Gene and Bernie

Bernie Sanders, meet Eugene McCarthy. In my head. And in my heart.

A public-television show about McCarthy was called “I’m Sorry I Was Right.” And Bernie, you’re right, but it’s time to fold your tent.

In 1968 Gene McCarthy stole the hearts and stoked the dreams of young people across the country. The world was falling apart and up stood this poet from Minnesota whose earlier campaign pamphlet for his senate seat, I recall, carried this quote from Gene: “I like a man with a good woodpile; it shows he’s at peace with the world.”

The guy couldn’t win. He had no chance against LBJ, who’d won in 1964 in the definition of a landslide. The Vietnam war wouldn’t end, and what could this diffident senator do about it? He could stand up and holler, in I.F. Stone’s immortal exhortation to the young. And he did.

And Gene was right. About most things, including the war. And Bernie is right. About the economy and the tax code and Congress being rigged for the rich. About not enough having been done yet to keep the speculators from ruining the country — again. And Bernie is right about Hillary. She’s compromised. Her ethics are moth-eaten. She’s as inspiring as a box of raisin bran. And her judgment, in taking contributions to her foundation from foreign countries while secretary of state — really? And her two-hundred-grand speeches to fat cat bankers — come on. Mark Twain said “Tell me where a man gets his corn pone and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.” (Corn pone, a staple, like flour, for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 19th Century in the Ozarks like I did.) She’s secretive and calculating and … oh I wish she were Elizabeth Warren.

But Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, I love ya man. But you gotta get out of the way. I jumped on my phone during the first debate and sent you money. I voted for you in the Florida primary. Other than on guns, I haven’t heard a syllable from you I disagree with. But you gotta let Hillary take it to Trump.

Clinton is such a flawed candidate that only the fact that Trump is such a baby whiner egomaniac gives her a chance to save us all from him. Bernie, maybe, could do better against him. Maybe could give him the embarrassing unmasking he deserves. But Bern, you don’t got the votes, you don’t got the numbers. And even though you’re right, continuing to hammer at Hillary only increases the I-hope-scant chance that the world might end in November, with Austin weeping.

Howard Dean said tonight on MSNBC that there are meetings going on between Sanders’s and Clinton’s campaigns about how to land this plane. I hope so. California could end it or drag it out. Bernie, you’re right, and you’ve had a huge impact, you’ve moved Clinton and the party to the left, you’ve hollered yourself hoarse, and you’ve stirred up a wonderful mass of young people, including my niece/daughter Ally, and we all love you for it.

It’s time to stop pushing at Hillary and stand beside her. And keep hollering.

— Bruce BenidtIMG_4556

Pre-existing Language Condition

Pre-existing condition.

Lifetime cap.

Jargon. Jargon that gets in the way of understanding.

The President yesterday used these terms again when explaining the benefits of the Affordable Care Act that was upheld by the Supreme court.

Most Americans, barraged by conservative advertising, don’t like the law. But when asked about the law’s features, they like those. Democrats, particularly the president, have done a terrible job explaining in plain English what the law does.

How many Americans can explain “pre-existing condition” accurately?

“So you’re sick. You have diabetes,” the president should say. “You want health insurance to help pay for the huge costs of treatment and medicine. The insurance company says they won’t pay for any of the costs of treating your diabetes — can’t cover you for the very thing you need help with. So you can’t afford to get well. The Republicans think that’s okay. I don’t.

“So you have insurance, and then you get sick with diabetes. The insurance company says they won’t cover you anymore because you’re sick. The very thing you have insurance for causes the insurance company to dump you. And now you can’t afford to get well. The Republicans think that’s okay. I don’t.

“So you’ve been sick for awhile. Diabetes, skin cancer, now some broken bones. The insurance company says you’ve reached the lifetime limit of how much they’ll spend to help you, and now they won’t cover the cost of treatment. And now you can’t afford to get well. The Republicans think that’s okay. I don’t.

“Do you?”

The Institute of Medicine found almost 10 years ago that “nearly half of American adults face higher health risks because of trouble understanding medical terms and directions….Comprehending medicine’s arcane jargon is difficult for even the most educated person but is almost impossible for the millions who can’t read well, aren’t fluent in English or have vision or cognitive problems caused by aging.”

Speak more clearly, Mr. President. No jargon.

We have a friend here, my age, who pays huge monthly health insurance premiums. She doesn’t make very much money, she’s raising several young family members — grandkids, nieces — and can’t afford to pay her share of the drugs she needs. Hasn’t taken needed medication for over a year.

It’s not right. We need the reform Obama is leading. And we need him to help us understand that reform, and understand who’s standing in the way.

— Bruce Benidt

A Little Too Rowdy Of A Crowd

Political communicators work day and night to control everything about political events. The stagecraft. The music. The tempo. The supporting cast. The wardrobe. The make-up. The messaging. The media coverage.

But there is one thing that seems to be increasingly difficult for political handlers to control. The audience.

At this phase of the campaign cycle, the Republican frontrunners’ campaigns are doing their best to win partisan primary and caucus voters without spooking less partisan and zealous General Election voters watching TV coverage of events. It’s a tricky balancing act under any circumstances, and the audiences at Republicans events are making it much more difficult.

The boisterous zealots bellowing forth at nationally televised Republican events are diverting attention from the front-runners’ carefully focus group tested messaging, and instead making the candidates look bloodthirsty…


and heartless…

These candidates look extreme by association. These are not the warm and fuzzy images that the political handlers strive to create. Long after background flags are returned to the rental company, these Gladiator-esque reactions of the Republican crowd are what many of us remember about the moment.

A winning Republican formula in the past has been to run candidates with warm-feeling personalities to mask the harsh impact of the conservative policies they support. Reagan, Pawlenty, McCain and Romney are among those who played that game especially well. But the discordant chorus at Republican events is taking the sheen off the frontrunners’ carefully managed nice guy images.

This is not an insignificant issue for political communicators in the age of extreme political polarization. If I were a Republican spin savant, I’d be spending less time obsessing about the size of the candidates’ flag pin decal, and more time on crowd control.


Willard in Wonderland

Source: Mike Luckovic, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Willard Mitt Romney’s biggest political vulnerability as a presidential candidate is that he passed Obamacare before President Obama did. After Romney passed the basic equivalent of Obamacare, the Republicans made a seismic shift to the right, making Romney’s golden child look like a shameful bastard child.

As a result, the Father of Romneycare and Grandfather of Obamacare has essentially three choices for managing the angry paternity claims:

MAN UP AND EMBRACE THE KID. Romney could explain why he and other Republicans were right to embrace the private sector health insurance reform model, which, by the way, is dramatically outperforming Rick Parry’s model (Massachusets has 4% uninsured, Texas is six times higher, with 24%).

CONFESS AND REPENT FOR FATHERING A BASTARD. Romney could admit the kid is his, and confess to the Tea Party that he made an unforgiveable error in fathering the reform model that is producing the best health coverage rate in the nation. (The shame!)

GO DEADBEAT AND MAKE SHIT UP. Or Romney could fabricate DNA evidence in an attempt to disprove any common lineage between Obamacare and Romneycare.

Romney has decided to go the fabrication route. In the debates this week and last, he trotted out a series of ridiculous Obamacare-Romneycare differentiators, such as:
Continue reading “Willard in Wonderland”

Tim’s Timidity on “Obamneycare”

Tim Pawlenty puzzled pundits when he failed to confront rival Mitt Romney this week about Romney’s support of an “Obamneycare” health insurance mandate. Was Tim timid because he knew Romney possessed this tape and was about to use it to portray Pawlenty as a flip-flopping hypocrite?

Again, the damning Pawlenty quote from November 14, 2006:

“I’m grateful for our friend from Massachusetts here. Governor Romney is an outstanding Governor. He is a unbelieveably bright and nimble and gifted public policy leader and Massachusetts and America have been well served by his leadership as well.

And so the question then becomes, if you’re going to require insurance, and I think that is a worthy goal and one that we are intrigued by and at least open to, how then do you enable people to access the insurance?

In Minnesota, as to the access issue, I believe we should move toward universal coverage. Everybody should be in a health plan of some sort. How we get there becomes important. I think a mandate by itself is potentially helpful, but it’s not an answer by itself.”

No one can know for sure, but this tape could explain the Timidity.

– Loveland

The Beginning of the End for Pawlenty?

Hardly anyone has noticed yet, but yesterday a Minnesota blogger may have put a fatal dagger in former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s hopes of winning the Republican nomination for President.

True North’s Andy Aplikowski is the modern-day Woodstein who reported a blockbuster yesterday that should make it much more difficult for Pawlenty to win the hearts of the hard-core right-wing activists who dominate the Iowa Republican Party caucuses.

Pawlenty’s sin? Cavorting on a boat like Gary Hart? Weeping like Ed Muskie? Bathroom stall tap dancing like Senator Larry Craig? Allegedly Tweeting his twitter to a young woman like Congressman Anthony “I kid you not” Wiener?

Much worse. Much, much worse. Once upon a time, it seems Pawlenty wanted help thousands of Minnesotans get health coverage for their families. I’m not kidding. There’s tape.

Continue reading “The Beginning of the End for Pawlenty?”

Mitta Culpa

As a crisis communications counselor, I’ve seen that the public is generally remarkably forgiving if, and only if, the wrong-doer: a) admits the wrong without lapsing into fudging language; b) apologizes in a way that actually is perceived to be sincere; c) exhibits humanity, not robotics; and d) explains specifically how they are righting the wrong, and taking steps to ensure it will never happen again. Absent those things, I’ve also seen how brually unforgiving the public can be.

Therefore, allow me to give some pro bono advice to poor Mitt Romney, who has been accused of a very, very serious crime. I’d recommend former Governor Mitt issue a heartfelt mea culpa statement that goes something like this:

My fellow Americans, I made a mistake. And it was a doozey. For reasons I can’t explain, I helped 401,000 people in my state get health coverage for their families.

I know, I know. It was heinous. Immunizations. Cancer screenings. No medical bankruptcies. I pray that God and the American people can somehow find it in their hearts to forgive me.

I don’t have a good explanation. I guess I just lost my way by spending too much time listening to sob stories from those 401,000 uninsured whiners.

To my credit, I did leave 2% uninsured. But I realize, that’s no excuse. A 98% coverage rate – the lowest in the nation – is a disgrace to me, and my family’s good name.

For that, I am deeply, deeply, DEEPLY sorry. I want you to know that I am dedicated to ignoring the two-thirds of Massachusets citizens who support my reforms. To the one-third who oppose the reforms, and are active in Republican politics, I want you to know that I hear YOU loud and clear.

I therefore, hereby denounce the 88% of physicians practicing medicine under the wretched reforms, who claim they have improved health care quality and access for my neighbors.

But that’s not all. I promise to build a statutory lock box to prevent those reforms from ever helping 98% of the American people get medical care for their families. We can’t have that.

And if you’re still pissed at me, I’ll also throw in a bonus promise to dismantle the most effective and popular health coverage initiative in America, Medicaid. Will that do it?

While I can’t undo my past wrongs, I want to ensure the American people that I get it. I won’t ever again stoop so low as to double the health coverage rate for vulnerable children.”

He attempted to put this nightmare behind him yesterday, but it was insufficient. If His Mittness will just do the right thing, I think he will be surprised to see how forgiving the American people can be.

– Loveland

Jobs, Not Health Care Reform?

Source: Health Partners, February 2010 (graphic from MinnPost)
When the recent Massachusetts Senate race gave Senate Republicans their 41-vote majority, pundits, pollsters and political consultants told us that President Obama and congressional Democrats had to give up on health care and instead focus on jobs.

After all, that was what was written on the modern day stone tablets delivered from the mountaintop – public opinion surveys. Jobs and economic development were topping the polls, while health care was much further down the list.

Ee gads. Almost immediately, you started hearing pollophobic pols dutifully repeating the word “jobs” like trained cockatiels. Forget “affordable health care,” the political consultants lectured the political class. Focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs!” The word “jobs” quickly became to 2010, what “terrorism” was to late 2001.

To inform the new “jobs” policy proposals needed to accompany this rhetoric, the logical thing to do would seem to be to ask small business owners, who create most of the jobs in America, what they need to expand their businesses. Stimulate the economy with more government spending? Cut business taxes again? Stimulate better access to capital? Create more consumer demand, by, for instance, giving consumers another tax break?

Well, in a survey of Minnesota and Western Wisconsin small business owners released today by Health Partners, all of those things were on the list of things named. But at the very top of the list, topping the aforementioned job creation proposals by more than 3-to-1 margins, was, drum roll please…

…”affordable health care.”

So, it looks like it’s déjà vu all over again. It turns out we don’t need a focus on jobs instead of affordable health care. We need a focus on affordable health care in order to create jobs.

And new numbers released today show that the health reform bill bottled up in the Senate could help. For instance, an estimated 72,400 small businesses in Minnesota could be helped by a small businesses tax credit proposal that makes premiums more affordable.

Which begs the question, what do the cockatiels do now?

– Loveland

National Geographic Exposes Privates

Click and zoom for clear viewing
When I was a boy, I always enjoyed the naked majesty of the images in National Geographic.

Well, they’ve still got the touch. This chart from National Geographic lays bare the weakness of the conservatives’ indictment of “government-run health care.”

When you look around the globe, the naked truth is that government-run health care is much more efficient and effective than our largely private system. As National Geographic summarized:

The United States spends more on medical care per person than any country, yet life expectancy is shorter than in most other developed nations and many developing ones. Lack of health insurance is a factor in life span and contributes to an estimated 45,000 deaths a year. Why the high cost? The U.S. has a fee-for-service system—paying medical providers piecemeal for appointments, surgery, and the like. That can lead to unneeded treatment that doesn’t reliably improve a patient’s health. Says Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies health insurance worldwide, “More care does not necessarily mean better care.”

But true to form, their picture said it much better than their words.

– Loveland
investment services nice

“The Minnesota Compromise” on Health Reform?

In the health reform debate, the Senate is split between “public option,” and “private only.” It’s reminiscent of the mid-19th century, when the split was “slave” versus “free,” and the Senate ultimately landed on middle ground, the Missouri Compromise of 1850.

In the waning days of 2009, the Senate is once again desperately searching for middle ground. For instance, some Democratic compromisers propose dropping the public option in favor of expanding eligibility of Medicare and Medicaid.

But as Minnesota Democrats look for that elusive middle ground, they, like Kansas’s Dorothy, are effectively arguing that “there’s no place like home.” Call it the Minnesota Compromise of 2010. Minnesota Senator Al Franken and Congressman Keith Ellison are pressing an amendment mandating that all health plans emulate Minnesota health plans and spend 90% of consumers’ premiums on care costs, rather than administrative and salary costs.

The Minnesota Compromise – my term, not theirs — is ideological middle ground that would require any health plan to match the efficiency of the nation’s most efficient plans. According to Minnpost:

Non-profit health plans in Minnesota spend an average of 91 percent of premium costs directly on health care. Franken’s office said the national average is around 70 percent, with large plans spending considerably more percentage-wise on average, and individual plans less.

Under this Minnesota Compromise, corporate health plans would have to get as administratively lean as the nation’s leanest plans. Business-as-usual wouldn’t be tolerated, but there would still be a way to do business.

Continue reading ““The Minnesota Compromise” on Health Reform?”

Does Size Really Matter?

Danielle Steele’s novels are automatically superior to Leo Tolstoy’s novels, right? That must be so if you adopt the logic of a common contemporary Republican talking point: Big documents are automatically inferior to short documents.

Increasingly, it seems Republican pols and pundits love to criticize legislative proposals by citing the SIZE of the package. For instance, they are forever scoffing at the number of pages, pounds and words included in Democrats’ health reform proposals. They imply that anything that can’t be read during a bathroom break should be considered a toilet paper substitute.

While the logic of that simplistic argument is obviously silly –- for instance, the disasterous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was much shorter than the wildly successful legislation that created the GI Bill — it’s also important to not lose sight of the breathtaking hypocrisy of the argument.

After all, recently pointed out that five of the ten largest bills in American history were introduced by Republicans. The No Child Left Behind bill, fathered by Republican Speaker John Boehner, was 274,559 words at birth. And the Bush tax cuts legislation was also a tome. Worse yet, some of the words in these bills were rumored to be polysyllabic.

And really folks, so what? Both Republicans’ and Democrats’ bills are large and complex because — guess what? — they are addressing large and complex issues.

Why the Republican obsession with their partners’ size? The tobacco industry’s PR wizards of yesteryear privately confided that the primary product they were selling was DOUBT rather than cigarettes. That is, they had to make medical science seem so complex that non-scientists remained in doubt. Similary, Republicans’ focus on health reform girth is all about peddling doubt about life under a reformed system. Because when doubt sells, the status quo lives on.

– Loveland

In the Arena, At Last

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt once described what it is like to stick your neck out in the brutal world of political communications:

ted roosevelt pointing

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

(Our guy T-Roos was a tad melodramatic, dontcha think?)

Well starting today, congressional Republicans will now find out what it is like to be “in the arena” when it comes to the biggest legislative cage match of our lifetime, the debate over national health care reform. Today, Republicans have offered their long-awaited alterative, that reportedly has (drum roll please):

SECURITY. No ban on corporations rejecting people with pre-existing ailments.

AFFORDABILITY. No option to buy into an insurance exchange to make insurance more affordable.

UNIVERSAL COVERAGE. No requirement to buy insurance, and therefore nothing moving us to universal coverage.

COST CONTROL. No option to buy into a Medicare-like program.

The Republican alternative does include malpractice limitations, a provision to allow sale of insurance across state lines and a ban on caring for illegal aliens, which reportedly is written into the bill in all CAPS with three exclamation points.

It hasn’t been easy for congressional Democrats to stick their neck out on this issue. Now Republicans, at least for a short time, get to find out what it’s like to be “in the arena.”

– Loveland
investment management nice

Health Care Expert Backs Public Option

Don’t want to overlook Lois Quam, quoted in yesterday’s StarTribune, supporting a public option for health insurance.

This is a big deal. Quam is smart — one of a handful of incredibly smart women in health care, including former state health commissioner Jan Malcolm, I had the privilege to meet when I did a little PR work for the Minnesota Council of HMOs years ago when I was with Shandwick. Put any one of them in charge of things and I’d be happy.

Quam worked for UnitedHealth Group, in senior positions. She’s helped shape state health policy. She knows what she’s talking about. And she supports a government-run health care option to help keep costs down and quality up.
lois quam

“The insurance industry’s actions in the current health care reform debate have too often just been wrong. Their opposition to a public option, and their efforts to protect themselves, rather than Americans, are simply wrong,” Quam said in a talk at the UofM.

“The insurance industry’s injection of the recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report on projected costs into the debate at the 11th hour, one using incomplete data and false assumptions, was irresponsible,” Quam was quoted in the Strib. “The recent economic crisis on Wall Street shows what can result if corporations and industries are not held accountable.”

This is a former business executive talking, not some wingnut person like myself. Her words, her views, carry weight.

And her words lay out a distinct difference between left and right views — corporations and industries must be held accountable vs. corporations and industries should be left alone. Which position better serves the public good underlies so many of our debates. I’m with Quam.

— Bruce Benidt

The Key To Public Support: Government-run Coverage

key to heartPollster John Zogby recently found that public support for Senator Max Baucus’s health reform bill was at only about 29 percent. Ouch.

But interestingly, Zogby found the addition of two amendments would increase public support to the mid-50s. The amendments? Malpractice tort reform and a Medicare-like public insurance option to compete with private insurance options.

Give the public those two things, and a majority will open the door to their reluctant hearts. But, Democrats won’t go for tort reform, and Republicans won’t go for a public option. So, the bill that passed in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday includes neither.

This is the anatomy of gridlock. The keys to winning majority support is clear, but neither Democrats nor Republicans will budge.

But pay attention Democrats. The data do show a Plan B. The survey found that adding a public option alone, without malpractice tort reform, still boosted support from 29% to a slight majority. It turns out government-run health is not as scary as wunder wordsmith Frank Luntz forecasted.

Contary to what Baucus and the Blue Mutts claim, adding the so-called public option is not a dealbreaker with the masses. In fact, it looks like the key to the hearts of a majority of Americans.

– Loveland

Scaredycrats Follow Pundits, Not Public

Republican political consultants like Frank Luntz have been telling health care reform opponents that Americans:

“…are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care – so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a bureaucratic issue.”

But Luntz and his clients have a little problem. It’s 2009, not 1984. And in 2009, surveys show that citizens and physicians overwhelmingly support adding a “public option” to the large group of private payors who will be offering health care coverage in the new system.

The New York Times > U.S. > Image > Americans on Health Care and Afghanistan

Remind me again, why are Democrats about to vote this down today in the Senate Finance Committee?

– Loveland

Skewed Rude Feud

Health Care Debate Seen as _Rude and Disrespectful__ Summary of Findings - Pew Research Center for the People & the PressJust how divided are Americans in the health care debate? According to a Pew Research Center survey, most Americans, Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly feel that health reform opponents own most of the blame for rudeness and disrespect in the health reform debate. But Republicans not only have a polar opposite view on this question, they do so by more than a two-to-one margin. Remarkable.

Regardless of how you feel about who is at fault for the rude feud, my question is a little different: How can we hope to get anything done in our democratic bodies with such deep mutual distrust across party lines?

— Loveland

Gang of Nix

negotiator nix (niks) slang. noun. Nothing.

After conceding dozens of major health care reforms in the “Gang of Six” process in order to gain exactly zero Republican votes, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) is going to be one popular guy the next time he steps onto a used car lot.

All hail the Montana Compromise of 2009.

– Loveland

Dr. Spin

pawlenty time coverJust because you have the opportunity to get lots of media attention doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to get lots of media attention.

Case in point: With the President coming to Minnesota tomorrow, Governor Pawlenty could lay low for one day, but that would leave him out of the limelight. Or he could promote his health record, which will get him loads of press attention, maybe even national attention.

Governor Pawlenty has chosen the path of least diffidence. Upon hearing that the President was coming to his state to promote health care reform, he issued a cutesy Top 10 list designed to bring attention to his own health achievements.

It worked, in the sense of getting him media attention. But does Pawlenty really want to the national media to look into the brutal cost shifting effects of his cuts in health care for the state’s most vulnerable citizens?

“We try to pass those costs on to our commercial payers,” says Lawrence Massa, president of the Minnesota Hospitals Association.

“We eat as much of it as we can, but we have our own bills to pay. The commercial market”–meaning non-government health insurers–“generally is where the costs are absorbed, which results in higher premiums for everybody.”

In addition, some “safety net” hospitals, such as Hennepin County Medical Center, have already had to be bailed out by county taxpayers, which represents another cost shift.

Does he really want to tell a nation worried sick about their future access to health care that cutting access is preferable to expanding access?

– Loveland

Obama Not A Mama Last Night

Joe Wilson Apologizes For Shouting _You Lie!_ At ObamaIn the past we’ve discussed linguist George Lakoff’s writings about Republicans being very disciplined about framing themselves as strict fathers of the national family and Democrats as overly permissive mommies. That daddy framing, the theory goes, is appealing to many voters who are looking for a leader to keep them secure and safe, like stereotypical 1950s TV dads did.

Well, mommy wasn’t home in the U.S. Senate chambers last night. Let’s just say Obama wasn’t stressing the “care” part of the health care debate as much as Democrats typically do. He had a little stern daddy in his repertoire:

…(T)he time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action…

But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility…

It is a lie, plain and simple…

I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.

If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out.

We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.

Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.

“We will call you out???” Pretty tough stuff for a caring, sharing, man-purse-wearing Democrat.

Last night Obama was reminiscent of stern daddy figures from the right. Reagan: “Go ahead, make my day.” Bush I: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Bush II: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

And that wasn’t the only thing that was different about Obama last night. When Democratic Presidents aren’t playing the nurturing Mommy-in-Chief, they are usually playing the Wonk-in-Chief. And despite an incredibly complex topic, Obama mostly avoided that messaging trap as well.

This approach appears to have worked for the time being. Before the speech, CNN had support for Obama’s health plan at 53%. After the speech? 67%.

Honey, I’m home!

– Loveland

Senseless Censorship

I worry about our democracy when networks refuse to air ads expressing political or policy views. Though the logic and factual basis of this ad are ridiculous, how can NBC and ABC refuse to run it?

Sure, it’s inaccurate, hollow, tedious and poorly produced. But those aren’t good enough reasons to refuse airing political views. If the networks don’t run this ad, they shouldn’t run any ad on this subject. If it’s inaccurate or disputed, then the networks’ news teams should present the facts and opposing viewpoints during its new programming. But the ad should run.

– Loveland

The Boys Who Cried “Wellstone!”

The Boys Who Cried “Wellstone” « THE SAME ROWDY CROWDMinnesota is about to become central to the funeral of Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

In a political variation of the fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” look for health reform opponents to compare any mention of health reform in rememberances of Senator Ted Kennedy to the controversial 2002 Wellstone Memorial. Sick with worry that the Kennedy funeral will create momentum for health reform, they will cry “wolf” about Kennedy’s dream of universal health coverage, just as they did about the Wellstone eulogies.

But really, how do you eulogize arguably the most longstanding champion of universal health coverage in American history without mentioning that lifelong dream?

Whatever you thought of the Wellstone memorial, there are going to be a lot of Minnesotans feeling post-traumatic stress as they listen to the cries of “Wellstone!” from Hannity, Limbaugh, and the boys.

– Loveland

“Public Option” = “Medicare”?

MedicareCard_96834_7In the past, we’ve discussed the Obama Administration’s failure to use compelling labels to crystallize messages in the health reform detate. For example, the greatest political communicator of our times can’t seem to come up with a better brand name than “public option?”

Such as, oh let’s see now…“Medicare?”

While “public option” is a hopelessly flat term with no brand equity, “Medicare,” imperfect as it is, has strong brand equity due to a relatively strong track record.

Despite all of the rhetoric about the inferiority of government-run health care, about 56 percent of enrollees in traditional government-run Medicare give it a rating of 9 or 10 on a ten point scale, while only 40 percent of private health insurance customers do. A whopping 70 percent of traditional Medicare enrollees say they ‘always’ get access to needed care, compared to only half of privately insured Americans.

So, maybe Obama should have proposed expanding the Medicare brand into a new product line, instead of creating a new unknown government product and brand. Instead of pitching “a public option,” maybe Obama should have pitched “giving all uninsured Americans the option of buying into Medicare.”

– Loveland