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Separate wheat from the chaff

There are times when we all should feel a bit sorry for the politicians - from both political parties - when they're so desperately trying to convince us why we should hold thumbs up or thumbs down on President Obama's health care proposal.

The political rhetoric is deafening. Sometimes it's subtle, empty, ambitious, glowing, confusing, contradictory, powerful, vigorous, passionate, effective, genuine, intense, discerning, brilliant, loud-voiced, absurd, ridiculous, eloquent, misleading, tedious and tiring.

Difficult as it is for President Obama to convince the politically aligned Senate and House members to vote for a health care program (even many members of his own party), he has an even bigger obstacle to overcome: persuading the millions of independents who voted for him last November to believe in him again.

There isn't that kind of vocal support from that sector, and many Senate and House members - looking ahead to the 2010 elections - are becoming increasingly paranoid whether to vote their district or their conscience. When push comes to shove, those in marginal districts will certainly choose the former and not the latter. And that doesn't bode well for any kind of health care legislation to reach the president's desk anytime soon. While that may not be the most "statesman" approach in deciding critical issues of our day, it's the easiest path for them to take. It's called "job security" in some places.

There is almost universal consensus that improvements in our health care system are needed. Indeed, members from both parties also agree on about 70 to 80 percent on what critical and subsantial changes should be made. However, it's the "my way or highway" mentality on the other details that is responsible for the delay. The "art of compromise" - a long-standing definition of "politics" - has virtually disappeared on Capitol Hill.

We're hearing from both sides (mainly from those politicians in relatively "safe" districts) that the plan the president may sign will be the right one (even though nobody knows yet exactly what final form it will take ... what it will cost ... how it's controlled ... whether the illegal immigrant issue and the "public option" is "in" or "out," ad infinitum). The most recent proposal, from the so-called "gang of six," appeared to be a step in the right direction...and that plan - though it was void of specific details, including cost - attempted to break from some of the fears expressed by conservatives. However, early responses from the opponents didn't sound promising as they viewed it as anything but a serious and meaningful compromise.

One thing is clear, however. If the Democratic-controlled Congress does succeed in presenting the President a bill to sign (without bi-partisan support) ... he will do so. His daily insistence to the nation that he will not sign if the bill does this or doesn't do that will not matter. He wants a bill - whether or not the special interest groups and bureaucrats who wrote it are the only ones who really know what it contains. He would sign ... maybe even suggesting it's not a "perfect bill" but that it's a start and that changes, if needed, could be made later on.

We know what is not working with the present system now. Perhaps therein lies the secret for a legitimate compromise. Fix what's broken, improve our present health care program and avoid dividing the country even further apart. Adopting a program that may prove to be even more troublesome than the one we already have is - in the minds of many - foolhardy.

In any case, whether it's listening to campaign promises and predictions or reasons why this or that kind of health care changes are urgently needed ... we at home usually have the more difficult task: separating the wheat from the chaff.

It would appear that the present health care debate is giving the president and politicians from both sides of the aisle a taste of their own medicine. They can't seem to separate the two either.