In August our ubiquitous president became the nation’s elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper. And now, as Congress returns to resume wrestling with health care reform, we shall see if he continues his August project of proving that the idea of an Ivy League Huey Long is not oxymoronic.
Barack Obama in August became a Huey for today, a rabble rouser with a better tailor, an unrumpled and modulated tribune of downtrodden Americans, telling them that opponents of his reform plan—which actually does not yet exist—are fearmongers employing scare tactics. He also told Americans to be afraid, very afraid of health-insurance providers because they are dishonest (and will remain so until there is a “public option” to make them “honest”). And to be afraid, very afraid of pediatricians who unnecessarily extract children’s tonsils for monetary rather than medical reasons. And to be afraid, very afraid of doctors generally because so many of them are so rapacious that they prefer lopping off limbs of diabetes patients rather than engaging in lifestyle counseling that for “a pittance” could prevent diabetes.
You read that here a long time ago, last October to be exact, during the campaign:
Huey Long, Louisiana’s colourful governor and senator in the 1920’s and 1930’s, used to talk about “sharing the wealth.” Even Franklin Roosevelt found his redistributionism an embarrassment and even dangerous. Evidently my comparison of Barack Obama with Juan Peron is closer to reality than I thought. And Huey Long is a lot closer to home than Juan Peron.
The big problem here is that Americans live far, far better than the really poor masses to whom “the Kingfish” addressed his oratory back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Obama has spent too long organising his community and not enough time lifiting his eyes and looking at where Americans are really at, which is why so many have bucked him on health care.
The one thing he could have done to facilitate nationalising health care is to induce a real collapse in the economy and create mass desperation to which a Huey Long could really speak. His predecessor, whom he blames for just about everything, actually forestalled a total collapse of the financial system. While the setback that actually took place delivered the election to Obama, the crisis that Rahm Emmanuel so gleefully took advantage of isn’t deep enough to facilitate a cakewalk for the health care system.
Something else to blame George Bush for…in private, at least.