Some­thing, some­how

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES -

Ihad never seen my phone flash like that, as if it was its own rock-con­cert light show. The screen images kept rolling out of sight and get­ting in­stantly re­placed by new ones. The screen was pul­sat­ing and, for a cou­ple of min­utes, do­ing so re­lent­lessly.

I thought the trusted old iPhone 5 had fi­nally lost its re­mark­able mind.

It turned out that cel­e­bra­tory lib­er­als across the coun­try—by the hun­dreds—were ac­ti­vat­ing the no­ti­fi­ca­tions func­tion on my Twit­ter ac­count by ei­ther lik­ing or retweet­ing the sim­ple lit­tle so­cial me­dia state­ment I’d just typed and re­leased.

“Red-state lib­er­als can kick your tail.”

“I love Ar­kan­sas tonight,” replied a man from In­di­ana. “I feel bet­ter about our coun­try be­cause of Ar­kan­sas tonight,” said a woman from … some­where. A woman from San Fran­cisco re­sponded that she’d never ex­pe­ri­enced such kin­ship as she was sens­ing at that very mo­ment with those peo­ple in Ar­kan­sas.

I, and they, were watch­ing U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton’s town-hall meet­ing from Springdale, which was be­ing shown na­tion­wide.

More than 2,000 peo­ple were crammed into a high school au­di­to­rium in the red­dest con­gres­sional dis­trict in one of our red­dest states. They were giv­ing one of our red­dest mem­bers of Congress un­abashed hell.

They were ask­ing him pre­cise, pro­found, pointed and some­times-preachy ques­tions. While some were say­ing “shhh,” they were boo­ing or shout­ing or chant­ing “yes or no” as Cot­ton de­flected the com­plex­i­ties of health care with handy talk­ing-point sim­plic­i­ties so glibly suf­fi­cient on Fox News.

When a woman asked about the com­pelling pub­lic need for re­lease of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tax re­turns, and Cot­ton made ex­cuses, the woman said, “The last pres­i­dent, my God, re­leased his birth cer­tifi­cate.” They stood and cheered.

The next morn­ing the news ar­ti­cle in this pa­per gave dom­i­nant at­ten­tion to the crowd’s rau­cous be­hav­ior and to Cot­ton’s “pa­tience” in en­dur­ing it. A pas­tor from Fayet­teville who asked a sen­si­tive ques­tion about refugee ac­cep­tance told MSNBC the next day the crowd be­hav­ior re­minded him of “Ques­tion Time” in the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment. That’s when the prime min­is­ter comes over to get ques­tioned and in­ter­rupted and hooted by the other side.

In­ad­e­quate at­ten­tion was given to the lame­ness and in­ad­e­quacy of the ju­nior sen­a­tor’s re­sponses. He got credit merely for show­ing up. Cot­ton said he wasn’t there to try to tell any­one that Oba­macare hadn’t helped peo­ple in Ar­kan­sas. But, golly, darn, he said, the Af­ford­able Care Act has been a train wreck of un­sus­tain­able costs. He said Republicans are go­ing to re­peal it and re­place it in a way that will save ev­ery­one money and ease ev­ery­one’s reg­u­la­tory bur­den. He said they will con­tinue the level and uni­ver­sal ac­ces­si­bil­ity of care.

They’ll do that some­how, some way, he said, if only you’ll trust him and The Don­ald and Mitch and Paul and Ban­non and Kellyanne and Reince and the rest of them.

Specifics? The Democrats pro­vided those in their ar­du­ous build­ing of the pro­gram. And you see what that got them.

To the woman who specif­i­cally named and de­scribed her dis­ease and said she’d die with­out the cov­er­age the Af­ford­able Care Act makes avail­able … Tom told her she’s go­ing to be fine.

He was from the govern­ment and he was there to help her.

Republicans in Wash­ing­ton have had six years to de­sign a re­place­ment for Oba­macare. But it was easy to vote for re­peal when it was cer­tain to be blocked by Se­nate fil­i­buster or pres­i­den­tial veto.

It’s harder to dig re­spon­si­bly and ac­count­ably be­low talk­ing points and into such com­plex­i­ties as how, if you do away with the man­date for in­di­vid­ual cov­er­age, you gen­er­ate enough pool as­sets to cover the high treat­ment costs of a woman in North­west Ar­kan­sas you’re es­sen­tially pat­ting on the back with a vague assurance.

There is one prob­lem with Oba­macare. Its pre­mi­ums are ris­ing too fast, too much for in­di­vid­u­als and for the sub­si­diz­ing govern­ment.

The law it­self ad­dressed that by seek­ing to foster as-yet-un­achieved uni­ver­sal pay­ing cov­er­age, in­clud­ing ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid to cover the work­ing poor—a pro­vi­sion the U.S. Supreme Court over­turned and left to the states, 19 of which, Repub­li­can ones, de­clined to par­tic­i­pate.

Republicans es­sen­tially are de­clin­ing to par­tic­i­pate in a pro­gram they as­sail as fail­ing be­cause they are de­clin­ing to par­tic­i­pate.

Speak­ing of Twit­ter and lame and in­ad­e­quate re­sponses, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence tweeted this gem last week: “Oba­macare will be re­placed with some­thing that ac­tu­ally works—bring­ing free­dom and in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity back to Amer­i­can health care.”

The key word: “Some­thing.” The key phrase: “In­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity,” the ex­er­cise of which is not al­ways avail­able to the dis­eased or dy­ing and non-wealthy pa­tient.

The real story from the Cot­ton town hall is one we can’t know. How did the am­bi­tious young GOP phe­nom re­spond as he left that stage? Did he say thank the Lord I’m done deal­ing with those cra­zies? Or did he say hmmm?

The lat­ter would be the seed for per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal growth.

John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Ar­kan­sas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Ar­kan­sas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@arkansason­line.com. Read his @john­brum­mett Twit­ter feed.

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