Man, "conversation" has become one of those Orwellian words. There it is in Obama's NYT interview, where he's saying something that invites the relabeling that Sarah Palin so effectively slapped on it — "death panels."
It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.Conversations! Damn! As if the government does not have power! Oh, but it's "not determinative," you say. It's just "some guidance." He said that, see? Ugh! Spare me! We're right to be afraid now, while the man is burbling about conversation. You know damned well he's about to say and now the time for conversation is over, and we must pass legislation. Before, he was all quick, shut up, it's an emergency, pass the legislation. People freaked, so then he deemed the period of freakage part of the conversation, and there, it has occurred, and now: shut up, pass the legislation. Oh, yeah, here it is, in today's NYT, an op-ed by Barack Obama:
Our nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America. And over the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them....It's "debate" now, not "conversation," because the wrong people are doing the talking. The real conversation is what those people who aren't talking would say.
The long and vigorous debate about health care that’s been taking place over the past few months is a good thing. It’s what America’s all about.Okay! Let's pick it all apart and examine everything. Have you read the great WSJ op-ed by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey? He had some serious ideas on some real issues, but wait, how dare he speak! How dare he get in the way of the Democrats' ramming legislation through Congress. The Democrats know what the millions upon millions of silent Americans really think, so he and those other loud voices need to quiet down, right? That's what I call conversation — when everyone shuts up and lets me give them what they'd say they want if only they weren't so silent.
But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another. We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.
Obama predictably insists that we do something now:
In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing....Why isn't doing the wrong thing a lot scarier than doing nothing? Don't we need to be careful and get it right? If I say that, am I a "cynic" or a "naysayer"? And don't cynics and naysayers belong in the conversation too? Obama's answer is, apparently, no, they are not the real Americans. The real Americans are silent, and I represent what they think.
Obama's final fillip:
In the end, this isn’t about politics.Oh, come on! But this post is already too long, and it's about the rhetorical use of "conversation." "This isn’t about politics" is at least as common and at least as disingenuous, but we'll have to have our conversation about this isn’t about politics some other day.
And yet, I must keep this postscript, while we're talking about "conversation":
Remember Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announcement?
I'm not just starting a campaign, though, I'm beginning a conversation -- with you, with America. Because we all need to be part of the discussion... And let's definitely talk about how every American can have quality affordable health care.... So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.... So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it's going to be very interesting....Ha ha. Yeah, it was interesting. We sure enjoyed chatting with you. Now, what does your husband think? Oh, yes, he was all about conversation too:
Over the coming year I want to lead the American people in a great and unprecedented conversation about race... We have talked at each other and about each other for a long time. It's high time we all began talking with each other....I'm sure you enjoyed that chat... which is still going on....