I know everyone is talking about President Obama’s speech last night, and several organizations have done a wonderful job debunking some of the things he said. In particular, they’ve cleared up the recycled myth that abortion will not be covered under the current plan. We’ve already busted that myth on this blog.
I wanted to make an observation from last night that I haven’t really heard anyone bring up yet. President Obama has started a pattern of dismissing (and occasionally attacking) his opponents, instead of refuting their arguments. He listed several concerns last night that citizens have raised about abortion and “death panels”, among other things, and as he responded to most of those concerns, he simply dismissed them. “That’s a lie,” he would say, and most of the Democrats in the room would stand and applaud.
He never said, “You know, some well-meaning people have misunderstood or misread the bill, and think that abortion would be covered under the new plan. Actually, that view is mistaken because we are not going to include abortion under ‘family planning services’ or ‘reproductive health.’” THAT would have gotten my attention, because he would have been refuting our argument. It would have given us something to research so that we could double check the accuracy of our views, which is a good thing, because sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we’re wrong.
But, he didn’t do that. He just called us “liars,” and declared to the country that we are using dishonest “scare tactics” for political gain.
That’s not good enough. Any person of good will – but ESPECIALLY the President of the United States – should look honestly at the facts behind any claims, and then either refute them or concede the point.
I’m frustrated that President Obama continues to mislead, (whether intentionally or unintentionally,) on abortion in health care reform, but it means we just need to keep educating about it. It’s amazing to me that Obama still insists abortion won’t be covered, especially when even FactCheck and the Associated Press has brought clarity to those issues.
I want to add one more thing. Pro-lifers have good reason to feel passionately about this debate and while we should not give up. However, we should also maintain composure and treat the other side, especially our Commander-in-Chief, with respect. I believe Congressman Joe Wilson was way out of line in shouting at Obama during his speech. There is a certain protocol to that kind of presidential appearance, and heckling isn’t a part of it. This wasn’t a “Questions to the Prime Minister” convention where you see similar debates as you saw in House of Parliament meetings in “Amazing Grace.” This was a presidential address.
I’ve been equally ashamed of the way some people have treated their congressmen and women at town hall meetings. I remember one instance where Sean Hannity asked a particularly loud conservative woman who shouted at Sen. Arlen Specter at a town hall what she thought about Specter’s answer to her rant. Her response? “Honestly you know after I asked the question I was so, just, I don’t know, I didn’t hear half of what he said to be honest with you.”
Wonderful. So we shout at our congressmen on TV, but don’t even listen to their response, and then brag about it on Fox News! And we wonder why the other side thinks we’re “radicals…”
We should stand up for the truth, debunking when anybody, even the President, makes a mistaken claim about health care reform. But we should do it with respect and integrity. We shouldn’t make it so easy for the other side to simply dismiss us as crazy people. Instead, we should force them to examine our arguments, so they can decide for themselves.
I chuckled to myself when Obama said that he would call out people that made false claims about health care. In a statement after last night’s speech, Obama added, "I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumption of the worst of other people's motives."
Perhaps President Obama should listen to his own advice, and stop assuming the worst about the good citizens of this country who are legitimately concerned that the current health care reform bill will increase the national abortion rate. I don’t know about you, but that’s change I can believe in.