President Obama has rejuvenated conversation about health care reform by his speech to Congress on Wednesday night. On its own merits, the speech, and the program the President set forth, offer plenty to critique. It seems fairly clear that some kind of bill is going to pass, sooner or later. Those who are concerned about government involvement in the health care system should be addressing themselves to the substance of what the President said. It won't do the cause of the best possible bill to keep talking about things other than what the President said.
Which is precisely what Fox News' Sean Hannity persists in doing. I caught a section of his program on Thursday night, and he was still ranting about the various bills in the Congress, which, if only by implication, the President has repudiated. Mr. Hannity talked about those bills as though they were written between the lines of his speech, for he accused the President of supporting health care for illegal immigrants and funding for abortions - both of which the President explicitly rejected. These are certainly aspects of health care reform that ought to be supported. But to act as if the President didn't say this, said something other than this, or didn't mean what he said is not fair, it's not balanced, and it is not wise.
The President insisted that his plan will not add to the national debt, or, if it does, appropriate cuts will be made elsewhere to make sure it doesn't. Mr. Hannity also denied this and acted as if the President was not telling the truth and didn't mean what he said, insisting that higher taxes and unsupportable deficits were on the way. Wouldn't it make more sense to agree with the President on this component of reform and help him keep his word?
Like him or not, and like his program for reform or not, we will not be able to engage this debate in a meaningful way without sticking to the substance of what's on the table - the President's proposal - and helping him to stick to it as well. If there are parts of it with which we disagree, then we must let our lawmakers know that we will only support other arrangements - and those who support those other arrangements.
But we will look like whiners, deceivers, and know-nothings if we continue to fight the President on things he has not said and if we refuse to give him his props in areas where we can agree. The followers of Jesus Christ must not bear false witness against their neighbor. I do not agree with the great bulk of what the President has proposed, but I congratulate him on certain aspects of his approach, in arriving at which, it seems to me, he has listened to the voice of the people, at least in some measure. Mr. Hannity's persisting in attacking a straw man as though it were President Obama is a breach of the ninth commandment. His example is not fair and balanced; his course is not wise or proper; and he is not a man whose tactic we should emulate.
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