Politics & Other Mistakes: Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees

6 mins read


Al Diamon

The law of averages says if you put 100 monkeys in a room with 100 computers, they’ll eventually write a workable national health-care bill.

Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply to 100 U.S. senators.

To compensate for this shortcoming, our sub-simian congressional delegates have dispersed into the hinterlands to seek advice from constituents on how to pay the ever-increasing bill for medical expenses. In some states, this has resulted in raucous town-hall-type meetings at which our esteemed solons have been shouted down by banana-brained citizens going ape over the possibility that such reform would result in a government takeover of Medicare.

Hey, if it can happen to General Motors …

Possibly as a result of that turmoil, members of Maine’s congressional delegation decided to pursue alternative strategies. Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins flew off to the more civilized climes of Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as an unannounced vacation stopover in Greece), where she discovered that war is hazardous to the public health. Democratic 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree went on “The Colbert Report,” where we learned that no amount of editing could give her a sense of humor. GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe took to the streets to sample the vox populi, laboring under the misconception that was some kind of Italian food. Democratic 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud held something called a “telephone town hall,” which resulted in him issuing statements in agreement with every conceivable position on health care. Except a government takeover of Medicare.

The delegation’s unanimous refusal to hold actual town meetings enraged some chimp-like critics, who were denied the opportunity to figuratively fling feces in public. They claimed our senators and representatives were defying grassroots democracy and refusing to grant them the right to petition the government about their grievances. Which consisted of rabid opposition to “Nazism,” “socialism” and “a public option.”

Oddly enough, many of those who are demanding town-hall forums for venting conspiracy theories (“health care will be administered by gorillas,” “orangutans will make decisions about euthanizing old people,” “baboons will be given preference in admissions to medical school”) probably wouldn’t be caught dead in the same venue if the subject were the municipal budget. At least 20 Maine towns have done away with the town-meeting form of government, because of low turnouts and the propensity of participants to engage in monkey business.

In reality, there’s little likelihood town meetings on health care would have changed any of our representatives’ minds.

Snowe conducted walking tours in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, during which almost nothing said by the people she encountered appeared to penetrate her skull.

When average folks conveyed concerns about the limited availability of health care in rural areas, she’s quoted by the Associated Press as saying the comments had “sharpened our focus on issues such as affordability and cost.”

When voters suggested a single-payer system, Snowe got lost in the translation. “The question is,” she told the Lewiston Sun Journal, “can it be accomplished in a different way because of my reservations about whether or not government can tackle this type of endeavor and do it right and well.”
Pingree wears ear plugs whenever someone suggests government-run health care would be too expensive. After one such encounter, she told the Morning Sentinel, “I happen to be in the camp of great concern that, if we don’t have a public option, we won’t be able to reform the system.”

Michaud supports a public option, too. Except on days when he forgets he does and supports something else. “As I travel around the state and hear directly from Mainers about health car, it’s clear that people want reform done right,” he boldly proclaimed in a press release. “The people I’ve met with have real concerns that I will take back to Washington with me.”

Collins doesn’t seem to have endorsed anything – except hanging out on a Greek island investigating whether Taliban sympathizers have infiltrated the beach cabanas. It’s almost as if her idea of health-care reform is to embrace the status quo. “We should focus on holding on to what is good about our system and improve what is not working,” she told the Sun Journal, adding that she wanted to make sure “states like Maine are not harmed by reforms.”

In the end, Collins’ do-nothing approach may be the position that prevails. It fits with Snowe’s ignore-the-public-and-its-damned-option attitude. It’s probably something Michaud has accidentally endorsed. And Pingree is too busy primping for future network television appearances to complain.

So, if we want real health-care reform, there’s only one way to get it:

Wish on a monkey’s paw.

Just be careful of the curse. It could result in a government takeover of Medicare.

Sick of this? Take two aspirin and e-mail me at aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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