From Joe Conason at Salon:
Sept. 11, 2009 | In the lyrical conclusion of President Obama’s speech on healthcare, he talked about the emotions and experiences that drove his late friend Sen. Edward Kennedy to work so tirelessly and passionately for universal coverage. He tried to describe what Kennedy must have felt as two of his children suffered through bouts of cancer. Ordeals such as those, said the president, had helped Kennedy to understand the “sheer terror and helplessness” of parents whose children are stricken by serious disease, and lack the means to save them.
Reaching out to his opponents, the president tried to emphasize that such empathy toward other human beings “is not a partisan feeling,” but is instead an aspect of our national character.
To support that reassuring observation, he cited the landmark bills that Kennedy’s Republican colleagues have co-sponsored in years past to extend healthcare to children and protect hospital patients. As he said, Americans of all parties (and none) surely possess the capacity for compassion.
But why then do nearly all of the Republicans in Congress find it so difficult to empathize with the tens of millions of their uninsured and underinsured fellow citizens — and so easy to contemplate the ruin of reform yet again, even though that means condemning hundreds of thousands to sickness, bankruptcy and even death? Why would they still insist, after 40 successful years of Medicare, that government must have no further role in ensuring decent healthcare for every American?
Perhaps the problem is that a certain kind of Republican — often with a connection to the White House or Capitol Hill — will only endorse government action to remedy the adversity they have experienced for themselves.