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August 25, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: Anything less is a sham(e)

COLUMBUS _ When the telephone rang Saturday morning, I didn’t answer. I had furniture moved, ladders set up, windows open and I was ready to coat the staircase with amber shellac.

But I did listen to the answering machine, and when I heard, ``This’ll only take a minute,’’ I picked up the cordless.

``Aren’t you coming over later?’’

``Yes. But I want to finish this first,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``What?’’

``A letter to the president.’’

``He’ll never read it.’’

``In the form of a guest editorial,’’ he said.

``Maybe on Daily Kos.’’

``About the Taliban and health care.’’

“That’s quite a combination.’’ I walked to the table where I’d left my half cup of coffee.

``And how it’s not good enough just being better than Bush,’’ said Uncle Chet.

``He’s way better than Bush.’’

``Well, that’s not good enough, considering what we’re up against, so I thought I’d speak up,’’ he said.

``Go ahead.’’

``Dear Mr.

President: I voted for you and would again, if you had the same lunatic opposition, but I’m disappointed you haven’t taken bolder action at home and abroad.

``Afghanistan is a lost cause and always has been.

Rebel forces in mountainous areas are cheap to maintain and nearly impossible _ and therefore very expensive _ to defeat. And why bother to defeat them? What threat are they to us? The Taliban, for all their religious fanaticism, are not al-Qaida. Before we attacked Afghanistan, in 2001, the Taliban said they would turn Osama bin Laden over to us if we’d show them proof that he was behind the 9/11 attacks.’’

``Is that true?’’ I asked.

``Yes, but let me go on with this.’’ ``OK.’’

``But Mr. Bush, whose family was heavily invested in the `defense’ industry, refused this request. Instead, he launched an air assault, and we’ve been mired in the desert ever since, blowing up munitions, men and money.

``In the end, it’s all for nothing because Afghanistan will revert to its former state, a loose collection of associated tribes with a token central government. You’re wasting time, energy and capital, Mr. President, trying to delay the inevitable, so it won’t look like you lost Afghanistan.

``You didn’t lose Afghanistan. It was never won and now it’s time to stop the hemorrhaging. ``You have a parallel problem at home where the Taliban have taken over the town meetings.

``Now these Taliban can be defeated, because the key players are not acting out of conviction but are guns for hire.

``Even Republican pollsters agree that an overwhelming majority of people support health care reform only if it includes a strong pubic option.

``What you, your doctor and most of the world realize it that we need a true American plan, where Medicare is open to everyone at a price we all can afford. But you’ve determined we can’t do what is obviously in the national interest, because the insurance companies are so powerful, they must be served.

``As a compromise, you proposed the public option, an alternative to corporate health insurance, for those who don’t love to see their rates climb and coverage cheapen every six months.

``I support the public option. Medicare is better-run than any insurance company. If you couple the public option with incentives to make medical school more affordable, to turn out more family doctors, P.A.’s and nurses, we might win the war against parasites who profit on human misery.

``But don’t give another inch, Mr. President. The public option IS the compromise,’’ said Uncle Chet.

``Anything less is just a sham.’’


Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace’s column appears every other week.