During the presidential campaign, I had the privilege of witnessing one of Michelle Obama’s “roundtables” for working women. It was in Richmond, and the future first lady came prepared with an ostentatious box Kleenexes that would come in handy for, well, sob stories. Here is some of what I saw:
“‘Mary, you think you are ready to get us going? So, Mary, just take your time and tell your story,’ Obama says. Henley reports that her husband died suddenly, while the couple were in their car, and now Henley, who still works part time, lives on a reduced income and has “a lot of debts.”
“‘Well, again, unfortunately, there are thousands of senior citizens like Mary, people who have worked hard, not sitting in an office, but worked, worked until the bitter end. This is the fate of many seniors,’ Obama says. If you have any doubt that there are Oprah elements in today’s program, Michelle reaches over and hands Henley a Kleenex.
“Mrs. Henley’s story is sad and disturbing. I almost want a Kleenex because it is not only touching but the sort of story that inspires a shudder in the hearts of all of us who have ever had retiree bag lady fears. Even for one well-disposed towards widows and orphans, however, there is some missing information. How were the Henleys’ debts incurred? It may be that they were unavoidable, but we don’t know, and adding to the mystery, Henley vaguely notes, ’I made some mistakes’ in handling her money. Most of us have, but the question is whether Mrs. Henley’s plight stems from her mistakes or factors in the economy that require government intervention. Throughout the two-hour roundtable, the same question might be asked of each participant–but isn’t.
“The next panelist, Leigh Hite, a “full-time college student,” who is also a “full-time” mother, who works “full-time”–whew–has been in the same job for 19 years and now wants to make a change. College tuition is eating her family alive, and they can no longer live “paycheck to paycheck” as they did before the Bush administration came to office.
“Instead of raising the question as to why college costs astronomically more than it once did (some have suggested government aid might, ironically, be a root cause), Obama invokes the specter of former senator and McCain adviser Phil Gramm, without quite naming him. She says some people believe that the ‘challenges people face are not real’ and ‘then we start to blame ourselves.’ The Obama campaign doesn’t want you to ever blame yourself.”
I dredge up this memory because I think we’re in for another wave of politically-useful tears. As is their right those who support Obamacare—opps! Make that Kennedycare—are now planning to take back the town halls (SEIU, the Obama-friendly union, says that a “radical fringe”—that would be the American people—have taken over the town halls and that this radical fringe must be thwarted).
My prediction: We will be hearing lots of sob stories. The media won’t challenge them—they certainly didn’t after Mrs. Obama’s Richmond roundtable. But we must be skeptical. This is one time when a jaundiced eye may better serve than a tearful eye.