Today is the most important day in the health care reform effort, and likely one of the most important days of Obama's Presidency. Here's why.
As you have all likely heard, Ted Kennedy died last night after a battle with brain cancer. As you also likely know, Ted Kennedy had always considered national health care reform and universal coverage as a crucial battle to be won in order to make America a better place, and the next logical step in the great liberal reform efforts from Teddy Roosevelt, to Social Security, to the civil rights laws, medicare and medicaid, in the 1960s.
We're going to learn an awful lot about Obama's presidency today, and unfortunately I don't think we're going to like it.
If LBJ were president right now, he would shamelessly exploit Teddy's death in order to pass health care reform in his name. His speech would go something like this: "America lost a Senate legend today when Ted Kennedy passed away. I got to know him over the last few years, and grew to really appreciate what a giant he was. He will be missed, and I hereby declare today a day of national mourning in his honor. Health care reform was his life's work. He said on many occasions that he hoped to live long enough to see America pass a real national health care system, one which would cover everybody. So we would have an America in which people could no longer go bankrupt because they got sick, or have their health insurance taken away. I demand that Congress act quickly after its recess to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation that would make Ted Kennedy proud. And I assure each and every member of congress that he is watching from on high, and will take careful note of what goes on in this debate.
Health care reform was Ted Kennedy's life's work, his great goal. I call on Congress to pass, without delay, a health care reform bill, entitled the 'Ted Kennedy Health Reform Act of 2009.' I have been discussing for months now the details which must be in that bill. The ball is now in Congress' court. Teddy is watching. Thank you and goodnight."
Something like that. Despite the fact that its the end of August, and despite the fact that Obama has been talking ENDLESSLY about health care, he should take 5-10 minutes of prime time tv tonight, and make a speech along these lines. Then, Kennedy's name should be repeatedly and shamelessly mentioned in the press, in order to pass the act. His family won't mind, I strongly assume, and no one could DARE accuse him of taking advantage, because the media won't allow it; as they know that he would have been the first to approve of his name being exploited for THIS cause. LBJ would do it. FDR would do it. Lincoln might well. Nixon certainly would. But its not in Obama's nature to so shamelessly use a man's death for the cause. So he won't. He'll issue kind words, and mention health care reform, but not in the very direct and clear way I outline. And it will be a missed opportunity, perhaps even a missed golden opportunity, to reclaim the debate.
Oh, one other thing. We're going to learn whether Obama or Rahm Emanuel is running the White House. Rahm Emanuel, as I understand him, would exploit the death of his own mother in order to accomplish a relatively minor goal. He CERTAINLY would endorse a strong program along the lines I mention, and, I humbly submit, doesn't need flyingpinkunicorns to suggest it to him. So in addition to learning how much Obama is willing to exploit Kennedy's death, we're going to learn a lot, I think, about Emanuel's power to shape the agenda. The next 24-48 hours are going to be both crucial and fascinating for those paying close attention. So pay close attention.