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President Obama holds blogger conference call on health care reform

Talk about health care ironies. I was sick as a dog this AM, due to side effects from my meds, and didn't bother to check one of my email accounts today. I was invited to a blogger conference call featuring President Obama, David Axelrod, Nancy Anne DeParle and the White House online liaison, Jesse Lee. I'd kick myself, except what can you do when the room is spinning and your vision is blurry and can do little more than lie in the bed.

Anyway, instead of crying over a missed opportunity, it's good that fellow invitees did check their email, attend the call and over at Crooks & Liars, John Amato has the full audio of the call. He also has a recap of the Q&A (once there's a transcript, I'll post it); he noted that the President “is pleased that bloggers have been letting Congress know all about the desperation Americans are feeling and that's been critical, and he wants us to keep up the pressure on Congress and the media.” and Sam Stein of Huff Post has a good write up. Sam:

In a roughly 25-minute session with a handful of prominent progressive bloggers, the president also asked for help combating disinformation about his health care plan.

“I know the blogs are best at debunking myths that can slip through a lot of the traditional media outlets,” he said. “And that is why you are going to play such an important role in our success in the weeks to come.”

The call demonstrates just how heated the health care debate has become in recent weeks and how much ammunition the administration is willing to bring to the table. At various points in the call, the president offered a strikingly detailed synopsis of his political strategy and health care policy as a whole.

While he refused to insist that lawmakers stay in Washington during the August recess, he declared definitively that, “the time for talk is through.”

“Now is the time for us to go ahead and act,” Obama declared. “We are working as hard as we can and I have told Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that it is critical that we have seen serious forward motion before people leave [in August].”

Moreover, for the first time in recent memory, Obama floated the possibility that if it appears that health care reform lacks the 60 votes needed for passage, he might be open to reconciliation, which would allow for an up-or-down vote on budgetary and tax aspects of the bill.

I'm glad the administration acknowledged the role that bloggers can play in moving the health care debate forward, enough so to actually convene a conference call to discuss policy development.

I think you know what my next question iswhy is it that bloggers who focus on LGBT issues don't merit that level of engagement on those issues? Some of those invited to this health care call also blog LGBT issues, but it's clear that we don't exist in that capacity to the administration. I guess our existence and purpose is limited to the issues they believe in. We are seen as essential — when they desperately need cheerleaders at the grassroots level on the right issues.

Remember, throughout the brouhahas about the Stonewall event and relentless dodging on DADT, DOMA, etc., no LGBT bloggers were invited to the event. There were no conference calls of the sort that was held on health care today. Clearly I wasn't waiting by my inbox or phone anyway since: 1) I've been critical of the admin on progress re: LGBT issues and questions went unanswered; and 2) I figured since I'm living in Nowhereville, USA, and have no connections to Big Gay Orgs, they don't believe what I (or what you, the readers) think is relevant to any LGBT policy discussions. On this subject it's a closed communication circle that includes org heads and Beltway LGBTs of interest, not bloggers.

However, apparently as a progressive blogger I do matter to this White House when it is an “all hands on deck” moment — they want the right wing myths, lies and propaganda about the Obama health care reform proposal debunked. And I will — the fact is that I do have a vested interest in fixing the system (see my post “Health care in the U.S. – stop bickering and fix it“), since I'm a frequent user of the health care services. The White House is right to court the grassroots to mobilize actions to put pressure on the members of Congress who are queasy on reform; we need every vote. 

However, I just thought I'd point out that big elephant in the room about the inconsistency in how the White House views bloggers. I haven't seen anyone else mention that irony in the blogging so far about the call today.


UPDATE: A couple of other nuggets, here from Joe@Americablog:

Before he left, the President mentioned his criteria for reform: Does it cover all Americans; Will it drive down costs over the long-term; Will it improve quality; Are prevention and wellness included; Does it contain insurance reforms on issues like pre-existing conditions; does it provide relief to small business; and, is there a serious public option. He warned that the different bills coming from the House and Senate may not have all of those provisions, but the conference committee will be critical.

Also, Michael “MC” Steele weighed in, as only he can do as head of the RNC, in a simplistic, weary fashion that doesn't offer anything as an alternative to what's broken in our current system. Read the press release below the fold.

From the release that hit my inbox from the RNC:

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele today announced a new television ad opposing President Obama’s plan for a government-run health care system during a speech at the National Press Club.

The ad, entitled “Grand Experiment,” can be viewed here: Starting today, this large, targeted television ad campaign will run in select markets in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota. “Once again President Obama and Congressional Democrats are rushing through a grand experiment that will have serious consequences for future generations of Americans. It started with their failed stimulus bill and has now moved on to a trillion-dollar government-run health care plan that is simply wrong for America. Republicans know we need health care reform – costs are too high and families are struggling to afford quality care. But the Democrats’ plan would raise taxes on small businesses and lead to higher costs and rationed care,” said Chairman Michael Steele.

You notice it's all criticism and no alternative plan? What is the Republican plan — a tax credit? What if you have no job, no insurance and your kid has a chronic disease? A tax break to buy private insurace is no solution, so what does the party of family values do for that family? What is transparent is the goal of the Republicans, and it's not your health care — it's toppling Obama and the Dems. To hell with reform that affects
every last person in this country — everything is about being partisan.


The GOP ad is ridiculous.

Voice: “They’ve loaned Barack Obama their future, without even knowing it.”
Voice: “Trillions for rushed government bailouts and takeovers, banks, the auto industry.”
Chyron: Trillions for government bailouts and takeovers
: “The biggest spending spree in our nation's history.”
Chyron: The biggest spending spree in history
: “And they'll have to pay.”
Voice: “The next big ticket item? A risky experiment with our health care.”
: A risky experiment with health care
: “Barack Obama’s massive spending experiment hasn’t healed our economy.”
Chyron: Barack Obama’s massive spending experiment
“His new experiment risks their future and our health.”
Chyron: Risking everything.
: “The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

ONSCREEN Disclaimer: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. Paid for by the Republican National Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Now tell me, how many things listed in the above fear-mongering commercial already applies to the current system? We spend more on health care than other industrialized nations per person. And as far as “massive spending experiment” goes, my jaw hit the table — no one can top the massive spending experiment called Dear Leader's Big Adventure into Iraq that we continue to pay dearly for. Unbelievable.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding