During Saturdays memorial and burial for Ted Kennedy, one message kept coming through loud and clear . It was articulated by almost every speaker. It was mentioned by the Kennedy parish priest, it was mentioned by the archbishop. It was mentioned by countless friends and members of his family. It was mentioned even by his grandchildren.
While Kennedy’s life and accomplishments as both a senator and a man were extolled by his friends, colleagues and family, there was this other message, repeated over and over and over again and clearly coming from Ted Kennedy himself. The message was health care.And the constant reference to it could have been no accident. It was clearly Kennedy’s wish.
In a service for someone of Kennedy’s stature there are no accidents. Almost everything is planned down to the smallest detail. And the constant mention of health care reform sounded in every waym like a message Kennedy himself was send ing. And there is a high probability that this message was meant to be sent to Barrack Obama.
Obama’s ill conceived and short lived attempt at signaling to Republicans that the public option might be dropped in order to fashion a compromise was quickly repudiated by Democrats in congress. And it did not go unnoticed.
Health care was Ted Kennedy’s most passionate cause and the public option is the centerpiece of health care reform. There is no real reform without it.
When Obama signaled he might be willing to drop it, Democrats in congress, from Pelosi to Dick Durbin, and the former chair of the DNC Howard Dean, let it be known in a very public way, that unlike Obama’s characterization of it as a “sliver”, it was the single most important aspect of reform. And it is unlikely Obama’s attempted retreat went unnoticed by Ted Kennedy.
The day after Obama hinted at his willingness to drop the public option,, Obama back tracked and tried to claim that everyone misunderstood him when the person who misunderstood was Obama.
Democrats made it clear there would be no bill coming out of the House without the public option and the repudiation by the House Democrats of any attempt to drop the public option put Obama on the verge of becoming irrelevant to the health care debate except for his signature on a bill.
The constant drum beat of health care as Kennedy’s most passionate cause and his biggest hope, was repeated over and over during the funeral service both at the church and at Arlington. Again it was no accident.It was even mentioned in Kennedy’s letter to the Pope which was read aloud at Arlington.And that seemed like it had a purpose too.
Kennedy had articulated the purposse of health care reform and what is known now as the public option as far back as 1978 and he articulated it in a few short words better than Barrack Obama has in all of his thousands of words spoken since his election.
Kennedy called health care for all ” a right not a privilege”. In 5 words that summed up what reform and the public option is all about. It is a proposition you either agree with or disagree with but that is the point.
While Kennedy championed universal single payer health care, something that most people feel will be the case one day, the closest thing to it now, is the public option. And on the public option, Kennedy sent Obama a very clear message. One that was clear, direct, and to the point. And one that Obama shouldn’t be able to miss.