Tinkerbell Must Die
posted at 5:28 pm on August 20, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
The appearance today of two columns with more or less opposing viewpoints on how we got to where we are in the health-care debate brings to mind the famous scene in the second act of J. M. Barrie’s immortal play Peter Pan, where Tinkerbell is ill. Peter turns to the audience and gravely intones, “Tinkerbell is going to die because not enough people believe in fairies. But if all of you clap your hands real hard to show that you do believe in fairies, maybe she won’t die.”
One of the columns is by Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal. The other is by Joe Klein of Time magazine.
Henninger’s column, titled “In Government We Trust?”, begins with the observation that Barack Obama assumed the presidency at a time when the bottom was falling out of the housing market and the economy was listing badly. Soon after Obama took the Oath of Office, news of the Madoff Ponzi scheme broke, and so did the back of the American people’s trust in government and the good will of their fellow men.
So what does Obama do to restore that trust? He strong-arms through Congress a $787 billion-dollar stimulus package written by Nancy Pelosi and Friends and bloated with pork. Within days of passage of that bill, Obama turns his sights on major twin issues that were cornerstones of his campaign: health-care reform and energy reform. Like a kid set loose in a candy store, he offers sweeping and unprecedentedly expensive prescriptions for change (the change we were told we could believe in?) in these areas, with little more than the roughest of blueprints to communicate his plan to the American people.
And when concerned Americans of all political stripes — not just conservatives, as has been widely misreported — start voicing legitimate objections, what does the agent of change do in response? He scolds them from the White House podium, and stands mutely aside as his Congressional colleagues and the mainstream media assail them as “angry mobs,” “liars,” and “un-American.” And so here we are, at the present juncture, the President’s approval ratings understandably tanking, along with confidence in his health-care proposal.
Which brings us to Joe Klein. How does Joe diagnose the current problem? The title of his column, “The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists,” provides a hint, though before he gets to his main point, Joe offers as a warm-up act a human-interest story starring his own parents. (There seems to be a lot of these heart-wrenching personal accounts coming from the liberal press these days, the implication seeming to be If you don’t have a real argument, appeal to the the reader’s compassion. Then again, we do have a president who values empathy.)
The short version of Joe’s family saga goes like this: Both his parents are 89 and in failing health, and he and they must deal with the grim realities of preparing for the inevitable fate we all face, including ensuring that they have a durable living will. I went through the same painful dealings with both my parents in the last two years, so understand, I am not making light of Klein’s plight.
What I am making fun of is the fatuous conclusion Klein’s twisted logic brings him to: Because the majority of American people have decided not to embrace Obama’s health-care plan wholesale, Klein’s parents will not get free end-of-life counseling, and somehow because of this Republicans are nihilists.
First, as a public service, a news flash to Klein: Since 1990, health care institutions have been required by law to provide new patients with written notice of their right to make a durable living will, and are required moreover to treat patients whether or not they have a will in place. So your parents are covered should they be hospitalized, transferred to a nursing facility, or whatever. That obviates your having to have a conversation about durable living wills with your dad. (Klein writes that he doesn’t “have the standing” to broach such issues with his father in whose eyes Joe is “still just a kid.” Second news flash to Klein: Your father is not the only person who sees you that way.)
As for Klein’s conclusion that Republicans have become nihilists, I lack the psychiatric credentials needed to make an accurate evaluation. So instead, I hazard a guess: I think Klein is substituting a highfalutin multisyllabic word for a rather basic emotional impulse. And that is the feeling that conservatives are spoiling all the fun. Klein believes in a mythical figure with wondrous powers who promised to take good boys and girls to a new special place. The mythical figure is called an obama and the mythical place of blue skies and gumdrop trees is called the Remade United States of America.
And now thanks to some evil gremlins called Republicans, the trip is off — no matter how hard Joe claps.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions