Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Yes He (Still) Can: Obama got his mojo back through health care

Girl with posterIt’s time for the detractors and tea partiers and general naysayers to take a deep breath, pack up their signs and book their one-ways home.  Health care reform passed tonight in what even Fox News concedes is a victory for President Barack Obama.  The bill passed 219-212 with Republicans stamping their little feet all the way.  The bill is now headed to Obama to be signed into law and is what CNN calls, “the most sweeping American social legislation in more than four decades”.  The path for progress has finally been cleared and Obama has passed the biggest test of his presidency.

Victory had been far from clear.  In January, when Republican candidate Scott Brown won the senate seat held previously by the late Ted Kennedy, opponents of health care reform danced in the streets because Democrats had lost their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority that they had been counting on to pass the health care reform legislation.  In addition to this setback, Democrats were severely divided on the details of legislation being shaped and wallowed in analysis-paralysis.  On top of that, conservative spin masters were doing their level best to introduce wild misinformation Sarah-Palin-style about supposed “death panels” afforded by the new legislation and Communist-style takeovers of American health care.  The air was thick with the fear-mongering babble of conservative detractors that believed that if they could repeat the same lies often enough, people would believe it and progress would be halted.  Not so.

Truly herculean efforts by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other Democratic powerhouses, led by a newly-confident Obama, stood up for what they knew was right.  They fought harder than many thought they were capable of fighting.  Obama first postponed and then canceled his trip to Asia and Australia as the end drew closer and closer.  Those that had felt Obama had lost some of his umph were either delighted or disgusted when he made campaign-style speeches to huge crowds as late as Friday, March 19 when he addressed an enormously supportive student crowd at George Mason University, VA.  Yesterday he gave the most personal, direct and soul-baring speech of his presidency to House Democrats.  The crux of his argument was a quote from Lincoln, “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”  Obama spoke to Democrats, knowing full well that he was asking many of them to risk their careers.  In doing so, he asked them to dig deep and think about why they chose public service in the first place: “Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican… somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, ‘I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own.’ ”

We hadn’t seen this Obama in a while but what Obama proved tonight is that he could do more than win the most significant election in a generation; he could pull off one of the greatest comebacks of recent political history and truly grab the reins of leadership with both hands.  As both friend and foe predicted, Obama’s success as a leader hinged on his ability to deliver on health care.  The Republicans knew this and fought accordingly.  But in the end, it was Obama that won.  As he said tonight: “We rose above the weight of our politics. … We are still a people capable of doing big things.”  And this is a president who is still capable of doing great things.

We’ll end on how Slate sums up the closing acts of the circus that was the House debate today:

“Minority Leader John Boehner used his time to deride the process that led to the bill’s passage. ‘Can you say it was done out in the open?’ he asked. His rhetorical device at times backfired. ‘Do you really believe that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it?’ ‘Yes!’ shouted Democrats. Boehner fired back, ‘You can’t!’ ‘Yes we can!’ yelled Democrats.

When the vote tally reached 216, a cheer went up stage right. Democrats hugged and kissed. Republicans stood with crossed arms. It didn’t take long for Democrats to settle on their victory chant: ‘Yes we can!’ ”

Welcome to a new day.

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Bjorn Karlman


Why I, a Swede, Believe in America and in Health Care Reform

ItPhoto 137‘s been a battle between two of the best things about America:  Individual liberty on the one hand and shared responsibility on the other.   In the debate on health care we can’t resort to Dubya-style prattle that framed political dramas as a battle between good and evil.  It’s just not that simple.  There are good ideas and good people on both sides of this debate.  I don’t often speak in the first person on CultureMutt but I have no problem making this exception because of the extreme importance of what is at stake here.  I want to address this on as personal a level as possible.

Health care in America is an embarrassment, it is woefully inadequate and completely unacceptable in the world’s richest and most powerful country.  How is it that in America, the world’s sole superpower, we have huge slabs of the population that are one illness away from bankruptcy and devastating, personal failure?  How is it that insurance companies are able to deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions?  This is cruel, this is heartless, this is fundamentally un-American.

red, white, and blue capsules in pill bottlesI will admit that as a Swede, I often compare America to what I have in my country of birth.  Yes, Sweden has socialized medicine and yes, this does bias me in favor of providing health care as a right for all.  But I made a very conscious decision ten years ago to move to the United States.  The reason?  I still believe with all that is in me, that America is the land of opportunity.  I still believe that things – very good things – can be done in this country that cannot be done anywhere else.  I am proud of my adopted country and I defend it whenever I travel.  This is where I want to live and this is the country I am committed to on a level that makes me feel deeply invested in doing all I can to improve this country for all that live here.

What is special and what is unique in America is an unwavering belief in the possibilities of what we can achieve as individuals and what we can achieve together.  No other country on earth can claim the kind of environment that America offers to all that live here: superior opportunities to thrive and prosper.  I will admit that I came to America because I personally wanted to thrive and prosper and be supported in my drive to do so as an individual.  But having lived in America for 10 years now, I can say that the American promise has proved to be about more than just individual success: it is about our shared destiny as a people.  The good news about America is that this is a country where we give a damn.  This is a country of compassion.  This is a country where we care about other people; where we pick up our fallen in battle; where we work TOGETHER in the hope of improving our collective existence and that of future generations.  No matter how controversial, infuriating or deeply disappointing the path, we CANNOT allow the firestorm that is the health care debate to allow us to forget about this fundamental truth.  There is a better way than this.

Gavel, Stethoscope and Books on FlagLet’s not pretend that the health care reform bill that will be voted upon tomorrow in the House is without fault.  It certainly has weaknesses and compromises.  I am tempted to get on my soapbox as usual and pontificate on what the bill REALLY should look like but this time I won’t.  This moment is too important.  The bottom line is that our current health care has failed.  People are hurting, people are vulnerable and the time for change has come.  Just as it took courage and overlooking imperfections and potential political ramifications to vote in Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor decades ago, it will take courage to bring health care reform today.  The time for stalling is over.  This country is better than this.  We are better than this.  And the America health care reform will bring is better than this. May the House prove it by voting for Health Care Reform tomorrow.  In the words of President Obama this afternoon, “Let’s get this done!”.

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Bjorn Karlman