Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Hillary Clinton Tells Off Questioner, Dances, Plus Testy Health Care Town Mtgs

Hillary Clinton Tells Off Congo Questioner

Me thinks that our secretary of state must've been on the receiving end of a whole mess o'sexist commentary thus far in her tenure, and constantly feel one-upped by her suck-all-the-oxygen-out-of-the-room spouse who got international accolades for helping to negotiate with the North Koreans for the freedom for two U.S. journalists last week. That's the only explanation I have (except maybe sleep deprivation) for Hillary Clinton ditching her normally professionally cool responses to difficult questions and telling a college student from Congo, in a matter of speaking, that she didn't like her question. One problem: The questioner didn't intend to insult Hillary Clinton. The translator screwed up. Whoops.

Hillary Dance Party

I always feel badly for U.S. officials when they venture abroad, play along with local customs and show courtesy to their hosts. How many presidents have donned un-western-like clothing and gotten mocked for wearing the duds by the folks back home?

So when an international host invites you to dance, what are you supposed to say, "No thank you. The late night comedians and folks on the internet will torture me about my dancing. Forever. I'll pass."

Of course not. You dance. And then be a good sport and suffer through the ridicule. Like Hillary Clinton has to at the hands of Conan O'Brien's staff about her dancing during her trip to Africa:

Testy Health Care Town Meetings

The recent spate of health care/health insurance town meetings between congressmen and senators and their constituents have gotten fairly heated haven't they? Some have devolved into circuses where no one gets heard and no one communicates and it all becomes white noise as tempers flare.

As I've watched this unfold, I've seen two sides getting fired up and becoming unable or unwilling to actually listen to the concerns of the other side, with the exception of Barack Obama himself, who seems game to field and handle pointed questions without shutting people down. (However people haven't been as nasty to him personally as they have been to U.S. congressmen and senators.)

The pro-Obama administration folks have tended to parrot the president's lines, like the ones spoken today at Obama's town meeting in New Hampshire: "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan." Obama said he doesn't want government bureaucrats OR insurance company bureaucrats "meddling" and getting involved in medical decisions made between you and your doctor. He said there won't be "death panels" run by the government to decide if a frail or sick senior should be provided health care. Obama has repeatedly told the story of his mother spending the last weeks of her life fighting with the health insurance company over her cancer treatments. He's also fond of saying, "No one in America should go broke because they got sick." The White House has created a web site which officials said seeks to clarify some of the misinformation voters have been given about the various health care reform bills. (Full disclosure: I haven't read the health care reform bills, though I think I might and then post what I find.)

All of those things seem to be common points of interest on which both conservatives and liberals could, essentially, agree. Keep all bureaucrats out of medical decisions. Pick your own health plan and your doctor. You shouldn't be driven into bankruptcy if someone in your family is sick. All good.

However there's a divergence from all of those common points when it comes down to actual legislation. People, many of them conservative-leaning, have been doing some research into the bills and have become nervous. They fear panels of government officials making decisions related to their health. (I imagine someone from my state's notoriously unfriendly Registry of Motor Vehicles handling my or my children's health claims and I shudder.) They don't want a single, government-run health care plan, which Sen. Arlen Specter today said he'll consider as senators discuss competing pieces of health insurance legislation. People are justifiably leery about how much this is going to cost, particularly during a recession.

Then, at town meetings across the country where there have been people posing well reasoned questions about the plans, there've also been screaming nutcases. The media give a lot of the coverage to the nutcases and eventually everyone who questions the plan is lumped under the category of an unruly mob. It's at this point when we realize that when it comes to health care and making life-and-death decisions, people take things very personally.

Democratic proponents of the health care overhaul haven't made things better by labeling the voters who are getting riled up at town meetings "un-American," like several of the people at Senator Specter's meeting with constituents today. There's a way to express your skepticism, disapproval and ask tough questions without being a jack ass.

Having partisans like Ann Coulter and James Carville chattering on Good Morning America about these emotional town halls certainly doesn't help bestow calm or promote rational discussion. But rational discussion can be quite boring, mind-numbing at times, and doesn't make for good TV which thrives on drama and conflict. I'd love to see leaders from both sides of the aisle, step up and seek the calm, boring middle ground here, tamp down the fury and the name calling and bore us all to death with reasonable and open discussions. For as long as it takes, without rushing. But I guess that's just too much to ask for.

Or we could just call Jon Stewart for his read on the situation. While he is a liberal, he's funny.

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