • Nadia:

    Aris, I truly believe that God is at work at All Times and this definitely shows the words penned had to be put down in writing.President Barack Obama is Nobody’s Fool But very much an Intellectual which is why he belongs in the position he carries today as PRESIDENT of this Country. I also want to mention that the Role of the Republicans is to Ridicule our President but this only makes Americans realise how these so called Lawmakers have no Manners and Charisma in Comparison to our President who very much shows COURTESY and Politeness to ALL even to those who are against HIM and out to destry him,however I applaud your beautiful analysis and I definitely laughed at your analogy of the Matador. It is Good.

  • Peter:

    Aris again you demostrated your eloquence & extraordinary ability to grasp the events that plague our society today. Indeed you are doing what President Obama so desperately is trying to accomplish, and that is to open the eyes of those republicans that it is high time to meet the health care requirements of the people of America to have a revised health care system that meets the needs of all..
    Congratulations, you are our representitive on the forefront of this issue. I hope The President can notice your contributions.

  • VIR MIR:

    Aris good job, I liked it a lot but some may find it too long.

  • Dr. Vigilance:

    Dear Aris: I find your analysis of the arduous and supremely intricate Summit 2010 session stimulating and intriguing.Your erudite and well-researched essays remind me of the great American writer and patriot Thomas Paine as well as of the endearing wit and common sense of Will Rogers. You have the rare ability to reinterpret what we all have witnessed – some with mixed feelings – in an appealingly constructive way. You marry pragmatism to idealism! Consequently, you arrive at original conclusion, well-framed in a coherent historical context.
    A brief digression into a matter of urgency to all authors, especially freelancers and those devoted to to advancing our common welfare. Roy Blount Jr. president of Authors Guild (Authors Guild Bulletin, Winter 2010, page 4) editorializes: “…there is the school of thought that books shouln’t cost anything because ‘information wants to be free.’ …a book is more than information. It’s someone’s – several people’s – work…. To send one’s child to… universities costs (say) an author maybe $50,000 a year. How about College wants to be free?” I would add that while authors breathe air, they can definitely not live on air alone. You, Aris, are a valued member of a select fraternity/sorority of altruistic souls gifted with writing skills. Their incandescent conscience impels them to give freely of their precious time and energy to improve the lot of the American people. Therefore, I am pleased to send you our modest contribution for continuing to elighten and entertain your many readers at, I should think, considerable personal sacrifice!
    The “loyal” Republican Opposition promotes an “incremental” approach to the health reform initiative. But many vital enterprises demand a unitary and soundly integrated design and execution. The result is most felicitous when created by a visonary genius – alas, a species in short supply in this or any other age. Imagine the immortal Taj Mahal or the sublime Sistine Chapel, if designed by quarrelsome committees and subjected to iunterminable popularity polls, amendments and delays. Compare, for contemporary good measure, the chaotic evolution of the most worthy post-9/11 monument/plaza/edifices on Manhattan’s Ground Zero! First conceived by an uncompromising master architect, the noble project has been floundering for years – a shameful exercise in disunity. Self-serving moentary interests, political bickering and short-sightedenss are fully to blame. Shall we not learn from that debacle?
    And lastly, is it not ironic that when it comes to critical issues of public health the supposedly “family-oriented” conservative statesmen and women exhibit seeming disregard for some fundamental ethical principles held in common by all dedicated Humanists and genuine followers of the Judeo-Christan faiths (and of course others like Buddhism and traditioanl Islam as well). These are currently best exemplified in the Democratic plan as presented to Congress. Are we not all deemed to be one another’s keepers and are we not charged with sharing our bounty with those who are hungry, impoverished or in need?
    Thank you, Aris, and sincere congratulations, for so eloquently bringing to our attention much that could easily have become obscured by the heated arguments and counterarguments. Those darted about through heavy air for the better part of one day. Like you, I believe that good will and common sense – the largely untapped power of human reasoning – always prevail in the end. However, time marches relentlesssly on and we are fast running out of it.

  • Anthony Miller:

    Aris,

    Beautiful summary. I hope Americans are paying attention and not just listening to their favorite pundit. We will see in November 2010.

  • Wanda:

    You did an awesome job with this summary Aris. In my heart I believe you are right. I just hope the Republicans and the Tea Baggers have not made most Americans too cynical to see the truth. We have a brilliant President in the White House. I am still full of hope that, with our help, he can turn this country around.

  • Dene:

    Great analysis Aris. Thanks.

  • sduncan:

    I enjoyed reading your analysis of Thursday’s event and I agree with what you said. I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop next week when the President announces the way forward. I hear so much about what he is going to do, what he should do and I hope people will wait to hear from him.

  • Keith:

    Aris, well-thought out analysis and summary! Spot on! Keep up the good work.

  • Your posts are obviously extremely eloquent and well-written. At the end of the day, though, they’re nothing but thinly veiled partisan hit pieces, and reading them is about as enlightening as is listening to Rush Limbaugh.

    I grew up in Europe, and I’ve lived in the U.S. for the past 17 years. It’s the same lopsided bickering on both sides of the Atlantic, like 5-year-olds in a sandbox.

    The right-haters against the left-haters. Yawn.

  • Aris:

    I’s sorry that’s how you feel, but I do believe in making health care accessible to everyone. I do believe in global warming. I do believe it was wrong to invade Iraq. I do believe that a college education should not be something only a smaller and smaller percentage of the population can attain. I do believe that more and more of America is going to fall through the cracks if they are completely broken of hope.

    It is exactly because people like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are allowed to inject an ideology that I find so completely flawed directly into the main vein of the population through our 21st century phenomenon of “entertainment news” that I started writing.

    I know most people only keep a partial eye on those in charge, life often and understandably has too many distractions, and if Rush & Co. are allowed to dominate the discussion and are the only voices heard by the ones not tuned completely in, the lines between fiction and fact can quickly become blurred. I’m here to shout from the other corner that it’s not OK with me.

    My purpose is not change anyone’s devotion to a political party, any more than I would ever ask someone to change their religion or traditions, but to share with people of any party, or even no party, how I feel and what I see. Hopefully, if I can make sense and/or add some different perspective, I can get a few off the fence and help build the majority that a democracy needs to affect the changes that I and many more seek. Right now I see an opportunity for change with an extraordinary President that seems to be right in line with what I believe in and I will do my level best to take advantage of that opportunity.

    If that’s what you consider a battle of right vs left … guilty as charged!

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