Each side wrong
I have combed the now-infamous school speech President Obama delivered on Tuesday for comments that might be objectionable to conservatives. Mostly it was a personal pep talk by the president, given by a man who transformed himself from typical m...
I have combed the now-infamous school speech President Obama delivered on Tuesday for comments that might be objectionable to conservatives. Mostly it was a personal pep talk by the president, given by a man who transformed himself from typical middle-class kid to world powerbroker. It's also a laser-like message to kids to take personal responsibility for their career and finances -- something any conservative could support. The only part I found that could possibly rub some uber-conservatives the wrong way was the following paragraph, where the president explained to students why they need to study hard:
"You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free."
Perhaps in some conservative minds it amounts to "socialism" if the president inspires children to dedicate their future careers to searches for a cure for AIDS or to protecting the environment? Beyond that, I could find nothing that hinted of partisan politics, and neither could this guest opinion writer for christrianpost.com:
"At this level, the controversy is a national embarrassment. Conservatives must avoid jumping on every conspiracy theory and labeling every action by the Obama administration as sinister or socialist. Our civic culture is debased when opposing parties and political alignments read every proposal by the other side as suspect on its face."
But just as some conservatives wasted political ammo shooting down a non-existent socialist enemy, Democrats are hurting themselves by trying to pretend that every protester who shows up at congressional town hall meetings to oppose the president's version of health-care reform is some kind of paid GOP partisan. The fact is, most are not -- they are middle- and lower-income Americans who are either satisfied with their health insurance as it is, or who fear higher taxes to pay for other people's lack of insurance.
While polls show a majority of Americans want some sort of health-care reform, they also show a large majority satisfied with what they currently have. For example, a July poll for Time magazine found 53 percent very satisfied, 33 percent somewhat satisfied, 9 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 4 percent very dissatisfied.
A Quinnipiac University poll found 49 percent very satisfied, 36 percent somewhat satisfied, 10 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 4 percent very dissatisfied. Even a survey by a Democratic polling firm -- Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Democracy Corps -- found the same general contours. In that June poll, about 44 percent said they were very satisfied, 27 percent said they were somewhat satisfied, 11 percent said they were somewhat dissatisfied and 14 percent said they were very dissatisfied.
Divided as polls show we are over health-care reform, Democrats paint protests as the product of a lunatic fringe at their own peril. The vast majority of Americans do not want a public option or anything that smacks of nationalization. What most do want is an end to insurance-industry scams, such as exclusion of so-called pre-existing conditions, and the ability to drop an insured simply because he or she comes down with cancer.
Obama's approval numbers are quite high when he talks about cutting health-care costs by getting hospitals and insurers to trim expenses. But he instills serious levels of doubt when he proposes a public option, because many Americans know that cannot pay for itself and will result in higher taxes for all.
Republicans need to stop crying wolf and creating false dustups, such as the one over the president's education speech. Democrats, on the other hand, need to see the protesters against the president's health-care reform proposal for what many of them are: average citizens with a valid concern.
-- Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com .