Obama Should Focus on Mental Health Care.

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I wasn't a fan of David Frum's "reefer madness" post on the Loughner shooting, but this is a good recommendation for what President Obama should say in his comments in Arizona tomorrow:

Go all in on mental health. Liberals will want the president to address gun control. Unsmart. Stokes your opposition, leads to a political contest you cannot win, and even if you do win, what really do you accomplish? A ban on extended magazines? Next time the killer will bring two guns.

But more resources for mental health services? Democrats say yay. Enhancement of power to commit the dangerously mentally ill? Will appeal to the center and right. Bonus point: such a discussion inherently favors the president by stimulating a discussion about what government can and should do, rather than the preferred Republican topic of what government can’t and shouldn’t.

This might inflame anti-health-care rhetoric, but it's an otherwise great idea. Mental-health services in the United States are extremely lacking; most private insurance plans place strict limits on mental-health services, and most states fail to provide adequate public care. Worse, the economic crisis has left state mental-health budgets in shambles, with many states unable to carry the load of men and women disabled by mental illness. Overall, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the country gets a "D" grade for its mental health care system.

I, for one, would rather see Obama push for improved mental-health services -- and maybe a little gun control -- rather than indulge in another pedantic call for "civility" and "bipartisanship." Civility won't change anything, but better mental health care will save lives and families.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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