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Mar-08-2009 00:08TweetFollow @OregonNews
Op Ed: Healthcare Reform
By Henry Clay Ruark for Salem-News
(EUGENE, Ore.) - Did YOU watch President Obama confront head-on the major, most slippery problem/issue facing his new Administration -- HEALTHCARE?
I did --then watched-again on replay, to “see with own eyes” open, honest, democratic dialog destroying the myth about failure of government, always, on ANYthing. This first-of-a-series by our new President was a truly unheard-of spectacle “on-air/from D.C.”.
It set a brand-new pattern for building democracy proving reactions, with 120 key players on health care today participating, for the whole nation to see AND hear, firmly “on the record”.
That’s open, honest dialog vs the old, convoluted Congressional confrontation, driven by political-party manipulation, machination and massive private pressures, reported in sometimes distorted fashion by m/s/media. Consensus somehow must be achieved for honest democracy to rule.
Health care has eluded that essential action-level in prosperity and recession, war and peace, for too long, as President Obama told them straight: "When times were good, we didn't get it done. When we had mild recessions, we didn't get it done," Obama said at a White House summit launching his effort to treat the nation's ailing health system.
National and Congressional leaders in every aspect of the issue --conversant with pragmatic realities we are forced to face as never before-- set themselves up for open public promise of progress NOW.
They were right out there in open “see with own eyes” status, on public-record as never achieved before. That beats secretive, closed-door/exclusive plotting with private-interests only on energy and other issues.
It might even result in blinding transparency, with realistic open hearings probing inescapable problems, and motivating comprehensive Congressional consideration for wise AND rapid action. President Obama demonstrated full awareness of these realities in his straightforward statement: "There's always a reason not to do it. Now is exactly the time for us to deal with this problem."
He also reiterated his promise that special interests would not, this time, be allowed to derail, damage or deny the absolutely essential actions needed to guarantee health care access for many millions now deprived of what most Americans consider a 21st Century right, far too long-delayed.
What emerged via a true, honest, democratic dialog from this most powerful and comprehensive single group ever assembled for national “see with own eyes” public attention was thus placed firmly on the public record. Those until now considered “negative” to the Obama insistence on rapid remediation for health care on the national level were both present and vocal.
Given the current worldwide economic collapse now well underway, they seem to have gotten the message --well understood by millions of Americans-- that this is no long the same situation as they have encountered in preceding years.
The special report today in The Washington Post makes that critical situation entirely clear: Ex-Foes of Health-Care Reform Emerge as Supporters By Ceci Connolly Friday, 3/6/09; Excerpt: “In the room was Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), who proudly reminded the crowd of 150 that he was instrumental in killing 'Hillarycare' in the 1990s. Yesterday, he announced that he supported the principles that have been outlined by Obama."
“Also at the summit was Chip Kahn, who 15 years ago, as an insurance lobbyist, helped mastermind the iconic "Harry and Louise" ads that attacked the health-care overhaul proposed by President Bill and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Kahn, who now represents hospitals, said Obama has “successfully launched the process we need to achieve health reform, which we all want, and brought together congressional Democrats and Republicans with stakeholders to begin to forge a consensus."
“Karen Ignagni, who runs the nation's leading insurance association, told Obama, ‘You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health-care reform this year.’"
"That's good news," Obama said, sounding a bit surprised. "That's America's Health Insurance Plans," he said, referring to Ignagni's group.
“Similar words of support came from lobbyists for physicians, drugmakers and the corporate sector.” To make sure I was not simply reading too much into this one Obama group-process session, I then checked directly with three others “in the media”, at various levels --both locally and nationally.
My first contact, a 30-year camera-toting “one man band” noted for a tough approach to politicians, stated:“ I’ve never encountered anything like this session”.
He had noted the same sense of different attitudes and acceptance via the President’s approach. He reiterated my feeling that it set a new and significantly different pattern for instituting changes badly needed now.
The second contact was a media veteran from the print-side --a metropolitan daily winner of numerous Pulitzer and other awards.
He felt that inclusion of all once-confrontational parties involved, especially those known to have been involved in blocking action in previous years, was “the key component of this obviously highly successful session.”
For me, the Washington Post story today affirms his view, with specific quotes from those leading past opposition, both political and private-interest. The third contact, chosen for longtime experience in radio-news, and now at a famed national-level station, was also “deeply impressed” with the session. He agreed that “this is a unique new beginning” in Washington, and felt that “national level exposure widely-seen” was in itself an accomplishment, due to the open, honest, dialog approach.
“That was a solid new contrast vs the much more usual staid politically-correct pattern”, he stated. Thursday a new day may well have dawned in D.C., with President Obama demonstrating --very publicly-- precisely the leadership sensitivity and pragmatic skills which drew his huge working mandate.
That commanding mandate was well-recognized by both Congressional and private interest participants in this key consensus-seeking action-motivating session. Their close attention, shared respect, emphasis on learning from each other, and response to President Obama’s marching orders at the end was highly evident.
Whatever the final outcome, few can now find anything but praise and commendation for how well our new President put this one firmly “on the record”.
Henry Clay Ruark is the one of, if not the most experienced, working reporter in the state of Oregon, and possibly the entire Northwest. Hank has been at it since the 1930's, working as a newspaper staff writer, reporter and photographer for organizations on the east coast like the Bangor Maine Daily News.
Today he writes Op-Ed's for Salem-News.com with words that deliver his message with much consideration for the youngest, underprivileged and otherwise unrepresented people.