I’ve avoided talking about this for a while now – actually, for almost two years. The fact of the matter is I don’t like to associate myself in any way with a political figure, other than to castigate his or her policies, moral leanings or hairstyles. But I think enough time has passed that I won’t appear to be jumping on anybody’s band wagon if I weigh in, finally, on President Barack Obama.
The American politician is a somewhat unique animal in the international landscape. Certainly it’s a rule for politicians the world over that charisma (personally and on screen), eloquence and a strong jawline are all pretty much requisite to the job, but American politicians spend more time in the international spotlight, on average, than just about anybody else. This is particularly true of the President, the so-called Leader of the Free World, Commander-in-Chief of what is arguably the most powerful military on the planet, etc. etc. &c.
It’s been a very long time in America since they’ve had a leader who meets those prerequisites. At the risk of beating an extremely dead horse, I think just about everybody can agree the former administration represented – to put it in a generously delicate fashion – one of the very darkest periods in American history, and that was thanks in no small way to the ham-handed bumblefuckery that passed for presence and charisma in the former President.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not going on record saying I think he’s a bad guy (or, if you prefer, Bad Guy). I was, once upon a time, a frequent visitor to Mr. Bush’s home state of Texas, and I rubbed shoulders with a lot of people who named the Bush family among their personal friends. By all accounts George Junior is a really nice cat, and the general consensus among those who know him is that somebody must have been feeding him some pretty serious drugs during his tenure as president. I mean, check out this video and tell me you don’t see a difference between Governor Bush and President Bush:
Anyway, the point is, for better or worse this guy and his network of appointed officials did a serious number on America’s standing domestically and abroad. The last election proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Americans at large were fairly champing at the bit to get those clowns out of office and instigate a little positive change for once. Can’t blame them: after years of Terror Alerts and the frighteningly-Orwellian Department of Homeland Security, Guantanamo Bay and (of course) Iraq, the American people were reduced to walking bundles of raw, exposed nerve endings who couldn’t travel anywhere outside the U.S. without being – at best – mocked and berated, and at worst hated on and threatened with violence. They were, to paraphrase one of their great heroes, mad as hell about it, and not willing to take anymore.
Enter Barack Obama.
This guy walked into the high-stakes political arena of presidential candidacy like he owned the place. He was cool, calm and collected under fire; he was passionate when the occasion called for passion, and gently self-deprecating when humility was required. Most of all, he was pleasant to listen to – eloquent and extremely charismatic: traits made even more obvious by comparison with the departing Mr. Bush. From the day Obama announced his intentions to go for the Big Chair in February of 2007, I was consistently impressed with his performance.
Make no mistake my friends, this isn’t AJ being typically cynical – it’s a fact that politicians are performers first and foremost. Their job is to sell the public on policy – and as any salesman knows, a sales job is an acting gig. It’s always been that way, but ever since television became the primary medium of communication with the nation, the acting role has become even more prominent. It follows, then, that the better the actor, the more effective the politician.
Two of the greatest public speakers in history prove this point. JFK reunited a divided nation and drove his people to greatness through manipulation of their emotions: calling to the forefront images of America’s foundations of pioneer spirit, he set his people’s sights on the so-called “final frontier”and landed men on the Moon for the first time.
Adolf Hitler gathered around him the remnants of a broken nation and united his people in a common dream – regardless how history played out, it’s undeniable that in a few short years, Hitler brought Germany from abject poverty to almost total dominion over mainland Europe.
Like I said, the better the actor, the more effective the politician: one man (or woman) has the capacity to effect sweeping changes to the world through the precise application of, among other things, the force of their personality and their ability to convince others of their vision.
Our man Obama has all of that in spades. Granted, situationally he was already in a good position, because the low end of the bar had already been set – and how badly would he have to fuck the dog to be remembered as worse than George Bush? But he still had his work cut out for him. So what did he do? Promise to pull combat troops from Iraq no later than August of 2010. Cool. Shut down Guantanamo Bay and start making headway towards repairing the severe damage done to personal liberty by the DHS. Even better. Run all over the Middle East trying to make friends with the Muslim community after they’d been so badly bitch-slapped by the previous administration. Right on, especially when you consider his placations didn’t extend to tacit approval of that sham of an election in Iran.
All of this is good stuff. I don’t consider myself an exclusive subscriber to any political leaning, but socially I’d probably call myself pretty liberal, so a lot of this lines up with what I’d like to see happen south of the border. And watching the new president speak in any venue, whether it’s CNN or Jay Leno, is an absolute joy.
I remember watching the last night of the election with several friends, and Obama’s acceptance speech had half the room in tears. Literally in tears. Me being the cynic I am, all I kept repeating in my head was “please don’t turn out to be a liar”. But so far, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of living up to this media-driven image whose proportions approach the Messianic.
But, of course, you can’t please all the people, all the time. So when you start fiddling with a major American institution like ridiculously expensive privatized health care, people that fear and distrust change start getting a bit antsy.
This isn’t a new issue. Obama has been talking about his health care reform ideas since 2008 when he was still a senator. In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here is the main talking point.
MAKE HEALTH CARE AFFORDABLE.
I live in Canada. That means we have a publicly available health-care system that looks after our basic well-being, regardless of economic status or whatever. Yes, we have long lines at the E.R. Yes, we pay higher taxes than some other countries. But the ability for me to go get my throat checked out when I develop strep throat two days before I’m supposed to play a show and not have to pay through the nose for the GP to tell me what I already know (and to provide me with a scrip to go get some penicillin) is well worth it in my estimation. Yeah, I still have to pay for my own prescription (the Fixer provides me with all the whiskey I can drink, but he’s not great when it comes to health benefits) but it’s still far less bread out of my pocket.
Here’s the American version. The last time I was in the ‘States I was visiting with a woman who suffered from chronic sinus infections. Unfortunately the symptoms she manifested could have pointed to a number of more serious illnesses, so every time she came down with one she had to trot off to the local clinic to make sure she had what she thought she did. I went with her one night. Long story short, we sat in the waiting room for an hour and a half before being transferred to an office to await the doctor. Two and a half hours later (the only way to pass the time being banal conversation and “Air Bud” on the TV screen) the doctor finally came in, looked up her nose, confirmed the diagnosis and then charged us an obscene amount of money for the same. That was on top of the prescription itself – which was, I might note, far more expensive there than it would have been at home.
President Obama is looking to change all that by implementing a public health care system designed to give a little slack to the economically-challenged members of their populace. According to the official brief, the Public National Health Plan would be available to everyone (regardless of their existing health status) for an “affordable premium” with a minimum of copays and deductibles, and with subsidies available for low-income residents.
Oh, and they want businesses to contribute to said health plan, rather than setting up private insurance for their employees that costs considerably more.
Generally speaking, Obama wants to overhaul the system so that people who need the care can actually afford to get it. This includes streamlining treatment procedures and providing federal funding where required to get the job done.
This blog is supposed to be entertaining so I’m not going to bore you with the explicit details of this program (that’s what Google is for, my friends), but what I found entertaining about this whole situation is the vast reservoir of conspiracy-esque commentary that’s resulted from the initiation of this plan.
What I’ve been able to glean from all this is that a lot of people are very concerned Obama’s plan will somehow eliminate privatized health care in favour of a single-payer plan. This video, put together by one such concerned citizen, is testament to that:
Aw, come on. I’ve already said Obama’s a great speaker – you’ve got to give him a little slack for using the word “eliminate” in what was probably not the best context. Nobody’s perfect guys.
In response to these concerns, the White House issued this statement on their official blog:
“For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.”
All right, I’ll give you this much: that’s a vague statement. Yes, it could mean “you can keep them until we gut private health care and it all goes the way of the dinosaur”. And being the cynic I am, I can’t say I’d be surprised if even a guy as squeaky clean as Barack Obama starts spinning things his way and lying to the American public just like every other politician in the history of civilization.
But on the surface, I’m content to sit back and see where this goes. A lot of people have thrown their tacit or overt support behind Barack Obama’s administration, and even though I’m Canadian and I don’t actually get a say, I’m happy to give the guy all the rope he needs. If he hangs himself with it, well, he still won’t have screwed the pooch as bad as the last crop of corrupt bastards to go through that office. Either way, speaking from the perspective of a guy who enjoys the free health care in this country, I think the idea of public health services is a great one, and long overdue south of the border, so here’s hoping nobody buggers it up too badly.
And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy living in this wonderful country where the fact that politicians are usually backstabbing liars doesn’t often impede my ability to fix my throat in time to go play in front of throngs of adoring fans.