What President Obama Could Learn From Johnny Carson About Healthcare Legislation

Monday, September 21, 2009

Johnny Carson, the 30 year host of The Tonight Show before Jay Leno, was a consummate comedian, a natural talent who worked hard to perfect his understanding of comedy and the skill with which he made it happen. Barack Obama is a skillful orator who talks too much. I’m beginning to think he doesn’t know the difference between campaigning for office and managing the government now that he’s been elected.

So far at least, Carson is turning out to have been far better at what he did, than President Obama is at what he does. I know, there’s an apples and oranges problem in this comparison, but they do have something in common.

Carson had his own rules of comedy that he would discuss occasionally in the self-deprecating humor he would use when he screwed up. He was a master at making the most out of blowing a joke, his seemingly adlibbed recoveries often being more humorous than the original material had he delivered it perfectly. One of his rules which he would use when a joke had gone badly was that, if you had to explain it to the audience, it couldn’t have that funny to begin with. (You had to have been there, to have seen his monologues night after night, to appreciate how good he was it this, at leveraging his own shortcomings to his advantage and our delight.)

It’s a point that President Obama should study. Doesn’t it occur to him that if he has to keep explaining his healthcare reform program again and again and again, at every possible venue save only weddings and Bar Mitzvahs although I expect it’s only a matter of time, that the problem may not be that no one’s listening, but that no one understands or likes what he’s talking about?

Once again, I’d like to suggest that the President and Congress step back and solve one specific healthcare issue at a time, rather than struggle to enact comprehensive legislation so complex that not even its originators fully understand the implications and costs of what they’re proposing.* Individual issues are easier to define, to legislate and budget – and for the public to understand.

In the meantime, President Obama’s pitch is beginning to sound worn, and more than a bit desperate. For a guy who used the media so effectively to get elected, as President he’s beginning to suffer from over-exposure.

-wf

*If you have time, you might want to read…

“A Bits and Pieces Approach to Healthcare Legislation”
(#1: Pre-Existing Conditions)

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #2: Overcharging the Uninsured”

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #3: Buying Prescription Drugs from Canadian Suppliers”

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #4: Coverage for Illegal Aliens”

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #5: Coverage for People Who Can’t Afford It”

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #6: Standardization of Forms”

“Bits and Pieces Healthcare Legislation #7: Making Cigarettes Illegal”

“Obamination: The Fallacy of the Public Option”

“Healthcare Reform Legislation: The Idea That Will Finally Make It Happen”


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