Monday, August 8, 2011

Andrew Sprung on Westen and Obama

I already made my own response to Drew Westen's long attack on President Obama, but let me pass on Andrew Sprung's as well. Sprung goes point by point through the things Westen thinks Obama should have said, and then shows that Obama did in fact say them:

Nor did anyone explain what health care reform was supposed to accomplish (other than the unbelievable and even more uninspiring claim that it would “bend the cost curve”).
Obama, September 9, 2009:
Our collective failure to meet this challenge -- year after year, decade after decade -- has led us to the breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover.

We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.
Of course, just because Obama tried to explain something once doesn't mean he had an effective message about the subject, but contra Westen, Obama has many times tried to explain his policies in easily understood terms.

As for Westen's biggest complaint, that Obama does not identify villains and attack them, well, he explicitly ran against that very thing. His message was that we must put aside partisan attacks and work for the common good. You can like that or not, but don't accuse him of running one way and governing another:
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
And on and on, in many of his speeches. Westen and many others on the left long for a champion who would attack Republicans with the same contempt that many conservatives have heaped on liberals for a generation. Maybe, as I said, they are right, and people would respond better to a Democratic leader who ranted about evil corporate interests. But Obama never wanted to be that sort of leader and ran explicitly on a program of setting aside partisan differences. To accuse him of failing to be an angry radical is to completely miss the point of his political life.