Intolerance and the President of the United States

Much of this hysteria is generated by conservative talk radio where Rush Limbaugh is the undisputed king. On Tuesday he compared President Obama to the authoritarian Dean Wormer character in National Lampoon’s 1978 “Animal House.” And he picked up on White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’s characterization of the “food fight” that has surrounded the health care debate and defended the notion, saying that such a food fight was proper. Rush went so far as to tell his rock-ribbed conservative audience that the John Belushi character went on to become a U.S. senator. 

That’s right, Sen. Blutarsky. Thanks, Rush, for elevating what I believe to be one of the most profoundly important debates this country has seen in decades.

During President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, he attempted to address some of the distortions, at one point saying that his plan wouldn’t cover illegal immigrants. “You lie!” yelled U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed controversies that have played out between presidents and Congress involving Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq, the Clinton impeachment, Star Wars and gays in the military. But I have never witnessed a Member of Congress publicly heckling a president on live television.

Is this what we are going to become? Where the president is not only disrespected by radio blowhards and the sheep that blindly follow, but by school principals and congressmen?

Some of you will send me e-mails calling me a “liberal” and maybe even a “socialist.” To these readers, I will say that I have watched and studied the health care reform issue extensively. I remain undecided on many aspects of the legislation. The so-called “public option” doesn’t seem socialist to me, given that we already have Medicare and Medicaid. That we provide some kind of government assistance for those who have lost coverage for the sin of having a pre-existing condition – estimated to be five percent by the Congressional Budget Office – isn’t onerous. 

I believe that Republicans and conservatives are absolutely justified in pursuing tort reform. We are witnessing a winnowing of our family physicians; they pay about $250,000 a year in malpractice insurance before they earn a dime. Many doctors are going into specialized fields and this will leave many people and many communities without the family doctor if something doesn’t change.

There are so many aspects of this plan that are extremely complex. How anybody can say they are against everything the president is proposing is sad and will have tragic consequences. If you’ve ever known someone who had the bad luck to suffer from cancer, and then watch as coverage is cut during mid-treatment – or they grapple with the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the 20 percent insurance companies will not cover – is simply tragic and must be addressed.

The fact that various special interests have spent $235 million to propagandize the reforms in order to maintain the status quo is breathtaking.

When I voted last November, I voted for both Republicans and Democrats. As a citizen, I want them to work together to pull this country away from the brink. This is far more important than adhering to an ideology or lawmakers positioning themselves for the 2010 elections.

(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com)

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