White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stood squirming on NBC’s Today Show, as NBC anchor Matt Lauer posed uncomfortable questions about Obama’s plan for national health care. Lauer wanted to know why proponents of Obamacare were met by angry, boo-hiss crowds everywhere they went, instead of by the grateful masses that the White House had expected.
Gibbs blustered that these were rent-a-mobs, conjured up by angry conservative talk-show hosts and Republican activists.
Lauer would have none of it. “Isn’t that underestimating what you’re hearing?” he asked. “I mean there are some people who say, yeah, these people who are getting up and shouting do not represent any grassroots movement. They call them ‘astroturf.’ But don’t they give voice, and maybe even in an inappropriate way, to some real concerns out there?”
Gibbs babbled some more, trying to make the rent-a-mob line stick, but to no avail. He had no real answer for Lauer.
When even a news-lite anchor like Matt Lauer comes across like a hard-hitting journalist, the administration is clearly in serious trouble.
As I sat and watched that segment, I felt a glow of pride. Up to the beginning of August, there was virtually no media talk on this issue. Instead, the news media seemed obsessed with the sensational death of a certain pop icon and a certain Puerto Rican Supreme Court nominee. The proposed new health care system received scant attention. The media didn’t seem to realize—or care—that these changes would fundamentally change the kind of health care that Americans received, would mandate federally-funded abortion, and would ration care to the elderly.
Then a massive coalition of highly active pro-life groups including PRI, called Stop the Abortion Mandate (www.stoptheabortionmandate.com ), swung into action. Led by Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, Stop the Abortion Mandate has led a PR blitz that has helped make Obamacare so astronomically un-cool.
By mobilizing their bases, pro-life and other grassroots groups have almost overnight made this into the biggest issue of the year. We have shown the administration that, when it comes to the life issues, America still cares deeply. The results are already evident. This bill that would otherwise have waltzed through Congress and landed, on schedule, on the President’s desk, has become a political liability. We—all of us—have turned Obamacare into a political albatross.
Still, while these developments have bought us time, they have not won us a clear victory. Instead of backing away from Obamacare, we find Robert Gibbs insisting that the president will not pass “health-care reform ‘lite,’” And we find White House officials, including the President himself, resorting to a strategy of evasion and deception that is truly alarming. Rather than meeting real concerns with factual answers, the administration scoffs at our fears, and lies about the bill’s dangers. This needs to stop.
For instance, during a press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, the president ridiculed those who compared his plan to the Canadian system, joking that he didn’t “find Canadians particularly scary.” Laughingly, he accused “some of the opponents of reform” of thinking that “they make a good bogeyman.”
We in the pro-life movement don’t find Canadians particularly scary, either. But Canadian health care, on the other hand, with its deadly rationing and abortions, is a frightening prospect to those of us who believe in the sanctity of life.
The President also falsely claimed that the AARP had endorsed his plan, hoping that this would put to rest the fears of seniors that they would be targeted in an effort to cut costs. The seniors’ organization shot back with a statement making it clear that “while the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.” The White House later admitted that the President had “misspoken,” which is the same weasel word that Clinton resorted to when he was caught in a lie.
At this town hall, Obama smilingly insisted that he does not want to “pull the plug on Grandma,” as if this were something that Americans could simply take for granted. The trouble is, we honestly cannot. One has only to look as far as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ end-of-life planning document, entitled "Your Life, Your Choices." Nicknamed the “death book,” this document discusses various scenarios in which patients lives would no longer be “worth living,” ranging from not being able to "shake the blues,” to being an undue “financial burden” on the family. Small wonder that, upon review, the document was suspended under the Bush administration. That it has found its way back to use under the current President is, we believe, sufficient cause for suspicion.
Obamacare proponents have also continued to throw blame at enemies real and imaginary, including insurance companies, “blue dog” Democrats, underground Republican cabals, and, of all things, the media. They have done everything and anything but actually meet our arguments against Obamacare head-on.
To us, this looks—to borrow the President’s own terminology—“fishy.” This is why we refuse to take seriously the suggestion that the President, as well as top officials like Kathleen Sebelius, are wavering in their commitment to the “public option,” that is, to socialized medicine where the government calls all the shots. It is also why we believe that “health care cooperatives” are just Obamacare by another name. If the government sets the rules, and pays the costs, then such “cooperatives” are just another name for government-run healthcare. Now, if the government would give tax credits to such cooperatives, and step aside while people banded together to reduce costs and provide for their own health care, it would be a different matter.
With all of its backing and filling, the administration seems to forget that the health care bill is available in its entirety online. We in the pro-life movement have read it, and we don’t like it. We have real questions; we need real answers. Instead, we get evasion and secrecy.
Obama needs to drop this bill like a bad habit, if he places any value on health care that respects the sanctity of life, or even on his own political career. As a result of the solid, continuing effort put forward by so many pro-life groups, he just might.
Keep up the good work.