The American people have invested a huge amount of political capital in health care reform. Now ranked 37th by the World Health Organization, America's highly vaunted health care system is plummeting downward in a deepening spiral. Costs escalate catastrophically, while longevity slides down the scale - and America is now below Cuba in the key statistic: life expectancy where the USA now ranks 42nd.
While the costs of American health accelerate out of control - and the performance of American medicine falls off a cliff - profits for health care corporations from hospitals, nursing homes and big pharma skyrocket to supersonic velocities into a limitless expanse of open skies now escaping the earth's orbit and soaring beyond the forces of economic gravity.
Into this darkening scenario, steps a new president who promised to deliver change. After investing more heavily into health care reform than any previous president - the political inertia suddenly became overwhelming. The sacred bill hit a brick wall in the Senate. Joe Lieberman vetoed a Medicare buy - in leaving the bill twisted, incomplete, unsatisfactory - a wreckage of legislative ineptitude and willful corporate lassitude.
The Republicans withdrew from the health care dialogue to moan about deficits they engineered and the bailouts they precipitated.
With health care legislation languishing in the deepest realms of public boredom, the political winds shifted against passage of fundamental health care reform, Obama's most cherished legacy. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi counted noses in the Senate and the House, and the legislation came up short. Trembling Blue Dogs feared voting for the bill out of a general public outrage welling up in the nation. Flaming progressives refused to support the bill because it suffered dreadfully at the hands of the political surgeons who neutered it, de-clawed it, de-fanged it and destroyed its public options and its Medicare buy-ins. Progressives said the bill was too timid, too weak, too insipid to be called "reform," while Blue Dogs called it "socialism" and "irresponsible" and "unaffordable."
The Congressional leaders counted votes, and they reported to President Obama. The situation looked bleak, and little could be done except personal presidential intervention with the people of America and members of her Congress. The charm offensive officially began.
One member of Congress became the primary target of presidential persuasion. Dennis Kucinich was an old friend of the president, but he had announced his intention to vote against the health care bill - because it was not reform -- for it did not do enough to protect, nurture and attend to the needs of the people of America.
The two men have known one another for the better part of two decades. Both men are political icons. Obama represents aspirational change tightly integrated into riveting transformational politics elaborated by broad-brush impressionist visions of American potential. Kucinich embodies bold self-eradicating integrity locked into a martyr's dedication to the global humanitarian landscape highlighted by piercing laser-sharp utopian visions.
On a flight aboard Air Force One, the two men established a working partnership. Obama would open the Pandora's Box of change, while Kucinich would provide the crucial spark of political ignition -- energy and momentum for change timed to the precise moment when the tuning forks of time reverberate to a perfect political pitch.
In Cleveland, Obama and Kucinich collided with the American people in a cauldron roiling and bubbling with concerns over the macabre crisis in health care. On their deathbeds in Cleveland, Americans declared bankruptcy while insurers withdrew their coverage. Obama and Kucinich considered the fate of America's sick, lame, and terminal masses.
Back aboard Air Force One, the Democratic Duo returned to Washington intent on serving the people.
The following morning, Kucinich held a dramatic press conference to announce that he would cast his vote in favor of reform. This one vote will impel other lingering members of Congress to follow Kucinich's suit - and Obama's most cherished legislative achievement will be secure.
This dramatic development is actually a re-run of another crucial passage in the lives of these two remarkable men. In January 2008, days before the Iowa caucuses, Dennis Kucinich threw his support to Obama - while his rival Ralph Nader threw his support to John Edwards. Let history decide which man is the better judge of character. When asked for a reason for his decision for Obama instead of Edwards, Kucinich replied simply, "Obama is sincere."
Last week, Kucinich forced a vote on the war in Afghanistan. Driven by his principles, Kucinich can be expected to exert an influence on the Congress and the nation he serves - perhaps, fulfilling the role of the catalyst - the ultimate transformational agent in the metamorphosis of a presidency predicated on the positive potential of change.
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