British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, during his travels in India, heard many stories about people on the "edge of destitution." In his memoirs, Muggeridge recalled an anecdote told to him about a poor farmer who was asked if he hated the government or the money-lender more. "After some thought the farmer replied that he hated the government more, because, whereas it was to the money-lender's interest to keep him just alive so that he could go on paying off his debt, the government didn't care whether he lived or died," Muggeridge wrote.
The American people seem to look upon Obamacare in a similar way: While they may not like health insurance companies, they dislike the federal government even more.
This week Obama delivered yet another speech casting health care companies as the devil and the federal government as the savior. But the American people aren't ready to swallow his sophomoric socialism, and for good reason: the assumption underlying it -- that remote bureaucrats and politicians, many of whom won't even be around by the time Obamacare is implemented, worry more about their welfare than health care companies do -- is thoroughly unconvincing.
If anything, bitter experience has shown Americans that the federal government manages to be as indifferent as the market but without any of its efficiency or responsiveness. As politicians and bureaucrats demonstrate on a weekly basis, the market has no monopoly on heartlessness and dishonesty.
"Stop lying about my record," Bob Dole once said to George H.W. Bush. Health care company executives could say the same to Obama. Who is he to lecture them on fairness and honesty? He can't even give a straight answer about how his plan will use tax dollars to abort unborn children. Compared to the slipperiness and corruption of his administration, many health care companies look straightforward and squeaky clean.
"Was it secretary of the Navy?" interviewer Larry Kane asked Congressman Joe Sestak after he said that the White House had dangled a job before him in the hopes that he would leave the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, a race the White House wants Arlen Specter to win. Sestak declined to answer, but the former Navy admiral acknowledged the offer of a federal job.
On Tuesday, Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, continued to evade this matter while rising to the easier, though still embarrassing, challenge of Eric Massa's wobbly charges. Perhaps the White House should have offered Massa the Secretary of Navy slot to keep him out of the way. He certainly seems ready to implement his version of post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies.
As he explained to an aghast Glenn Beck, his transition from "salty" naval culture to the expectations of political life has been bumpy. Massa cracked open his naval yearbook to show Beck old photos of what he described as a Caligula-level orgy in which he had participated. Apparently, Massa was hoping to adduce the photos as some sort of baffling defense of once-government-approved horseplay that had habituated him to obscene hijinks with staff. Beck should have asked him what naval yearbooks will look like after Don't Ask, Don't Tell falls.
Capitol Hill Democrats naturally disowned Massa, and the same liberal media which earlier in the year had interviewed him respectfully about overturning allegedly repressive policies in the military declared him a crackpot and creep. A party and media that defended Bill Clinton against Kathleen Willey and usually shows considerable flexibility and sympathy when it comes to the vagaries of homosexual culture was in no mood to forgive Massa with health care on the line, even if he does have "recurring cancer." Once an honored and regular guest on MSNBC, he was now all leftists agreed a blowhard and buffoon of epic proportions.
The White House was fortunate in this regard. Massa is easily dismissed. But the farce, in which Obama's chief of staff made a guest appearance, probably did a little damage nonetheless. It's one more Democratic debacle that exposes the supposedly new and transcendent politics of Obama as tiresomely old, ribald, and familiar.
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