Observations on the Healthcare Summit

By Dr. Mark Hamilton

Due to my own medical issues I load up my teaching on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a Tuesday night class. This keeps Thursdays free for medical appointments. This meant that I was fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?) able to take in the televised spectacle of the health care summit with President Obama entertaining the leaders from the Senate and House of Representatives in mortal verbal combat last week. This short expose’ will be my personal reflective thoughts on the day. Be reminded that due to my own illness, I read and reflected on the entire bill last summer and have been judiciously following the debates and discussions. Regarding this recent summit, I have been careful not to listen to many “post-game” pundits so that I can attempt to give my own untainted response to the nefarious activities of that day.

First, the sessions, especially the morning one was a good introduction to the health care debate. The primary issues were revealed and the ground clearly staked out by each side. The Democratic position was first laid out by the President followed by a clear eloquent Republican response by Lamar Alexander and Tom Coburn. After hearing their reply anyone who says the Republicans do not have a proposal for health care is badly mistaken. These men put forward specific Republican plans.

Second, the morning session, while accomplishing nothing in terms of resolution was a great educational time. My wife who understands many of the issues but who has not studied the bill in depth like I have was very attentive to much of the morning session because of the striking philosophical differences revealed.

Third, obviously President Obama was trying to find common points of agreement. Each time a Republican point would be made he would try to restate the discussion and frame it in a way that minimized the differences and magnified the agreement. I now know what Mr. Obama’s real calling is, a professional facilitator. For those of you who have been to professional planning sessions you know what I mean. These are people who are blind to disagreement and violate the law of non-contradiction by seeing all sides as part of the same side. I suspect his plan is to use this grasp at common ground as fodder to attempt to push through his bill while publicly saying the Republicans agree with much of its content.

Fourth, if the summit accomplished one great deed it was revealing the obvious differences in the sides. The Democrats want government to oversee the health care industry and to regulate it wherever possible while the Republicans want more freedom and less government control. Because there are some points of agreement, some will be persuaded to think the two sides are not far apart. They are completely polarized because they have different world views.

Fifth, the Republicans at the summit were much more eloquent and succinct in their points than the Democrats were. Senators Alexander and Coburn, and Representatives Ryan and Cantor were all very eloquent and persuasive; none of the Republicans looked confused or uncertain. I was very impressed at how fluent and philosophically consistent these Republicans were. In the past decade I have been quite critical of many of the leading Republican because of their pragmatic unprincipled approach to governing. That was not observable on Thursday. Democratic Senator Reid looked like a weasel as he denied the concept of reconciliation while networks were showing recordings of him and other Democrats mentioning the idea over the past few months. His denial of reconciliation made him look like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar saying to his mother that he was not going to eat any cookies. Speaker of the House Pelosi spoke as she always does, irrationally and haphazardly. If I ever hear of another liberal calling Palin dumb while supporting the mindless idiocy of Pelosi, I will pull my hair out. The Democrats must have used twice the time as the Republicans to say less than half of the content.

Sixth, Obama himself tried to be conciliatory and at times it worked. But his disdain for the Republicans obviously manifested itself in his rebukes of McCain and Cantor and the way he wanted to respond to each Republican directly after they spoke. Mr. Obama is the most defensive president I’ve ever seen. I’m sure he lectured and cajoled the Republicans for more time during the summit than all the combined speeches of all the Republicans.

Seven, finally it became obvious that the central issue is one of statism. The Democrats believe in it and hold fast to its tenets. Though some Republicans have been statists, like the Bushes and McCain, the emerging Republican leaders who were spokesmen at the summit are moving away from this outdated, idolatrous position. Healthcare is drawing the line in the sand and the summit painted this line in florescence green.