Monday, 22 March 2010

What would Abe have done?

You may remember that during the presidential campaign Obama revealed he was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lincoln, 'Team of Rivals' (posted on here). Most commentators saw it as prefiguring Obama's inclusion of Hilary Clinton and Robert Gates in his cabinet (Lincoln had brought on board rivals as well as talented people associated with parties other than his own).

All well and good. But I think people should take another look. In the course of his career, as recounted by Kearns Goodwin, two things worked ceaselessly in Lincoln's favour. Firstly, his almost superhuman patience and restraint exercised in the face of all sorts of pressure. He was willing to wait for the time to be ripe before striking, willing to ride out short-term setbacks. Secondly, his opponents constantly underestimated him, mistaking his circumspection for weakness and indecisiveness.

Ring any bells?


dearieme said...

What, you mean that Obama will launch a Civil War and then some mad bastard will shoot him?

Gaw said...

I believe some of the more excitable right-wingers believe civil war has already started. And there sure is no shortage of 'mad bastards'...

Vern said...

I'm not sure it was patience and rational planning so much as

1) staggering complacency,
2) an embarrassing lack of organization and coordination,
3) an embarrassing lack of a coherent health reform bill

followed by

3) a sudden waking up to cold reality after losing Massachusetts


4) the Big O to suddenly decide to throw everything he had at it for fear of becoming a lame duck at the end of his first year.

Total apocalyptic meltdown on the "right" today, while some understandable jubilation on the "left" who have regained some faith in Obama after entering a long dark night of the soul several months ago.

Gaw said...

Ha! But I'm not sure something this big gets passed by mistake. Wasn't Teddy Roosevelt the first to have a crack at universal healthcare?

zmkc said...

It's when you see the right's reaction to the passing of this bill that you realise America really is another country - almost another planet.

Vern said...

It's certainly not a mistake- there was an unbelievable amount of deal cutting going on right up until the last minute, and then some. This has overshadowed the fact that the bill is a hodge podge that nobody understands or likes much (not even on the "left"), although it does contain some good stuff- a ban on excluding people with pre-existing conditions for example.

A lot of the terror on the right has stemmed from the understandable concern that the thing is an unholy and unwieldy beast that will cost vast amounts of cash the US does not currently have.

And then there's another less rational aspect, which is a belief that America 's mystical rugged individualism has now been destroyed and the populace has been enslaved. Bollocks of course, but myths have power.

Hey Skipper said...

... a ban on excluding people with pre-existing conditions for example.

That really amounts to insurance companies excluding people who sign up for car insurance the day of the accident.

Vern said...

I can't weep for them over this one- as a business model of course it makes sense to have excluded those people, but in a health system it's inhumane. Those people need to be looked after as much as, if not more than, those who are more fortunate.

dearieme said...

"although it does contain some good stuff- a ban on excluding people with pre-existing conditions for example": which is incompatible with running an insurance-based system; a quick, clean solution to pre-existing conditions would be for Medicaid or Medicare to cover them, irrespective of age or income. Insofar as I pay attention to all this, it seems a hugely expensive way to fail to fix some of the disadvantages of the American system, while still leaving 5% without cover. You still have a ban on shopping around for your insurance interstate (at least I assume you have; I've no more read the Bill than Obama has), you still have the tax system ensuring that it's likely that you take your insurance through your employer rather than personally - and so can get stuck when you change jobs, and there's still not much in the way of incentives applied to try to control costs. If I were a cynic I'd guess that it's designed to lead to a breakdown of the system and so to lead to the much more radical - or from the British point of view, reactionary - outcome of an NHS. And it wouldn't be the sort of superior Health Service that you get (people tell me) in France or Singapore or Iceland, it'd be a run with all the skill, courtesy and immagination of, say, the US immigration service. Lucky Yanks.

Vern said...

In fact I agree with all of that, dearieme- ban on pre-existing conditions or not. It's a giant botch job and unholy mess. I was trying to look on the bright side.

Gaw said...

This is an interesting take on it:

The reckoning is coming...and the theory of health care reform has always been to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls...But seen in this light, the health care victory looks less like the dawn of a bold new era, and more like the final lurch forward before a slow retreat.

In which case it was worth doing - if it was the only way to get the uninsured 'inside the barrel' before a necessary restructuring to reduce cost.

I've mentioned it before elsewhere but the biggest problem the US has vis-a-vis healthcare is the cost of doctors and drugs. Both are hugely more expensive than in the rest of the world.

I would guess this something to do with the insurance model not being very good at controlling the costs of supplies and service providers (if all builders were paid what they are for insurance jobs then what do you think would happen to building costs?)

It may also have something to do with doctors in the US having to pay for their education and needing to earn super-money to justify it.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Fascinating stuff, and I'm just gonna have to sit back and learn rather than contribute anything of import myself.

Peter said...

I stopped trying to figure out what was being proposed with last summer's mega-bill and the voodoo financial predictions of both sides. Since then, I've heard very little about the problems of healthcare and possible solutions and an awful lot about the Final Battle Between Good and Evil.

Right and left tend to battle as if everyone was politicized and soon come to ignore what I call the decent, muddled middle. The left continuously stumbles on failing to realize the public will never accept that our society is sick and rotten and to be blamed for the ills of this world. I think in this case the right failed to understand that the public simply won't accept that anyone would be denied needed medical care for financial reasons, anymore than it would accept children denied an education or an old person a home.