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The Bell Curve:

Caricatures of people and issues

August 05, 2009|By Joseph N. Bell

This can — and probably will, considering the political bent of the representatives Newport-Mesa has sent to Congress — be greeted with angry partisan reminders of the evil reign of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and concern that Clinton’s visit will give Kim international stature. For starters, there is the picture — probably on every film and print outlet in the U.S. today — of Clinton towering over Kim, sitting stiffly on straight-back chairs with a half-dozen unnamed people grouped behind them, all in black suits. That picture is guaranteed to give the cartoonists another field day. I can structure it for them: Kim and Clinton, sitting at a table full of empty beer bottles, with President Obama, dressed as a waiter, hovering in the background.

So be it. This whole affair should be looked at with a slightly curled lip. But it should also be looked at as a door ajar — even if slightly — to another prickly world that we must deal with. Flexing our muscle hasn’t worked very well. Maybe we should combine flexing over a round of beers and give civility a chance.


We might well also try that on some domestic issues that seem to be approaching the same impasse as our relations with North Korea. Another front-page picture, this one in yesterday’s Daily Pilot, caught the tone pretty well. Pickets stood across the street from the Balboa Bay Club where Rep. Loretta Sanchez was giving a fundraising speech. The pickets strongly objected to her support of the Obama health-care plan, and there was no civility in the signs they carried. One read: “Obamacare Murders Baby & Grannie.” Another, “Don’t Euthanize Seniors.“ They remind me uncomfortably of the “How many babies have you murdered today” signs that appeared almost daily for many years around Dr. George Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, Kan., before he was gunned to death last June.

If these signs are any indication of the level at which debate on health care is to be carried out in far corners of the U.S. during the August vacation of Congress, the referendum will be a waste of time. Virtually everyone agrees that health care across the nation needs reforming. So why not start building instead of tearing down from that point?

The 9-year-old daughter of one of the pickets in the Pilot account reportedly asked her mother: “Why does Obama want health care to be bad?”

If the question was answered, it didn’t appear in the article. If it wasn’t, she deserves an answer. And it would be instructive to know what she was hearing to lead her to ask that question. And to explain to her that no one, including the president, wants health care to be anything but good, and we just have different ways of making that happen.

So how about letting the cartoonists chew on that for a while, with or without beer to wash it down.

JOSEPH N. BELL lives in Newport Beach. His column runs Thursdays.

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