Health Care Then And Now: Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Barack Obama

Posted on July 22, 2009


The film clip on TV news of President Harry Truman (“The buck stops here”) making the case for health care for Americans was poignant. NBC aired the Truman clip following President Barack Obama’s news conference on the same subject, health care.

If I remember history correctly, President Teddy Roosevelt (“Speak softly and carry a big stick”) was the first president to call for health care for Americans.

More recently there was the ill-fated effort of President Bill Clinton.

Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency was more than a century ago. Harry Truman was a half-century ago. Bill Clinton’s effort foundered 17 years ago.

How much delay do the Republicans want? The Grand Old Party is now just The Old Party, reduced to a feeble minority, fighting a mindless rear-guard action against change.

 Advances in social justice, history teaches us, do not come quickly or easily. Resistance is fierce. Societies persist in denial of injustice for a long time.

But when understanding of injustice becomes widespread, the situation is ripe for change. Health care has arrived at that juncture, I think. Perhaps President Barack Obama will accomplish the change that Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Bill Clinton could only envision. 

No need for unseemly hurry.  Sen. Max Baucus and his Senate Finance Committee don’t have to finish a health care bill this week. Next week will be OK.

The House of Representatives is ready, and the dog days of summer lie before the Senate. The upper chamber may proceed calmly, at a deliberative pace. Take another three or four weeks, if you like.

Only get it done.  — Bernie Hayden