06/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The High Cost of Health Care

The true definition of torture is having to listen to Dick Cheney spew ad hominem about why it was proper, even necessary to circumvent any commonly accepted interpretation civilized society has to offer of what in fact constitutes torture. By relying on the absurd argument that he was guided by the legal rationale developed by political hacks posing as jurists in the highly politicized Justice Department is an insult to any notion of morality and decency.

No one expects or demands of our political leaders to be moralists, but they should be moral. No one expects or demands from our political leaders that they be paragons of virtue, but they should be decent.

Deception and distraction are hallmarks of those who advocated and pursued the preemptive war in Iraq, thus it should come as no surprise that these very attributes are guiding the current tour de force being conducted by the former Vice-President. The purpose, I am convinced, is to somehow shift the debate from the Obama Administration's successful efforts so far to deal with the recession and move on to the most pervasive long-term issue facing the nation: namely, reforming our system of health care.

It is tempting, deliciously so, to become ensnared in this devious trap. Anyone with a conscience and a desire to prove to not just the world but to ourselves that we still have the ability to command the moral high ground on worldly issues is repulsed that one of the primary architects of the failed Bush doctrine is afforded the stage to insult our sensibilities. However, Obama is right to keep his eye on the proverbial prize and not be sidetracked by these diabolically orchestrated detours that are designed to lead us into political quicksand.

It must scare the bejezus out of the conservative right that moderation and purpose are the driving forces behind the current attempt to wrest control of our health care system from an industry that has reaped enormous profits and exerted enormous influence on a political system that has allowed our nation to be laggards of the civilized world when it comes to guaranteeing access and treatment. Politically, the threat of securing a place in history where health care is no longer a privilege but a right must further haunt a conservative movement bereft of forward thinking.

Therefore, it is important for progressives to appreciate the longer-term and larger picture vision being employed here. I, for one, am absolutely perturbed and disturbed by the criminal behavior of the previous Administration and would like nothing more than to hold them accountable for their crimes, but if the trade off is to deny and deprive millions of Americans the right to quality health care, then the cost is too high.

Unfortunately, this is not a situation that allows us to do both. Striving to advance the greater good is the morally correct choice here, regardless of the pure desire to show the world we still have a soul and are willing to stand up and atone for our misdeeds. The President has made huge strides towards restoring our image and respect internationally and the domestic political capital he possesses at this juncture dictates that he tackles the health care issue.

This is not nor should it be a partisan fight. Assembling a coalition of progressives and moderates requires that we reach across the aisle as well as within the Democratic Party to formulate a winning strategy. Of course this has proved to be a daunting prospect thus far and partisanship has prevailed.

But the long-term adverse consequences of defeating health care reform, both substantively and politically, are far greater than the economic and budgetary fights that are largely temporal. Conversely, the benefits of bringing our nation and its citizens into the Twenty-First Century on health care, once again both politically and substantively, may prove to be too irresistible to those wishing a long career in the public eye. Moderates of all political stripes need to factor this into their electoral calculus.

So, Dick, continue on with your charade of indignation, your unapologetic confidence bordering on either conceit or delusion, the indescribably sour note of fear-mongering that you and your cronies raised to a political art form, and hopefully your well-deserved irrelevance will lead you back to Wyoming.

The world will move on quite nicely without you. Unfortunately, until then we will just have to put up with you, but that is the price of progress.