One of the primary reasons the debate over health care reform has gotten out of control is that many (but, fortunately not all) Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media, have by and large focused on the most extreme antics of a handful of the protesters against increased federal involvement in our health care system, drawing our attention to the most hateful and juvenile of the signs at the various protests (while all but ignoring the same conduct from supporters of the President and Democratic plans to overhaul the system).
And these Democrats and pundits, in turn, hyperventilate how horrible, no good, hateful, very astroturfy we are, focusing on the angry rhetoric of a handful, ignoring the concerns of the multitude (which, if current polling trends are correct, reflect an emerging majority of Americans).
Their hyperventilating further debases the debate.
Today, AP, reverting to its fawning coverage of the President, began its article on his latest town hall, suggesting he was trying to change the tone of the debate, “Trying to lower the temperature of the health care fight, President Barack Obama on Friday denounced news media emphasis on angry protesters at town hall meetings.” And, to be sure, in his civil response to the challenging questions he received yesterday in Belgrade, Montana, the President did take a step in the direction of “recalibrating” the debate. But, it was only a step. Still, it represents progress.
He should, however, have dropped the attempt to bait the Republicans by saying that, well, when they voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act in 2003, so they really have no grounds to complain today that he’s proposing a vast and expensive new government bureaucracy with no way to pay for it (just as they did back then).
If Obama really wants to lower the temperature, he needs to mount the bully pulpit as only the President can do and make a plea for civil discourse while praising those of his critics, including many (if not most) Republican congressional critics and a number of pundits, notably Charles Krauthammer, who have expressed their concerns in a thoughtful manner. And when he praises the angry voices, he would do well to note that they have come from both sides of the debate.
While he need not mention his fellow Democrats by name, he need, through his rhetoric, make clear he is addressing the hateful barbs tossed by some of the leading Democrats in both Houses of Congress — as well as the antics of their allied interest groups.
Should he do that, he would both increase his standing with the public and enhance his own credibility in the current debate.