Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama Rhetoric for Healthcare Reform Plan Is No We Can't

Bill Weir, anchor of Good Morning America Weekend, said this weekend about the healthcare proposals offered by Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in the following way.

Senator Obama's plan is "built on political realism."
Senator Clinton is "sticking to a plan that is built on idealism."

Ironic, isn't it? Senator Obama, who has great vision and inspires many, falls very short on his rhetoric of "Yes, We Can" when it comes to healthcare. Why is that? He promises a brighter future for all of us and says that he is the agent of change. He states that this generation must, like generations before, take charge and bring new hope to a country that badly needs it.

Yet, when it comes to healthcare insurance, which as a doctor I see as a necessity and not a luxury, he with his advisors instead opt for a piecemeal incremental plan rather than a politically risky plan that would mandate all Americans to purchase health insurance. How do you think people felt decades ago when they were told that their wages would be taxed to fund new radical programs called Social Security and Medicare? Was it the right thing to do? Was it politically difficult to have it implemented?

Leadership involves making good choices consistently over a long period of time. Obviously one can't be right all of the time. While Senator Obama argues that his decision against authorizing the use of force against Iraq shows good judgment, time will tell. One good or bad decision doesn't make a good leader but the number of decisions over time as leaders will be tested over and over again. His stance on healthcare reform, particularly for a Democrat, shows that he is very much like all other politicians in looking for political expediency rather than the idealism that he portrays in his public appearances.

This past weekend I was fortune enough to hear General Colin Powell speak about leadership. Although he didn't mention who he supported for the presidential nomination, he did note that the American public wanted a leader who had vision and who was experienced. He reflected on how Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and the current George W. Bush, didn't have worldly experience prior to entering the White House. General Powell, however, had praise for George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, who was ambassador to China and also head of the CIA previous to inhabiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The elder Bush had world experience and a deep understanding on what can be done and what needs to be done. It is this kind of wisdom one hopes the American public will value as the next president.

How does this get back to healthcare? We need leadership in this country for both foreign and domestic issues. Healthcare reform will only occur if true leaders step forward and take risks because it is the right thing to do. Besides hearing General Powell, I also heard Professor Uwe Reinhart, healthcare economics expert at Princeton speak. As he noted in the ABC Good Morning Weekend video is regards to American politicians is that "they just don't have the guts. They are gutless wonders when it comes to healthcare." I hope he is wrong.

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