Barack Obama is one of one of the most highly educated Presidents to occupy the White House.
When he took office, he intended to make healthcare available to all Americans–and not just the wealthiest 1%.
President Barack Obama
But he made a series of deadly mistakes:
- In crafting the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare);
- In building public support for it; In underestimating the venom and opposition of his Right-wing enemies;
- In underestimating the opposition of the business community in complying with the law; and
- In allowing himself to be cowed by his political enemies.
Obama is by nature a supreme rationalist and conciliator–not a rough-and-tumble street fighter.
And his career before becoming President in 2008–or even the United States Senator from Illinois in 2004–greatly strengthened this predisposition.
From 1985 to 1988, Obama worked as a community organizer, setting up a job-training program, a college preparatory tutoring program and a tenants’ rights organization.
Such activities demand skills in building consensus, not confrontation.
He then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years–as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, teaching Constitutional law.
University of Chicago Law School
Law professors spend their time in clean, civil classrooms–far removed from the rough-and tumble of criminal defense/prosecution.
If Obama had accused President George W. Bush of conspiring with Al Qaeda–as Republicans have repeatedly accused Obama–retribution would have been swift and brutal.
(On March 10, 2003, nine days before Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the country music band, the Dixie Chicks, told a London concert audience: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
(A Republican-approved boycott of Dixie Chicks music followed, as well as death threats DJs refused to play their music, and President Bush refused to criticize the KGB-like tactics of his Right-wing supporters.)
Natalie Maines, left, of the Dixie Chicks
But Obama could not–or would not–bring himself to attack his sworn enemies by attacking their own patriotism or invoking Federal criminal statutes against their extortionate and terrorist threats.
In short: Obama–who believes in reason and conciliation–paid the price for allowing his sworn enemies to insult and obstruct him.
Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.
Throughout his campaign to win support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Obama had repeatedly promised: “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”
But, hidden in the 906 pages of the law, was a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.
The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.
If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.
It soon soon turned out that many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.
Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare–charged and ridiculed as a liar. Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show,” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.
The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor; since we can’t, you must be a liar.
As a result, the President found his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–shattered.
All of which points to a final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli:
Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil….
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that, if she’s elected President, she will push for incremental changes in the ACA.
Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has called for the implementation of a single-payer plan. This, in effect, would accomplish what Republicans have spent the last seven years trying to do: Repeal “Obamacare.”
A single-payer plan would prove simpler and more comprehensive than the ACA. But the chances of its passing a Republican-dominated Congress are absolutely zero.
The passage of the ACA was–as the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo–“a damned, close-run thing.”
Right-wingers like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin flat-out lied that the ACA would create “death panels.” And millions of reactionaries, furious that a black man now occupied the Oval Office, eagerly believed it.
When Democratic politicians organized town meetings for public discussion of the Act, Rightist hooligans often used violence to break them up.
Republicans remained silent while President George W. Bush lied the nation into a bloody, budget-busting war in Iraq. But they have repeatedly damned the ACA as a lethal drain on the American taxpayer.
Thus, any changes to come in the ACA will have to come as Hillary Clinton proposes, on an incremental basis.
The only thing that can be said with certainty about the ACA is this:
If any Republican wins the Presidency in 2016, the Republican-dominated House and Senate will send him legislation decreeing the death of affordable healthcare for all Americans. And he will of course sign it.