Cue the one-note chorus from Colorado Springs...
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Ted Kennedy, hears testimony from Health and Human Services Secretary-Nominee Tom Daschle today. This isn't a confirmation hearing, but it signals the high priority that both Congress and the Obama Administration plan to give to serious health care reform this year.
The prominence of health care on Washington's radar even in the midst of the economic mess should give hope to many Americans (the uninsured, those facing bankruptcy from medical bills, those of us with high-deductible plans that don't cover maternity...).
Leave it to Focus on the Family to try taking everyone's eyes off the ball. Denise Ross (who has some medical bills coming up soon—congratulations and best wishes for a smooth delivery, Denise!) points us toward a screed from the Dobson wolf-PAC exhorting voters to call the senators on the HELP committee and tell them to vote against Daschle's nomination. "Tom Daschle is a disaster appointment," says blogger Jill Stanek in the post. "Daschle ardently supports abortion... and he disdains abstinence education." FotF's Ashley Horne adds, "Citizens who care about family values should be concerned about Daschle's nomination."
Family values? I got your family values right here. While Jom Dobson's minions bloviate, Joe and Missy Urbaniak are fighting to pay their son Cooper's medical bills. Doctors have removed brain and spine tumors from the three-year-old boy, and now say he needs high-dose chemo and a stem-cell transplant. Cost; $400,000. Their insurer, Sanford Health Plan, is refusing to pay for the treatment, saying it's "experimental." A similar treatment worked for a Wisconsin boy, whose family also had to take their insurer to court to get coverage (the family won). The Urbaniaks' lawyer, Mike Abourezk, notes Sanford appears to be doing a selective reading of the medical studies on the treatment, citing only the parts that uphold their rejection [details in "Family Fights for Boy's Cancer Care," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2009.01.07].
Tom Daschle is coming to Washington to work on health care reform that would help Cooper Urbaniak and millions of other Americans get affordable health care without having to take big corporations to court. That sounds like a focus on the family to me. But you won't hear a word about that from the one-note chorus from Colorado Springs.
Jill Stanek claims, "The only reason Obama appointed Daschle was to assure Obama’s radical support of the abortion industry would be extended through HHS." That's absurd. But Focus on the Family needs to believe that absurdity. The radical right must cast every government action as part of a war on family values; otherwise, their raison d'être (and raison de fundraising) disappears.
Part of me wishes Jim Dobson would just accept his irrelevance. But another part me hopes he keeps up the nuttery. The more Focus on the Family brays, the more Americans will see the difference between fighting a contrived culture war (that's Dobson's need) and solving practical policy problems (that's Obama and Daschle's plan).
If you really value families, call your senators, and tell them to give two thumbs up to Tom Daschle and health care reform.
Update 10:47 CST: Obama didn't pick Daschle because of abortion. He picked Daschle because Daschle knows how to pass legislation. See this smart piece by Carrie Budoff Brown, "Daschle's Approach: Anything But Clinton," in today's Politico.com.
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