Vicious acts, words need an overhaul

WASHINGTON — Okay, I am just going to shout: What is going on with America?

Men and women sending death threats to Democrats who voted for the health care overhaul bill. Americans vandalizing offices of members of Congress, menacing them, spitting on them and calling them nasty names based on who they are, not how they vote. Citizens disrupting sessions of Congress and committee hearings. E-mails and phone calls of spite and hatred.

I understand the worry over the cost of the health care reform package and the confusion over what is in it. I understand the prevalence of fear, frustration and feeling out of control.

But, folks, what's with chucking common sense and common decency out the window? And what's with those Republicans leaning over balconies on Capitol Hill, holding up placards to encourage people to go ballistic?

What's with Republican Sen. John McCain vowing that Republicans won't cooperate with Democrats on anything for the rest of the year? What's with one member of Congress shouting "baby killer" to another member, who is against abortion? What's with Sarah Palin telling supporters to "reload" for the fight ahead?

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are so worried about the threatened violence and intimidation, they have sent their families away from home. The response of some Republicans has been to pooh-pooh the threats, saying they have been overstated or even made up. But nobody made up cutting the propane gas line to a grill at the home of the brother of a Democratic lawmaker.

We need a national time-out. We need to have adults in control.

The goal of overhauling the health care program was to bring down costs, give businesses some certainty about future costs and prevent millions of Americans from declaring bankruptcy because they get sick and have no health insurance.

The law will ban insurance companies from putting lifetime limits on people who get sick, and from denying insurance for pre-existing conditions. It will let children stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26.

The costs are almost certain to be higher than we were told. And that makes us all uneasy. But the Republicans who refused to help make the bill better because they wanted President Barack Obama to fail did us no good. Doing nothing by keeping the status quo was a death knell for many small businesses and the well-being of many families. Health care reform is part of the financial overhaul we need to implement to get back economic momentum.

There will be lawsuits. There will be fixes. There will be years of tweaking and rewrites. Mistakes will be corrected. Oversights will be examined. Some Democrats who voted for overhaul will lose their seats in November.

We all know democracy is messy, but we should brook nothing that prevents free, unfettered debate. That is why we should be extremely careful that our frustration with intimidation and lack of civility does not lead to an overreaction. Law enforcement — such as the FBI — is the right method to deal with threats to lawmakers or anyone else.

Yes, abortion, immigration and health care are emotional. But the idea that Congress is a "classroom" is a good analogy. Children are watching and learning. We have to teach them that it is okay to get angry but that how we deal with anger is a measure of what kind of people we are.

Meanwhile, we have to remember that health insurance overhaul is now the law of the land, and we are a law-abiding nation. At least, I hope we are.

Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.

Vicious acts, words need an overhaul 03/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 6:28pm]

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