I have literally lost track of the amount of comments that respond to analyses of Obama’s actions with "why are you surprised?" and "what did you expect?"
But I have to say the latest is downright hilarious.
Most of us already know the latest story about how the pharmaceutical companies, via their lobbyist, former Congressional Rep Billy Tauzin, publicized a deal they supposedly made with the White House which they claimed promised there would be no fooling around with negotiating (i.e., lowering) drug prices in health care legislation in return for a hefty investment in advertising and an $80 billion investment in the plan itself.
Caught between a pivotal industry ally and the protests of Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration on Friday backed away from what drug industry lobbyists had said this week was a firm White House promise to exclude from a proposed health care overhaul the possibility of allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices under Medicare.
We were promised transparency in these negotiations. Of course, politial promises don’t count. Why are we surprised? What did we expect?
"Not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN," Obama explained in a Democratic debate in Los Angeles in January 2008, in language similar to many of his campaign stops.
However, the two biggest deals so far - industry agreements to cut drug and hospital costs - were reached in secret.
So now we see who has a seat at the table, not because the Obama Administration was open and transparent, but because Billy Tauzin and the pharmaceutical companies panicked when they thought Congressional Dems were going to mess up their deal and demanded assurances from the White House.
Of course, everyone could have predicted this! Why would anyone be surprised? What do you all expect?
Well I guess I’m just real ignorant about Obama. I’m not as prescient as those who have inside information about him from reading his books and following websites of his supporters, I don’t have their inside line to know I shouldn’t be surprised by virtually anything he does! I don’t have the enlightenment to know that Obama’s campaign promises are entirely consistent with what he is actually doing to govern, that he was never a progressive (why so surprised? what did you expect?), and folks have reams of "evidence" to show their interpretation of President Obama’s actions is definitive and shows that, in the midst of all the horrible problems of the day, he is the best of all possible Presidents!
As though surprise and expectations have anything to do with it. Yet I hear that over and over again as a supposed bona fide response to questions about how healthcare negotiations are progressing, the implication being that if Obama is involved, nothing could possibly be done better, this is the best of all possible ways to reform health care, and anyway, what did you expect?
I have no illusions that this kind of sloppy dialogue will end given the emotional investment so many have in this talisman of Voltarian optimism.
I will say, though, that we do need to understand as much as possible about these negotiations and the sausage-making process that will affect so many lives – and we need to understand who is getting the biggest seat at the table and who is being left out – not to have big flamewars over whether this is the absolute bestest that can be done under the circumstances, but so that as we move forward with reforming health care in the USA we leave no one behind. This is beyond politics and is the duty of each citizen.
And it deserves a better kind of dialogue, imo, than these shallow faux rejoinders.