By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
It is a shame that a full debate cannot take place on the different versions of the health care plan passed out of the committees in Congress without having to deal with all the gimmicks and chaos, and unfortunately, in some cases, violence.
I believe we need universal health care.It is unfortunate that the controversial details of the plan are not being taken seriously and, as a result, there have been no responses in a reasonable manner.
Many of the "lies" that are being spewed by many enraged and annoyed protestors still need answers, and the counter claims made by the proponents of the Obama care plan are just adding to the misinformation. As a result, we have seen this misinformation create more confusion, chaos and irritation in many of the Congressional town hall meetings.
For example, President Obama, at the AARP town meeting, claimed the national seniors organization had endorsed the health care plan. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs later had to explain that the president had “misspoke.”
In fact, AARP have not endorsed the Obama care plan and have serious questions that they want answered before endorsing the plan. Gibbs says the president “misspoke,” or is that a polite way of acknowledging that the president wasn’t telling the exact truth?
The reality is that the passion, anger and desire for change generated by candidate Obama has now become the hallmark of the opponents of the health plan. Community organizers have brought together crowds of people who are angry and fed up with government spending that has led to a record deficit.
Ironically, what worked for candidate Obama seems to be working for opponents of Obama care.
Mark Halperin, the editor-at-large and senior political analyst for Time magazine, has expressed what I believe to be what many protestors want in their calls for a full debate on the issue. Halperin wrote:
"Of course we want a full debate. Of course, we want people who have dissenting views from the administration and Congress to have a full hearing. However, that is not what this is about. That is not the intent of most of these people. It's not the way the press is covering it."
While I agree that perhaps some of the town hall protests may have been orchestrated, it is giving the extreme right wing of the Republicans far too much credit to think that they could organize the widespread concern and anger that people across this country are feeling.
I believe it comes back to the fact the health care plan is being rushed too quickly without taking the time to answer the questions - legitimate questions and concerns that people are asking.
The chaos and anger – all the shoving and shouting - have pushed aside the valid arguments and costs of the health care plan. It is practically impossible for issues related to the health care plan to receive a fair debate at this point. Too much bad blood is creating a deep rift between proponents and opponents of the health care plan.
Political pundits say that in 1994, when President Clinton proposed his health care plan, it was even more unpopular than the president's plan today.That is increasingly becoming hard to believe.
One of the biggest differences is that the Internet is playing a larger role in disseminating facts and "lies". Because the president’s staff and the Democratic leadership ignored and did not react responsibly and decisively to answer all questions and “lies” raised by opponents, we have found the value of the Internet has worked in the opponent’s favor.
Still, all of the turmoil and chaos of the town hall meetings does not take away from the fact that we need to have this health care debate. While the president will continue to push his health care plan, the debate cannot continue on this negative tone.It is unfortunate that we have found ourselves in a very bad place in our country.
There needs to be an open debate on "the president's plan". If the protesters have ideas, everyone needs to hear them. But if they're just stunts and gimmicks being used to cause disruption in order to get the media's attention, I believe their strategy in the long run is bad for the country, whether you want the president's plan or not.
What concerns me more than the present debate on health care is the fact that I believe the future debate on comprehensive immigration reform has been compromised.
The current atmosphere in our country has reached a real critical crisis point by the lack of civil debate and discourse. While some of the "actors of the health care debate" have disrupted the national debate, they have also empowered other opponents of the debate who had legitimate questions as well.
In fact, President Obama has gone back on his election promise to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority in the first year of his presidency. He now says the debate on immigration reform will not take place until sometime in 2010.
Other seemingly promising proponents of comprehensive immigration reform have also disappointed those of us expecting an end to the immigration stalemate with a Democratic president and Congress.
Senator Schumer of New York has become increasingly hostile and tough on those he now calls “illegal immigrants.” In order to look tougher on immigration reform, Schumer has used words generally reserved for right-wing extremists and opponents of immigration reform.
The president’s own Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has even gone further by saying that reform may not be necessary at all. She went on to say a greater emphasis on enforcement would resolve many of the problems related to immigration reform. In fact, Homeland Security has continued to follow the mean-spirited polices of the Bush Administration, particularly when it come to raiding homes, place of employment and entertainment.
Unfortunate the angry and hateful tone of the health care debate has poisoned the water for future debate on immigration reform.
The outcome of the health care debate will determine whether future immigration reform will face a difficult and bumpy road when the debate starts on that controversial topic.
That debate will also depend on whether or not the anti-immigration forces take advantage of the turmoil and anger felt across our country, and use it to harness the unrest and chaos to their favor. I fear that a new chapter in civil disobedience and the lack of civility has entered a frightening stage in our country.
Regardless, the opportunity for passage of comprehensive immigration reform bill will become a difficult challenge in the future. It means we must be more vigilant as we move forward in our fight for justice and righteousness.
Unfortunately, what some pundits thought was the right time as far as passing new immigration reform – the present - will discover that it will not be easy to accomplish this time around.The ugly health care reform debate has hurt the chances for passage of immigration reform.
While we attempt to move forward with the health care debate and listen to the questions related to many of the contentious issues related to health care, and as we strive to work for consensus, let us pray that the national narrative will not continue in the same angry and mean-spirited tone poisoning today’s climate.
While it is critical that we find a way to create a health care plan that serves the needs of every American, we must work together.
We also need to change the tone and temperament of this current debate so that any future debates on issues of concern to our country – including immigration reform - can take place without all of the turmoil and chaos brought about by the present health care debate and debacle.
It is time for both liberals and the conservatives to realize their tricks-of-the-trade are causing what many consider a serious division in our country that will not be so easy to navigate and correct.
The time for bickering is over. Can we all just get along?
This column first appeared at www.latinolandscape.com
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked as a broadcast journalist for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a minister in 1972.