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Not feeling too good

Barack Obama wants Americans to get healthcare in America. But treated by Indian docs, right?

india Updated: Apr 21, 2011 22:39 IST

Few will disagree that US President Barack Obama on a public platform is as much performance art as it is politics. But unlike many a consummate artist, Mr Obama doesn’t seem to believe in varying his tropes too often. Answering a question from the audience on affordable healthcare while at a community college in Virginia, he said that he wouldn’t like his countrymen to travel to countries like India and Mexico for ‘cheaper’ treatment.

Rather, he would want them to get healthcare “right here in the US that’s high quality”.

Mr Obama’s comment has elicited its usual share of indignant response here in our country, with the Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad reportedly saying that “the very word cheap is a cheap word”. But we would rather not dwell on such hair-splitting arguments on semantics when Mr Obama’s fixation on certain analogies and images makes for much more interesting discussions.

In fact, we would like to hark back to his vintage election campaign in the run-up to his winning the presidency, when he repeatedly denounced outsourcing, the ‘shipping of jobs to India and China’, as responsible for rising unemployment across the US. This is not to forget that he had come up with as dire a phrase as an ‘education arms race’ with India and China while opposing an effort by the Republicans to enable cuts in the education budget.

All of which might make one wonder whether India and China are merely a bee in Mr Obama’s bonnet or actual big, brawny wolves prowling at the US’s doorstep. Maybe one needs to understanding and appreciate the difficulties of a man who assumed office with his country engaged in multiple wars, that champion of bipartisan politics who could never convince a single Republican of the merit of his healthcare reform bill.

As in a fairytale, so in life, the only way to assuage troubled and disaffected souls seems to be by pointing at the wolf at the door.