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Are You Ready for Some Football? (As In, Are You Ready for A Public Option?)

On Tuesday, the biggest story of the day was whether the public option had officially come out of retirement.  Last week, after President Obama downplayed its importance as just a “sliver” of healthcare reform, the public option had all but cleaned out its locker.  Political pundits immediately jumped on the story, claiming that the White House was “ready to drop [the] public option” and that Obama had “killed” it.  (The killing was all done with the blessing of the death panel, of course.)

On Tuesday, however, the public option made a comeback.  Robert Gibbs told press correspondents that Obama indeed “prefers a public option” and that it’s still a “priority.”   Sixty House Democrats sent Kathleen Sebelius a love letter,  imploring her to save the public option.  Even Howard Dean made the rounds, saying that reform would not be possible without it… Yeeeaaaah!

Given the denials, the backpedaling, and all the ups and downs, polls show that Americans are getting sick of this talk.  We just want to know what will happen next.

favreWell, here is where a Brett Favre analogy can help.  Favre is a Hall of Fame quarterback specializing in football and flippy floppies.  He retired from the Green Bay Packers in March 2008, un-retired in August 2008 to play for the Jets, re-retired from the Jets in February 2009, and then un-re-retired just yesterday, announcing his intention to play for the Vikings.

With the public option, we’ve already done the retirement waffle dance.  Now, it’s gametime.  If we follow the Brett Favre Story, then we have a few more months of “will they” or “won’t they.”  Once it’s decided upon that the public option will be included in the healthcare bill, it’ll keep things close… but in the end, it will ultimately fold under pressure.  It will naturally stay in the pocket too long, get kicked around by angry Republicans clawing for a win in 2010, and toss up an ill-timed pass into coverage that will get intercepted by a watered-down bill of “reform.”  Then, defeated once again, the public option shall retire to a field of diminutive co-ops, rising healthcare costs, and Wrangler jeans, forever reminiscing about the days of Obamacare and greener pastures by the bay.

It may be a stretch… but Favre did throw 22 interceptions last year.  This won’t end well.

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Just a Good, Old-Fashioned Town Hall… With the Crazies

Remember when we used to have town halls to discuss trivial matters? — Like how to get the neighbors off your lawn, or where to host the July 4th fireworks?  Well, we’ve evolved since then… now, town halls are all about whether the government should allow Grandma to live.  From yesterday’s meetings in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and New Hampshire, it appears that public sentiment (or at least the sentiment of the old and jobless who can attend these midday town halls) is clear: We want Grandma to live!  We’re not going to let Obama’s death panels take her!!  Bring your socialist friends back to Russia!!!  WE… ARE… AMERICA!!!!! (Thunderous applause, chants of “USA”, hootin’, hollerin’, waving of American flag… or, if wearing a patriotic-themed shirt, some saggy boob-shakin’)

jerryspringerOf course, Grandma was never in danger yesterday… unless she found herself in the middle of the angry mob.  I was more afraid for Grandpa Specter (D-Penn), who turns 80 in February, and who hosted his second town hall in Lebanon, PA.  Wearing a dark black suit (he had a death panel meeting in the afternoon), Specter gallantly stood a foot away from his constituents as they railed him about budget deficits, tort reform, and his flippy floppies.  One particularly hostile man invoked God before making his dramatic exit.  After an hour in front of that crowd, I half-hoped that a loony Russian socialist would euthanize ol’ Arlen right there, and put him out of his misery.

Given that the morning session in Pennsylvania was so fun, I had to tune in for Senator McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) town hall in Missouri.  McCaskill one-upped Specter with some drama of her own: an African-American supporter with a sign was attacked, then escorted out of the room amidst cheers.  McCaskill did her motherly best to shush the crowd, but her scolding led to even more disorder.  Appealing to a higher power (“Remember, we had a prayer in the beginning!”), McCaskill still couldn’t prevent the boos, the interruptions, and the frequent appeals that she just “go home.”  Perhaps the attendees simply wanted to have a good Christian hee-haw without Mom getting all huffy about healthcare reform.

While Obama’s town hall in New Hampshire was infinitely more civil (although someone did bring a gun), it all begs the question: Why the outrage?  Do people really believe that Obama is going to put down Grandma?  That the government wants to emulate the (gasp) old Soviet Union?  Never mind that most Western Europe countries have universal healthcare…  I suppose the fear that we’re turning into Britain (the redcoats!) no longer stokes a fire in most Americans. 

Along with the crazies, I too, have legitimate concerns with a universal healthcare plan… But, as long as Grandma gets to live, I’m willing to listen.

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How Would You Say “Happy Birthday” in Kenya?

Happy birthday President Obama!  Of course, I’m not really sure that today, August 4th, is indeed your real birthday… See, I’ve been listening to Orly Taitz quite a bit lately.  She’s obviously a credible woman, given that she is a lawyer, a dentist, and a real estate agent–three of the most beloved and trusted professions in all of America.  She’s been leading the charge of the “birthers”, who claim that you were born in Kenya.  Yes, the mainstream media (and others) have dismissed her as a “crank” and a “racist lunatic“, but they’re probably just judging her based on how she looks (like a sad, anorexic Mimi Bobeck).  And after watching two episodes of ABC’s Dating in the Dark, I’m sick of our superficiality.  I just want the truth!

orlytaitzOrly’s most recent stint on MSNBC has me convinced.  Mr. President, just admit it.  You were born in Kenya.  I’ve seen the birth certificate.  It says your name, and it has a Kenya stamp on it: that makes it pretty authentic.  It disgusts me that you forged your Hawaii birth certificate and planted that announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser.  Given that you can’t prove your American birth any more than that, then it looks like your only recourse is to go with Orly’s suggestion: to dig up your father and make him a citizen.  That sounds reasonable to me.

According to Orly, 85% of Americans are with me.  I mean, I’ve done my research.  I’ve read the message boards on the Internet.  There are several comments by your fellow Kenyans who claim their parents did the same thing: forged Hawaiian birth certificates and then smuggled their illegal alien babies into the country.  Obviously, this makes it true.

joebideniscanadianSo, President Obama, who else is in on this scam?  Joe Biden doesn’t really look like he’s from Pennsylvania…  he seems pretty shady, and his middle name is Robinette.  Hmm, remember the famous Canadian trial lawyer John Josiah Robinette?  Well, neither do I, but he’s in Wikipedia.  And Scranton is only a six hour drive from Canada…  If your parents took a 10,000 mile weekend trip so that you could be born in the best medical facility in the world–the Mombasa hospital in Kenya–then I’m pretty sure the Bidens took a road trip to pop out Joe Robinette in Ottawa.  Am I right?  Of course, you got rid of all the evidence of your Kenyan birth, flight, and entry into America.  I bet the Bidens are trading in that old clunker now for $4,500 and a Prius.

So just admit it, Mr. President.  You were born to Muslim jihadists in a rogue terrorist hospital run by Kenyan communists.  Don’t get mad at us for exposing the truth: it doesn’t mean we’re xenophobic racist lunatics.  That’s just crazy talk.  We just think that your Kenyan citizenship affects your ability to lead the nation.  Because frankly, well, the President should be a true American: white, Christian, gun-totin’, moose-eatin’ American.  But not Sarah Palin.  She’s just a bit too familiar with Russia, if you know what I mean…

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It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Politics

Updated (4/13/09): With Al Franken finally winning the Minnesota Senate seat, thus concludes the saga of the 2008 election.  I wanted to revisit this post from Election Day, November 4.  I remember writing this piece on Monday night, staying up well past 4 AM on Tuesday to gather all my thoughts about the upcoming election (the official timestamp on this is 7:57 AM EST, but I was in Los Angeles at the time).  That night, I had been supremely afraid that regardless of the outcome, our country would be polarized in choosing a new President–I myself had threatened to move to Canada if McPalin won.  It’s interesting to reflect back on the election now, almost five months later.  I recall the heated discussions I had about the candidates’ economic policies.  I remember sending out fiery emails directed at my closest friends.  I even recall talking up an elderly gentleman at a nightclub in LA.  Upon learning he was from Florida, I passionately implored the man to send in an absentee ballot… and I even gave him my phone number (bad idea).  Now that the dust has settled, I think this post still accurately reflects my feelings about politics as a whole: its genesis is unique to us all as individuals, but its consequences–impassioned debate, renewed social interest, and mobilizing for change–are universal.

Until very recently, I had never been that political. Having been too young to remember George H.W. Bush, I essentially grew up during the Clinton administration. Thus, controversy and scandal marred my perception of politics in the formative years of my life. I was thirteen when the Lewinsky scandal broke, and, like many other thirteen-year olds at the time, I developed a rather cynical judgment of politicians. My views were reinforced–and most likely helped–by my parents’ own cynicism. My mother and father had immigrated to this country separately in the early ’70s to attend graduate school at Indiana University. They met serendipitously at IU, finding out that they had once been kindergarten classmates. After marrying and graduating, my parents moved eastward to Massachusetts to raise their young daughter. American politics at the time was foreign to them. During grad school, their perception of U.S. politics had been molded by classmates who had lived through the polarizing ’60s, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam. Government and party were ever-changing characters: at times hero, at times villain. Thus, when my parents became American citizens, they registered to vote as independents. My mother favored candidates with strong morals, and my father favored candidates that pissed off my mother. My childhood was one that was thoroughly apolitical. With regards to politics, apathy towards candidates was almost deemed to be more reasonable than hope.

gore-bushThe first election I took an interest in was 2000. For some reason, I was immediately put off by Al Gore and his highfalutin “locked box” rhetoric and “I invented the Internet” claims. The way I considered it, politics was less about the issues and more about the candidates themselves. Al Gore was a stuffy elitist, while Bush was an easygoing, sensible everyman (or so I thought). Times were good, the economy was strong, and America was still a well-respected leader in the world. Had I been old enough to vote, I may very well have voted for Bush back then. Overall, though, neither candidate inspired me to care much about the outcome. When Bush was finally announced as the winner of Florida, I remember having an entirely neutral feeling about it all.

When I turned eighteen, I registered to vote as an independent. My first opportunity to cast a major ballot came in 2004, in a markedly different presidential election than the one four years ago. In the post-9/11 world, we were facing a war, terrorism abroad, and a crisis of national security. My own understanding of American politics and government had matured since 2000. Whereas previously I had based my preference solely on the likability of a candidate, I now realized that there were more important issues at stake. Our country was at war. The power of the president had been expanded. Four years of American jingoism and cowboy politics was enough. Although I did not personally like Kerry as a candidate, I found myself firmly in the company of the anti-Bush moderates.

2004 was disappointing, but it was also a personal revelation of sorts.

martyAfter the election, I found myself becoming more aware of politics. I started to discern the conservative principles within the economics taught by my college professors (“taxes are bad”). I began to notice the bubble of social liberalism that seemed to swell only within the gates of Cambridge. I remember getting into an argument with the president of the Republican Club about the war. I had to break up an emotional discussion about abortion in the dining hall. On spring break in Cancun, six of my closest friends got into a heated battle about affirmative action while drinking margaritas at the pool. At that point, I realized that politics wasn’t just a ho-hum dinner table topic like it’d been treated at my house; instead, for many people, politics were real, inflammatory, emotional, and raw.

I can see now that my background and upbringing laid the foundation for my political predisposition. The experience of my parents instilled tolerance, moderation, and a general skepticism. As I grew older, I came to develop ideals that were shaped by these base values. Throughout my discussions, arguments, and fights, I started to piece together the strata of my own political views. My experiences in college and beyond have further informed my politics.

So, that is my personal journey into the world of politics, which has led me to the 2008 election.

During this presidential campaign, I have had frequent, impassioned exchanges with close friends over our differences in choice for president. (I even berated a friend–a McCain supporter–on the streets outside of Les Deux at 2 AM while eating a street-meat hot dog… low point). Although these fights were trivial at the outset, they often felt inherently personal. After all, we each had our own unique stories that had shaped our ideals. Influences such as family, religion, education, race and wealth informed our politics, to varying degrees. Thus, attacks on our politics seemed almost like personal attacks on our values, experiences, and perspectives on how we see the world. It almost became a tale of us vs. them, of good vs. evil.

obamavoteBut, I often need to be reminded that even though politics can signal differences in values, these differences do not necessarily mean that Democrats and Republicans can’t be friends, lovers, or soul mates. Differences cannot trump friendships or shared experiences.

So with that in mind, even if you’re a hardcore Obamanite, please reach out across the aisle today and shake hands with a McCainiac at the polls. If you’re a Palin fan, hug someone wearing a Barack the Vote shirt. If we do that today, we can unite together as Americans with common stories but perhaps differing opinions. We can present our politics as giving us a menu of choices, not a good vs. evil parable. We can show off our democracy around the world, and get our youth excited about our political leaders. Then regardless of the election outcome, we will all have already won.

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