Reporter's Note: President Obama is traveling the countryside trying to sell his version of health care. Meanwhile, my daily letters to the room near the Rose Garden, keep piling up.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Health care reform is an undeniably important issue, and I feel negligent just admitting that it’s beginning to bore me, but I must admit I’m glazing over like a Thanksgiving turkey. Too many of the critics keep showing up at town meetings to spout the same complaints. You, no offense, keep holding your own assemblies to recite the same defenses. And it’s all starting to feel like my date with Angela to the 9th grade dance: Going nowhere fast.
It’s turning into trench warfare; lots of shooting, lots of scrambling over the same plowed up ground, lots of carnage for no apparent purpose. Precious few folks on either side seem ready to genuinely listen to or consider an alternative view. Frankly, some seem more inclined to attack the opposition with a garden rake. It’s no way to run a democracy.
Fortunately, I have an idea. No, no, it’s not that Footrace for Health Care that I suggested last month. (Remember? Have each party put together a mile relay team, take them out to the old stadium, and hand out the batons? The team that breaks the tape gets to write the legislation and everyone has to support it. I know it wouldn’t work, but it can’t be much worse than what we are witnessing, and watching Steny Hoyer lay it down in the Nikes would be hilarious. Anyway, like I said, I’ve given up that idea.) What I have in mind is much more civilized, and in keeping with the generally dusty ways of Washington.
Have a debate. A real debate. Invite your political foes to put forward the best speaker they can muster to take you on in a head-to-head, height-of-prime-time, base of the Washington Monument, health care shoot out of words. You can lay out all of your reasons why this must progress while facing a panel of skilled questioners; and your opponent (whomever that may be) will lay out his or her objections while being peppered by the same crew. No booing or cheering audience. No home turf advantage. Just a straight up, two-hour debate of the merits and/or weaknesses. I’m getting chills just thinking of it. Of course, I watch a lot of CSPAN.
I know: Presidents don’t do debates, unless they are running for re-election. But what I don’t understand (aside from raw politics) is why not? If your ideas are as strong as you believe they are, they will hold up. If they are not, they will wither. Either way, voters will (hopefully) get closer to really understanding what’s on the table. And either way it’s got to be more illuminating than what we’re getting now: A steady barrage of talking points from both sides that seems to be convincing no one of anything that they don’t already believe in.
Give me a call if you want me to be the moderator…or referee. I have to warn you: I’ll be brutally impartial despite these letters. And after all, no one can accuse me of being won over by all your responses. (Ahem.)
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