Earlier this year, President Obama disbanded George W. Bush’s Bioethics Council. Headed first by Leon Kass, and later by Ed Pellegrino, the Bush Bioethics Council was right-leaning, heavily theologically influenced, and rife with controversy. Elizabeth Blackburn was fired from the council after disagreeing over the Council’s theological bent on issues such as stem cell research and abortion. President Obama just got the ball rolling on a new Council, appointing UPenn President and noted political theorist Amy Gutmann as chair and Emory University President James Wagner as vice chair. See GEN for more updates.
Two things, I think, are clear. First, liberals knew what kind of candidate they had and what sort of president they’d get in Obama. He hasn’t really disappointed. Conservatives have painted him as a socialist waging class warfare against the rich. In reality, he’s a centrist. His desire for partisanship, whatever his motives, have led him down that path. Second, Ralph Nader doesn’t pull his punches. Love him or hate him, he doesn’t hold back when something is on his mind. Recently, in the wake of Obama’s Nobel Prize, Nader referred to the President as a frightened man. See for yourself. But, honestly, for actual liberals, we’re all (hopelessly) waiting for Obama to take advantage of the supermajority and start delivering on his promise(s) for change.
Conservatives are perturbed over President Obama’s education talk planned for this coming Tuesday. The planned fifteen to twenty minute speech is said to be about personal responsibility, staying at, and succeeding in school. Considering our current reverse brain drain, and the pitiful amount of science and math majors in our universities, it seems like a good idea. But conservatives are more than a little upset. The claim is that the President is trying to “indoctrinate” their youth and push a “socialist agenda.” The only problem is the national media have once again taken the bait. The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, AP, and others ran stories this morning about the “issue.” This outrage has been especially bad in Texas where several large school districts have opted out of the speech.
The White House has tried to make concessions by making the speech available in text on Monday morning and editing some of the supplemental materials that some found objectionable. It doesn’t matter. I think Conservatives just don’t want their children acutely exposed to Obama. Let’s also not forget the fact Ronald Regan did the same thing in ‘88, and so did Bush ‘91. What did Regan talk about that day you ask? Tax cuts for gods sake! The Republican party needs to take a long look in the mirror and stop allowing idiots to be the face of their party.
What’s funny about this whole debacle is that the White House saw it coming. President Obama perhaps figured that the kids who were not allowed to watch his speech would later be pulled in by this sweet Nascar PSA.
Health care reform is on the forefront of political news these days. One aspect of Obama’s proposal has polarized the American right and left–the public option. (The polarizing effect of this piece is so great–as is Obama’s desire for bipartisan politics–that he’s thought of dropping it altogether. This move is perhaps having its own deleterious effects.) Town hall meetings have been marred by disruptions and Obama has routinely been called a socialist. (And, in other situations, he’s been compared to Hitler.) What’s striking from all this hubbub over the public option, however, isn’t rationing, euthanization of the elderly, or a government monopoly on health care. Rather, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding over what the public option actually is. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight has a point-by-point proposal for getting a better hold on the public’s view on the public option. These include (1) Make clear that the ‘public option’ refers unambiguously to a type of health insurance, and not the actual provision of health care services by the government; (2) Make clear that by ‘public,’ you mean ‘government’; (3) Avoid using the term ‘Medicare’ when referring to the public option; (4) Make clear that the public option is, in fact, an option; and (5) Ask in clear and unambiguous terms whether the respondent supports the public option–not how important they think it is. Forcing people to think about the public option in this manner surely will help politicians gain a better understanding of what their constituents want. And, perhaps more importantly, it will force citizens to think more clearly about what they want for themselves and others.