Health Care Summit Charade — A Clinic in Obama Partisanship

March 1, 2010

For a guy who touts himself as bipartisan and demands bipartisanship from Republicans, President Barack Obama had a funny way of showing his bipartisanship during last week’s health care summit.

Obama has repeatedly promised an open, honest and bipartisan process on health care reform, but from the beginning, he has quarterbacked a highly partisan, closed-door and dishonest campaign.

In his opening remarks at the “summit,” he said he wanted to make sure the participants didn’t just trade “talking points” or engage in “political theater.” He said, “If we’ve got an open mind, if we’re listening to each other, if we’re not engaging in sort of the tit for tat trying to score political points during the next several hours … we might be able to make some progress.”

He then proceeded to a) open the curtains for his own political theater, with one anecdotal Democratic sob story after another about the horrors of American health care; b) deliver his own talking points throughout the day, including his obligatory “tit for tat” following almost every Republican speaker; and c) demonstrate his own partisanship through (i) patronizing dismissals of the Republicans’ substantive contributions as “talking points”; (ii) volleying partisan barbs at Republicans; (iii) mischaracterizing his positions and those of the Republicans; and (iv) accusing Republicans of not showing a good-faith willingness to make any movement in his direction when he made no effort to compromise with them.

To invoke my own anecdotal experience here, I have worked with people like Obama before, those who sanctimoniously demand collegiality and compromise while exhibiting no willingness to compromise themselves and then — wholly blind to their own dogmatism — castigate you for not “meeting them halfway” (meaning: wholly embracing their proposals).

This summit was an orchestrated setup for Obama to showcase himself as bipartisan, reasonable and, above all, motivated by compassion to improve health care for all Americans and demonize the Republicans as partisan, obstructionist and heartless. With this predicate, he would appear justified in imposing, unilaterally, his Obamacare monstrosity.

But what struck me even more than Obama’s unfairness, pettiness and partisanship was his acutely self-absorbed performance throughout the day. His well-known narcissism was on full display, the most telling evidence of which was that he was so hopelessly immersed in satisfying his own hierarchy of ideological needs that he obviously had no idea he was coming off that way.

He advertized the conference as a balanced exchange between the two sides, setting himself up as the referee in chief who would enforce impartiality and fairness. Instead, he injected himself at every interval, using almost as much time as all the Republicans combined, saying his time didn’t count because he is president, and never offering Republicans any opportunity to rebut his endless soliloquies.

When Republicans were scoring heavily, Obama revealed his displeasure with his facial expressions and body language. When he couldn’t refute their arguments, he degenerated to “the election is over,” exposing his real attitude about working toward a joint solution.

If there was any doubt about Obama’s blinding egotism and dripping arrogance, he removed it with his snarky remark that if he were to adopt John Boehner’s bill, “we’d get a whole bunch of Republican votes” — as if that proved that Republicans were the problem and as if he was willing to move an inch from his position.

If there was any doubt Obama was not in good faith, he removed it when he characterized Republicans as being unconcerned about the alleged 30 million uninsured and philosophically unwilling to embrace reform addressing this issue. Well, he’s already been forced off his bogus 47 million figure, presumably because it included illegal aliens and other illegitimate groups, but his 30 million is no less misleading. He intentionally fails to mention that his figure includes millions who are already entitled to government benefits but don’t avail themselves of it and tens of millions who can afford insurance but choose not to buy it.

But the worst thing about his false accusation is that it implies that unless Republicans are willing to agree to socialized medicine, they oppose care for those who actually do fall through the cracks. First, all Americans are already entitled to emergency room care. Plus, Republicans believe that if their ideas were implemented, medical costs would decrease and fewer people would fall through the cracks. But they don’t oppose benefits for those who do fall through, provided it doesn’t entail a complete restructuring of the best health care system in the world.

The real philosophical difference between the parties is not about whether to help the truly needy, but whether government is the solution or the culprit.

Just in case any doubt remained about Obama’s partisan mindset, he removed that, too, when he made clear that “procedure” (and the U.S. Constitution) be damned, he is going to cram this down our throats.