Thursday, July 23, 2009

From the Washington Post - Bill Kristol

Obama Attacks Docs and Cops

President Obama spent most of his press conference tonight denying what President Kennedy famously affirmed -- that to govern is to choose. Obama promised us health care this is at once better and cheaper, with both more regulation and more freedom to choose, featuring an assurance that government won’t limit our care and a commitment to a government panel that will save money by restricting care.

The juvenile happy talk reached its peak with this presidential statement: “If there's a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that's going to make you well?” Now, there’s good idea. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that? For this reform, we need to spend $1 trillion?

So on health care, I’d be surprised if the president changed any minds, because he never seriously tried to address criticism of his proposal on the merits.

But at press conferences there are often throwaway lines and unscripted moments that are interesting. I was struck by two that seemed to exemplify Obama’s easy disdain for the less enlightened among us -- in this case, for family docs and for Cambridge cops.

First, Obama offered this example of how doctors make decisions under the current system instead of doing what’s in their patients’ best interests:

"Right now, doctors a lot of times are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that's out there. So if they're looking and you come in and you've got a bad sore throat or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, "You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out."Does Obama really think pediatricians knowingly order unnecessary tonsillectomies in order to “make a lot more money?”

Isn’t this a rather casual slander of a lot of doctors? And in any case, is this what’s driving up health-care costs? It’s probably as likely health-care costs are high because hospitals have too many vice presidents for government relations making $300,000 a year. But I wouldn’t think it appropriate for the president to single them out for attack either.

Second, Obama answered a question about his friend Henry Louis Gates’s run-in with the Cambridge cops, after acknowledging “not having been there and not seeing all the facts,” by nonetheless asserting that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly.” Does he really know enough about what happened to say that? Maybe it was Professor Gates who behaved stupidly, or at least arrogantly. He is, after all, a Harvard professor. I was once a Harvard professor, and my instinct is to side with the Cambridge cops. But if I were president of the United States, I might pause before casually accusing other Americans of acting stupidly unless I were confident I knew what I was talking about.

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