I got up at around 6AM today (umm...it's Saturday) in order to attend a health care talk by a certain former vice president/2000 election "loser". I was pretty hopeful about this (hell I woke up that damn early on a Saturday, so it had to be something good), because I knew he was involved in health care reform and might have some good points to make regarding what needs to be done in the future to save the mess that is the US health care system. Also, I figured that if there was anyone in the know who had less to lose by actually going out on a limb and making some bold statements regarding this very controversial issue, it's this guy. Because let's face it, he's got nothing else to do but listen to Tipper (ugh) and admire his hot daughters (woo woo).
He arrived and made some surprisingly entertaining jokes, most in reference to his newfound status (3 years post-election is apparently still "newfound" in politics) as a private citizen and all of the anti-perks that go with it. Then, in a typical akward manner, he somehow related mad cow disease, Tennesee, dark matter, and being screened at the airport to each other ALL to the problem of US health care spending about 200 billion dollars/year on administrative paperwork. Still not quite sure how he pulled that one off, but he undoubtedly had been working on that and left it in his lock box for the right time. At this point, 8:30 AM, I was entertained, and I figured something good was going to come out of this.
Then came the powerpoint presentation. While I know that important people are very busy, I also know that our friend here got paid a serious amount of cash to make a one hour appearance here. Given that, you'd think he would have shown the courtesy of at least either a) reading his speech beforehand (a quote from one my friends who worked on this event: "He arrived 15 min ago and hasn't looked at his speech yet") or b) reading the powerpoint slides beforehand (part of his speechtime consisted of reading the slides verbatim to us, or standing there in silence while he read the slide in his head and figured out what the hell was on it). Now I understand this guy has a lot on his mind: 2000 election, being upstaged by Bill and Hillary, his hot daughters, etc. But honestly, we're not dealing with someone of the dynamic public speaking ability of Winston Churchill. Maybe Winston's younger, slower, more akward brother, but definitely not Winston. He was moving his joints so violently while he spoke I was expecting a mechanic to walk in halfway through to put some oil in him.
And yet, to this point, I almost expected something like this. I wasn't expecting anything dynamic, and I wasn't expecting a perfectly delivered speech, so all of the above disappointment is just me rambling on like usual. What really bugged me about this speech was the content, or lack thereof. He very deliberately went through the history of American health care and how it related to our values. He pointed to the major problems in the current system and why the current approach of patchwork legislation is not a good idea. He even went so far as to endorse a certain Democratic candidate who he felt could lead to the big changes in the healthcare system that we so desperately need.
The only problem is this: he never went out on a limb to actually descibe what he meant by big changes. He never gave a plan. Never expanded on a system. Nothing. Zip. Zero. During the question/answer session, someone went up there and asked him (excuse my paraphrasing), "...you've done a great job recounted the problems...but where is your plan? What are your ideas for how to fix it?" This was responded to with a 10 minute answer in which he weaved, ducked, and glided by any statement of substance, saying something vague about how us future doctors can lead the way to reform. He put up his "solution" slide that basically amounted to "Health care now bad. In future we make good health care. Now bad. Future good." without one damn proposal or original idea on the whole slide. He very vaguely hinted at a national health system, but didn't even come close to addressing how to fix the problems/concens people have with it now, only going so far as to say that it is the lesser evil when compared to what we have now. Umm. That's the best answer you can give? "Well we think it probably might not suck as bad as what we have now. Maybe."
In retrospect, I probably should not have expected much. After all, he is a career politician, and he thus falls in line with what I think of every career politician who has actually obtained high levels of power: somewhere along the line said individuals HAD to have sold out or given up ideals (or however you want to put it) in order to get the votes and kiss the biggest (and often richest) asses. However, from my perspective, the former VP is now at the point where he can say whatever the hell he wants and not have to deal with political ramifications, because he is the ultimate of has-beens who still has the luxury of having a lot of people wanting to listen to what he has to say. He had the chance to show some balls and detail a plan that he has supposedly been working on. Lay it all out there and spark some debate among a group of people heavily invested in this topic (the medical professionals). Instead, he did what all politicians do: bullshit their way out of tough questions and come out without having said/done/achieved what they claimed they would. And the saddest part of it all is that he is not even a politician anymore. Typical.