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28
Life and politics are full of irony. Like health-care reform.
 
One of the great obstacles to a “public option” is the fear of “government-run health care.”
 
One voter group most worried about reform are seniors. Specifically, they worry that reform will jeopardize Medicare.
 
That is, they fear that government-run health care will threaten their government-run health care.
 
If Medicare is so great, and all my (somewhat) older friends say it is, what’s wrong with Medicare for everybody?
 
For that matter, what’s wrong with Republicans doing what we Democrats have done so well for so long: Scare seniors?
 
We’ve won older voters election after election by telling them Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare.
 
Now it looks like we get to wear the scary mask.

 

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25
The media frenzy over the last month or so has been that Americans don’t support – or understand – President Obama’s health-care reforms.
 
Bad news for Barack, the media and the pundits proclaim.
 
In Washington this week, a local executive told me, she heard one of the media Big Feet pontificating about how Obama missed an opportunity in his Sunday talk-show blitz: He didn’t spell out one-two-three exactly what he wants in a reform bill.
 
I think the “experts” are missing something because of their own obsession with the minutiae of issues. And, yes, before somebody starts screaming, the minutiae of issues is important. But let me finish.
 
What’s more important in politics is trust.
 
If people trust a politician, they trust him or her on issues, even if they disagree on specifics.
 
A perfect example was Ronald Reagan. For eight years, I listened to Democrats express amazement that the American people loved Reagan even though polls showed they disagreed with his policies.
 
Same thing with Obama. So today’s New York Times poll shows that, yes, the public is wary of his policies on health care and Afghanistan. But his approval rating is 56 percent.
 
More important, the public trusts him more than it trusts the Republicans in Congress.
 
That’s what Obama was up to last Sunday – and in his continuing media blitz. It’s not so much about issues as it is about persuading Americans he is a leader they can trust to do his best to do the right thing.
 
Besides, health care really isn’t where Obama needs to worry long term. He’ll get a bill, and he’ll claim victory. But getting a victory in Afghanistan is much tougher and much riskier – for Obama’s future and for America’s.

 

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22
If anyone’s wondering why Governor Perdue’s popularity is languishing at political rock bottom the answer may be zigging and zagging.
 
Governor Perdue was for budget cuts, then she was against budget cuts.  She told the legislature to raise taxes, any taxes, it didn’t matter to her which; then she blasted legislators for raising the wrong taxes.

Now she’s zigzagging again.

Last year, running for Governor, she said she was 100% against ‘drilling for oil off North Carolina’s coast.’  She said it would never happen on her watch.  Then gas prices soared and she redefined the meaning of never, saying, in effect, never had come and gone so she was going to appoint a panel of experts to study offshore drilling.

That got her through the election successfully then the whole idea vanished, no one heard another word about her panel – until a week ago when the Civitas Institute took a poll and found 72% of the voters still favor offshore drilling.

That, apparently, stirred the Governor into action.  The offshore oil drilling study panel came off the shelf and the Governor announced she was appointing it forthwith, except she didn’t appoint a single person – so, as far as I know, we’re the first state in history with a panel to study offshore drilling with no one on it.

Once upon a time Ole Governor Jim Hunt got himself into heaps of political trouble by always having his finger to the political wind and changing directions like a weathervane.  With Bev Perdue it’s déjà vu’ all over again. 

 

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21
Sometimes Democrats are too logical. They forget that communication is mostly emotional.
 
Like health care “death panels.” Democrats need to get off the defensive and turn the issue into political death for Republicans.
 
A Harvard Medical School study says 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have insurance.
 
People will gladly take reform – shoot, they’ll take government-run health care – if they think it’s the difference between life and death.
 
President Obama got close when he said people shouldn’t have to go broke because they get sick.
 
Democrats need to go farther: You shouldn’t have to get sick and die because you can’t afford insurance.

 

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16
Imagine that the shoe was on the other foot – or the shout came from the other side of the aisle.
 
Imagine this: President Bush gives a speech about reforming Social Security. He says we should adopt a partial privatization plan. And he vows that no older American will lose any of their Social Security as a result.
 
Imagine that, say, Mel Watt or G.K. Butterfield or Jim Clyburn – or any black congressman – shouts out: “You lie!”
 
Imagine what Fox News, Crazy Joe Wilson and Rush Limbaugh would say then.

 

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15

Hardly a Democrat has a doubt the Internet has become a force majeure in politics; and if any Republican had any doubts take a look at what’s happened to Representative Joe Wilson.

Congressman Wilson was cruising to reelection in a Republican District when he called out, “You lie!” on national TV – then overnight a million dollars sailed through the ether and landed in his opponent’s inbox.
 
One day Wilson’s crusin,’ the next he’s in a fight for his political life.
 
The Democrats fully funded an entire Congressional Race – in a Republican District – overnight.
 
Then Wilson did his own Internet video and voilà – he raises a million too.
 
And consider this: 20,000 people just gave Wilson’s opponent a million dollars but that’s not the end of it. How many more millions will those same people give between now and the election? You can bet Wilson’s opponent will be emailing them every time another shoe drops – so it could be two, three or four million before all’s said and done.

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15
Pass any ethics law you want. Set up any ethics board you want. The best ethics protection remains The News & Observer.
 
Getting a copy of the Easleys’ settlement statement at Cannonsgate (can there really be a –gate in this story?) is an amazing coup. As shown by Wade Byrd’s threat to sue the paper.
 
When Pat Stith retired, I feared the N&O might lose a step. Not so. If anything, the paper is getting better at uncovering questionable actions by politicians.
 
Thanks goes to Jay Price, J. Andrew Curliss, Joseph Neff and their editors, who kept the paper’s investigative role alive despite budget cuts.
 
The Old Reliable Rule lives: Don’t do anything – or put anything on paper – that you don’t want to see on the front page of the N&O.
 

 

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14
There’s plenty of hot news lately.
 
Iran’s close to building a bomb.
 
ACORN operatives got caught on film trying to figure out how to bring young girls from Honduras to Baltimore for what sounded a lot like a prostitution ring.
 
And the Republican National Committees are going all out to elect a Republican who’s for gay marriage to Congress in a Special Election in New York. (If you think that makes sense consider this – the district’s not in Greenwich Village it’s in the Adirondack Mountains and there are 60,000 more Republicans in it than Democrats.)
 
Closer to home Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s taking on Senator Richard Burr. Generally, things are looking up for Burr (except he’s got poll numbers worse than Elizabeth Dole’s). Burr’s lucky enough to be running in what’s beginning to look like a fine year for Republicans; after voting for the bailouts he may cruise to victory because folks are mad at Democrats.
 
But don’t underestimate Elaine Marshall: She lost in the Senate primary in 2002 – but her only problem was she didn’t have money and the Democrats will take care of that when they give Burr the Liddy Dole treatment.
 
Beyond that, the nutty President of Iran may be about to make us forget about health care and the economy. Wednesday the United States envoy to the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency announced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‘is close to having the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.’  If he doesn’t fess-up and stop the UN’s going to whoop him with double, triple, super-sanctions. On top of the three sets of sanctions Ahmadinejad’s ignored.
 
Finally, Governor Perdue’s popularity is still at rock bottom. But she’s got a solution: She’s taking an $80,000 junket to China .

 

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10
Watching President Obama give a speech is sort of like it used to be watching Reggie Jackson play baseball – I’m no Yankees fan but at times watching Reggie (like in the World Series game when he hit three homeruns) could be pretty amazing.
 
Plus, President Obama has guts, which is about the rarest trait in any politician.
 
Last night he took his foes head on, right down to the folks who’re saying he means to set up death panels to kill old people (that charge always did sound kind of shaky).
 
That said, on the negative side of the Obama equation, the President is 100% sold, convinced, blind-in-love with government. To his way of thinking government beats Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield and Julia Roberts hands down. The more of it the better.
 
When it comes to health care he’s got a case – sort of. But when it comes to Uncle Sam owning GM, Citibank and AIG his blind love of government has gotten him onto shaky ground and he’s sowed the seeds for a lot of mischief.
 
The reason he’s got a case on health care – sort of – is the peculiar moral conflict that arises between the natural workings of the free market and caring for sick people. That conflict can be explained pretty simply: A sick person’s goal is the most care and get well. That is not necessarily the insurance company’s goal.
 
There are plenty of examples of this conflict in action: I mentioned one in an earlier blog about a doctor who wanted to give a patient an EKG (as a precaution) before an operation but the Insurance Company said no, it wasn’t going to pay for an EKG for a 45 year old with no history of heart trouble. That same kind of moral glitch doesn’t occur when it comes to buying an automobile or shopping for CD’s at Wall Mart.
 
Beyond that moral question there’s also a practical problem: The rub between ‘Individual Rates’ and ‘Community Rates.’
 
‘Individual Rates’ mean charging, say, a 25 year old, a rate for his health insurance that fits his class (which is, say, people under 30).
 
‘Community Rates’ mean charging everyone in a community, whether they’re eighteen and healthy or sixty and ill the same rate.
 
Unregulated, the free market just naturally gravitates toward individual rates – but that means a lot of 60 year olds with high blood pressure are going to pay big insurance bills (unless they happen to work for Congress).
 
Anyhow, last night, Obama pulled a Reggie Jackson. He got up off the mat and back into the health care ring and went right to punching and dancing. The rest of this fight could turn out to be pretty simple.
 
A lot of people are happy with their health insurance so the Insurance Companies are telling them, If Obama’s plan passes – you get screwed.

And Obama’s telling them, Under my plan you’ve got nothing to worry about. You get to keep what you have and some other folks are going to get the help they need.

Now, just naturally, folks are averse to taking any risks at all themselves – especially if all the benefits go to the other fellow. So Obama’s got the harder case to sell.

But, then again, he’s the Reggie Jackson of salesmen.
 

 

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10
One of the smartest people I know in the health-care field is Bill Atkinson, CEO of WakeMed.
 
Not long ago, he made a point that gets little attention in today’s debate: That most American families – no matter how well off – are one major illness from financial ruin.
 
The debate seems to have settled into camps of the haves versus the have-nots. Everybody who has health insurance and isn’t scared to death wants government to keep out of health care (including those confused individuals who want the government to stay out of their Medicare).
 
If most people understood the financial burden than their or a family member’s extended illness could bring about, they’d be begging for socialized medicine.

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