So there he was, concluding an almost perfect news conference where he made the case for Health Care Reform to the American people; the perfect steak was ready to be served to the media masses for public consumption. The apprentice cook, six months into his training looked to have mastered the recipe.  Then at the last minute, he decided to add a little sizzle, just to “jazz things up a bit”.

The next day the masses cried foul. The steak was too salty, too much pepper, too much coriander, not enough this, too much that. What was that sizzle? What colour was it? where did he get it from? Was the cook born in the US? Should he have held that salt-shaker like that? 

Nobody talked about the steak.

Obama, the “post-racial president”, walked right into the Henry Louis Gates minefield and subsequently killed the very headlines he was trying to create around health care reform. Irrespective of the circumstances of the Gates affair, he shouldn’t have waded into it at all. Not this time.

Race is an important subject in American politics. It has always been, since the creation of the union. But Healthcare is critical to America’s survival as an economic powerhouse. And any attempt to reform it should not be held back by the same tired arguments that have always held back important discussions in American politics. The ballooning individual and national healthcare costs, the growing number of uninsured Americans and the sheer shame for a country so rich, yet still reliant on groups like Remote Area Medical  should have prevented Obama from discussing anything but healthcare during that press conference. But he did and gave the 24-hour news channels 24 hours of nonsensical material to regurgitate back to the dumbed-down masses.

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr would have been fine. He was fine even before the news conference started. He went on the Gayle King Show, he would have gone on other shows to discuss the matter of his arrest and any ramifications or national discussions that were meant to be had. He didn’t need Obama’s help. Racial discussions are  a tricky affair, which is precisely why Obama avoided them for most the campaign until his former Pastor forced him to confront them. Why he chose to engage this time is anybody’s guess.

But in one sense the distraction was useful. It gave some of us time to read the fine prints and peruse the back pages to realize that although Obama discussed reforming the Health Care system, what both congress and the Senate are proposing does not amount to much reform because it does not eliminate the cancer at the heart of the system: the profit motive.

Nobody should be allowed  to make a profit when the health of human beings is involved. That is precisely why all industrialized nations either have a single payer public healthcare system or a heavily regulated private one where the profit motive has been neutralized.

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