[Editor's Note: This is a guest editorial by Lloyd M. Green, an official in the Bush 41 Justice Department who now lives in a blue suburb. SMS is grateful for any and all commentary, feedback, and constructive criticism.] The Obama Health Care Order
Remember the phrase “Two for the price of one” from the 1992 presidential campaign? You know, buy Bill Clinton, get Hillary Rodham Clinton, too? That might have seemed like a good bargain in ’92, but by ’93-4, as we saw Hillary in action, pushing her health care plan, it proved to be a much harder sell.
Now the idea seems to be popping up again--and again--as part of the Obamacare campaign.
But the first time around, back in the early 90s, “two for the price of one” proved to be mostly just a bad joke. Today, in 2009, there’s the potential for tragedy and nightmare.
At a town hall meeting yesterday in Colorado, President Obama summoned the memory of his late grandmother to defend his stance on healthcare.
That part was planned. What wasn’t planned was the emergence of another family pair, Rahm Emanuel and his suddenly notorious brother, Ezekiel. Rahm, of course, is the White House chief of staff. Ezekiel is a top health adviser. Ezekiel, who has a Ph.D. as well as an M.D., has long been more interested in “bioethics” than in actual hands-on cures. And recently, as his voluminous paper trail has been examined, he has come under fierce criticism, most notably from Sarah Palin, who suggested that all the Ezekiel Emanuels of the world wanted to create “death panels” to euthanize the unworthy. And while “respectable” opinion rallied around Ezekiel, it seems that the country went the other way--Obamacare took a huge hit in the polls.
It’s a safe bet that neither of the Emanuel brothers read The Washington Times much, if at all. But there was poor Zeke--no doubt under pressure from Rahm--sucking up to a conservative paper, trying to do some damage-control. As Ezekiel told the Times’ Jon Ward, his “thinking has evolved.” Going further, Ezekiel added:
"When I began working in the health policy area about 20 years ago ... I thought we would definitely have to ration care, that there was a need to make a decision and deny people care," said Dr. Emanuel, a health care adviser to President Obama in the Office of Management and Budget, during a phone interview.
"I think that over the last five to seven years ... I've come to the conclusion that in our system we are spending way more money than we need to, a lot of it on unnecessary care," he said. "If we got rid of that care we would have absolutely no reason to even consider rationing except in a few cases."
Ah yes, yet another public figure whose thinking "evolves" when his past thinking proves unpopular.
But what started out as a decent enough attempt at damage-control--if, of course, you take Ezekiel at his word--turned south at the end there. That last line left open a tantalizing dangling and dangerous thread, which Maureen Dowd picked up on in her column today. There is “absolutely no reason to even consider rationing except in a few cases”? What does that mean, precisely? Is Ezekiel now against rationing, except when he is for it? Could it be that Ezekiel is too immersed in his worldview to see that most of the American people see the world differently? In which case, that’s trouble for the O-Team.
But back to the O Man himself. In the case of the President and his late grandmother, his use of a deceased relative as a prop is not wise--especially when the sentiments Obama expressed about her in April 2009 are not the same as the sentiments he is now expressing in August 2009, when Congress is on recess, when his poll numbers are sagging, and when wide swaths of the American public are no longer buying what he is selling.
Let go back just a few months. Back in April, Obama was telling the New York Times that his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died two days before Obama was elected president, had received an artificial hip, notwithstanding the fact that she had been diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer. According to Obama, Dunham's hip replacement was not necessarily a wise expenditure. Rather, it raised "some very difficult moral issues” of whether “to give my grandmother, or everybody else’s aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they’re terminally ill."
Obama also told the Times that the “chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health-care out here.” Obama let it be known that he was no Mr. Softie: “What I’ve been constantly searching for is a ruthless pragmatism when it comes to economic policy.” In other words, it might just be worth letting aging cancer victims stagnate until they die.
Obama is now changing his lyrics, but not his melody. Yesterday, Obama used Ms. Dunham to deflect the allegation that Obamacare would lead to government run "death panels." According to Obama, “We’ve got enough stuff to deal with without having these kinds of arguments.” After having intimated in April that his grandmother's hip replacement might not have been worth it, Obama decided to go for the heartstrings without actually rebutting the death panel argument. He said, “I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who is aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that.” That sounds like a non-denial denial or a poor attempt to change the topic of the debate.
OK, now back to Zeke Emanuel. In a paper of his published by the Hastings Center--which describes itself as a "nonpartisan, nonprofit bioethics research institute," but is generally regarded as a citadel of “progressive” thinking on bioethics--Zeke appears to advocate denying government assistance to elderly Alzheimer's patients. According to Emanuel, an "obvious example" of who should not receive government guaranteed "health services" are "patients with dementia." Such writings might play in Cambridge, but they won’t play in Peoria.
My takeaway from all this is stark. Under Obamacare, elderly cancer patients better be able to walk on their own. As for the elderly with Alzheimers--good luck. It was nice knowing you--now enjoy your brief trip on the outbound ice floe.
In political-theater terms, the Obama and the Emanuel families are simply more bad examples of “two for the price of one.” And yet in larger terms--how these personal and policy choices affect the rest of us--Americans have a right to be scared.
The first time around, Hillarycare proved to be something of a joke. But this time around Obamacare is more serious. From farce to tragedy, it's happened before.