The View From the Couch: Obama Blair House Confab 

My favorite part of the Obama Blair House health confab was the president's autobiographical turn, when he reminisced about his car being rear-ended when he was young and calling his insurance company to get it fixed. Obama wouldn't name the insurance company. He said, let's call it "Acme." Well, he learned that his insurance was the most minimal, only there to make the car legal and there would be no money from them to get anything fixed. He then went on to compare that sort of insurance to the basic health insurance now available, to show that it is inadequate, and justify the government setting minimal standards of coverage. It was refreshing to have Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner and the Acme Corporation brought into the conversation.

Especially, when I heard the turncoat Mara Liasson on FoxNews Sunday remark on the "deep" philosophical differences that were on display at the Blair House discussion. Yeah, about as deep as the Road Runner cartoons. Towards the end of the long day, only the embattled Rep. Charles Rangel began to call a spade a spade. Often, when Obama referred to "ideological" differences between himself and the Republicans, I waited for him to say, and, oh, by the way, your free market ideology run amuck just brought the country to the edge of financial ruin, which forced the ordinary taxpayers of America to shell out trillions to save Wall Street and the banks, so why don't you just please be quiet? And it's folk like you and those who have shared your empty and rapacious ideology who attempted to stop Social Security, Medicare, the National Parks, etc. Capitalism needs checks and balances, just like the government as a whole.

But nothing as heated or impolite as that happened. I tried to imagine George W. Bush at any such gathering. It was absurd to try. The event itself was more or less unprecedented. Bill Clinton, I suppose, could have handled it, but he never called one when his and Hillary's health care proposals were cratering. Again, it's the swing between the meritocracy and the legacy presidencies we've been experiencing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I suppose Mitt Romney is a legacy figure, since his father was a governor. But, luckily, we're still years out from 2012.

I've been hard on Obama, meaning I haven't been easy on him. But, he was impressive in handling the various congressional figures. Health care has been dominating the news again, though on Thursday CBS on its evening news ran a remarkable piece on corruption and coziness within NHTSA, as forceful as a mini-segment out of 60 Minutes. Here is another governmental agency that has, over the Bush years, been turned into a PR firm for the auto industry. So, even when there is some governmental regulatory oversight, it turns out to be gutted and blind.

Politics and corruption continue to be bi-partisan (one of the last remaining examples of such) and the run of governor misbehavior continues to be stranger and more ludicrous than Road Runner cartoons. Who could have made up New York's current governor? David Paterson is a Looney Tunes character. When he stepped in for the scandal-plagued Eliot Sptizer (now making a well-orchestrated attempt at recovery) Paterson and his wife admitted to multiple adulteries and Paterson, over the years, kept adding to the list, drug use, and now his current troubles with intervening on behalf of an abusive aide. It's all as ridiculous, but not as funny, as anything sold by the Acme Corporation.

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William O'Rourke

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