What Terrorist killed 18,000 Americans last year?

It’s happening again with the Mary Cheney meme: Republican slime is being flung at Kerry with such persistence that I am afraid some of it will stick.

The Republicans understand how to play the media as their own echo chamber. Of course, owning huge chunks of it doesn’t hurt. Andrea Mackris’ sexual harassment suit against Bill O’Reilly really shows how, for these guys, it’s all about one thing: power. Here’s Bill O’Reilly, showing off:

“If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s Roger Ailes who will go after you. I’m the street guy out front making loud noises about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and life as he’s known it will change forever.” (The Smoking Gun)

But despite the zealots and the deep pocket financing on the other side, the Democrats could do vastly better in the rhetoric game. It amazes me how the Democrats don’t aggressively set the values agenda. This is the poetry of politics. It requires lyricism and an instinct for the jugular. This should be our hunting season! Under the ‘family friendly’ façade, Republicans are the party of ‘Americans Treat Americans Like Sh*t’. An aggressive values agenda would point this out, over and over and over and over, until even people who don’t like the Democrats would begin to doubt the Republicans.

Case in point: 18,000 people die every year because they lack health insurance. Let’s put that into context of the casualties in Iraq, and the deaths at the WTC. Remember, we’re the richest nation in the world and we’re doing this to ourselves. Moreover, it is the Republicans who are primarily responsible for this situation, because they are the ones that oppose any and all reasonable fixes. You think my number is exaggerated? Not at all! This is a National Academy of Sciences study that came out this year.

It should be one of the campaign’s memes: “18,000 people die every year because they lack health insurance… and I, John Kerry, will fix this situation, with my plan.”

Bush doesn’t even believe in health insurance! This is what he said in the 3rd debate:

“Health care costs are on the rise because the consumers are not involved in the decision-making process. Most health costs are covered by third parties. And therefore, the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care. And there’s no market forces involved with health care.”

So now you know: we solve the crisis of 18,000 dead every year for lack of health insurance – by getting rid of health insurance. We’ll be dumping a portion of our shrinking pay into ‘health savings accounts’ instead.

The stakes of these issues need to be brought home forcefully. What is more important to you, American voter: the propriety of mentioning the lesbianism of Mary Cheney? Or the possible death of a family member from lack of health insurance?

This is not academic for me. A man I worked for a year ago committed suicide this year. He was a million dollars in debt from health care bills incurred when he was struck by a serious illness while uninsured. I believe the overwhelming debt was a large part of what drove him to kill himself.