Posts Tagged ‘Affordable Care Act’

PRESIDENTIAL LEGACIES

During this season’s “House of Cards” (Netflix), the wife of the presidential candidate challenging the evil incumbent Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) says of her husband: “He has a chance to be a fine president. A great president.” Maybe. But presidents don’t create legacies, and those who think they do subject the nation to great and unnecessary risks.

We hear much about the Affordable Care Act being Barack Obama’s legacy. Obamacare represented just a step forward. American healthcare has a long way to go. Moreover, President Trump and Republicans vowed to “repeal and replace.” Will they? We’ll see. But I suspect Mr. Obama’s legacy will reflect not what he set out to do but what he had to do. (More later.)

I doubt George Washington took office thinking about his legacy rather than the job at hand. He had to react to the creation of a new form of government under the Constitution. During his eight years in office, Washington had to shape the executive branch from scratch. He also had to contend with the pioneering efforts of a newly devised Congress, Supreme Court and thirteen states. All had their own Constitutional visions. Washington’s legacy consists of navigating unchartered waters successfully.

Abraham Lincoln assumed office with the nation on the brink of splitting. Shortly after his inauguration, the nation toppled over the brink. Lincoln’s greatness lay not in promoting grand plans by which history would hail him but in meeting this daunting challenge—leading in ways about which he may never have given prior thought.

Yes, some presidents see opportunities. Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark across the west and spearheaded the Louisiana Purchase. But he did so in response to Napoleon and European geopolitics. Jefferson earned good grades. To assure peace after “the war to end all wars,” Woodrow Wilson pushed the establishment of the League of Nations following World War One, which America entered well into his prsidency. Congress balked. Ultimately, the League failed. Wilson’s reputation is spotty. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Depression and did much to provide a safety net for Americans while pushing the economy towards recovery. FDR made mistakes along the way, but he’s idolized by many.

George H.W. Bush, with no legacy in mind, responded to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and ousted Iraqi forces in a 100-hour war. Then he withdrew American troops. His son George W. Bush responded to 9/11 with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The younger Mr. Bush, with little knowledge of the region, decided to remake the Middle East. History will not be kind.

Back to Barack Obama. Whatever he thought he might accomplish—health care reform being a massive item on his agenda—he entered the White House with the American economy unraveling. He responded by rescuing financial institutions “too big to fail.” For that, he’s been lauded and vilified. While time will offer new perspectives, I think his actions will establish a very positive legacy if one unplanned.

I’m baffled by people who believe that a president’s first concern should be his (and someday, her) legacy. All presidents can do is shoulder their burdens and meet challenges with their best efforts. The world mocks our plans, and history exercises its own judgement.

Have a great Fourth. And remember, you can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

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RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM

Many people believe that baseball represents a microcosm of life. I agree. And that goes for fans, too. They have lots to teach us about this nation, including the health-care arena.

I went to AT&T Park as a spur-of-the-moment thing after the Supreme Court’s June 28 decision on Obamacare. As the first inning began, I settled in for a relaxing day at the ballpark. But I couldn’t get quite as relaxed as I’d planned. A guy sat down next to me carrying nachos, two hot dogs and a beer. He must have weighed 250 while appearing to be no taller than me. “Sorry,” he said as his girth spread over our common elbow rest. “They don’t make the seats as big as they used to.” I wasn’t sure about seats in newer ballparks, but people seem to have grown larger.

I glanced at my neighbor. “No problem.” I noticed that he wore a ROMNEY 2012 pin on his Giants cap. I then took note of the sea of black Giants caps throughout the ballpark. Giants shirts, too. Not only players wear uniforms.

An inning or two later, the home-plate umpire made a disputed call on a strike. “What are you,” my neighbor bellowed at the ump, “John Roberts?” I turned to him. “Didn’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling, I take it.” He turned to me. “Roberts might as well be working for Obama. Not much of a president. But what do you expect when the country elects a guy who used to be a community organizer. I mean, America was built by rugged individualists.“

The organist started playing the four-note “Let’s go Giants” theme. Concurrently, the scoreboard urged everyone to “make some noise.” My neighbor started applauding while chanting along with much of the crowd. A Giants out quieted everyone.

He turned to me. “Remember John Wayne? It’s guys like that who built this country. Men, who only wanted to be left alone by the government and everyone else to live the way they wanted.” I mulled that over right up to the seventh-inning stretch. The P.A. announcer asked the audience to rise for “God Bless America” and remove their caps as well. Most did. Some didn’t. “I hate it when people leave their hats on,” my neighbor complained. “Well,” I said, “it’s not the National Anthem.” “Maybe not,” he answered, “but it shows disrespect for the country. You can’t have people taking their hats off or not just because that’s what they want to do.”

I reflected on Justice Roberts and his supportive position on the Affordable Care Act. Some Americans took their hats off to him for his decision. Others did not. That’s the way democracy works. And we’re a stronger nation because we can all be individuals and at the same time be part of a greater community even when we disagree.

I’d write more about the game, but my train of thought was disrupted when my neighbor stood as the wave approached our section and treated my lap to half his garlic fries.

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