The last thing Democrats needed, with reform still not passed, was any kind of health-care controversy. Yet that's just what they got when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came out with a new set of guidelines on breast cancer screening, pushing back the suggested age for regular mammograms from 40 to 50. The uproar over the recommendation demonstrates a lot of the problems with how we deal with health care. It shows how opportunistic politicians can be -- the GOP, champions of women's health! -- and how as a country we have an inherent bias toward more health care, whether or not it's better health care.
A few months back, I wrote a column titled "The Ten Dumbest Arguments Against Health Care Reform." But now I feel bad, because I missed the single dumbest argument, which those opposed to reform seem to have put at the center of their case against it. And here it is: The bill is really long!
We’ve had to endure one Republican after another decrying the length of the bill, holding up big printed copies of the bill, demanding that people read the whole bill out loud … enough already. You made your point. It’s really long.
"We campaign in poetry. But when we're elected we're forced to govern in prose," said Mario Cuomo, then-governor of New York, in a 1985 speech. "And when we govern -- as distinguished from when we campaign -- we come to understand the difference between a speech and a statute. It's here that the noble aspirations, neat promises and slogans of a campaign get bent out of recognition or even break as you try to nail them down to the Procrustean bed of reality."
Signs for the Terry McCauliffe campaign sit by a dumpster in McLean, Virginia, after his loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Flickr/Joe Loong)
Few things bring out the inanity of the punditry quite like an off-year election, and we were served a steaming portion of it after last week's results. If Democrats know what's good for them, they'll ignore all the advisement from the pundits about where they need to shift and what they need to fear -- no easy task when the clucking is near deafening.
The New Jersey and Virginia governor's races are always presented as though they have some Delphic power to reveal the future, for no reason other than the fact that, unlike those in the other 48 states, they occur in odd years when no other big elections take place. In the two races this year where national issues actually played a part -- the special congressional elections in New York and California -- Democrats won.
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily machinations behind health care reform – how many votes the vile Stupak amendment limiting reproductive rights was able to secure, what kind of payoffs will be necessary to buy the assent of conservative Democrats in the Senate, the latest threat from the festering ball of bitterness and resentment that is Joe Lieberman. But what Democrats need to do more than anything else is take a deep breath, step back, and look at the long term.