Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How about health care for Thanksgiving?

By Bob Greene
updated 10:49 AM EST, Thu November 28, 2013
Bob Greene says Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on families who believed it when they were told they would get access health care.
Bob Greene says Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on families who believed it when they were told they would get access health care.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: In politics, to take something on faith is to believe it is "on the legit"
  • It's another way of saying: Suckers. People thought health reform was on the legit, he says
  • He says at Thanksgiving, politicians should recall who gets left out in health care bickering
  • Greene: It's the people who can't afford health care, but believed things would change for better

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War"; and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."

(CNN) -- There is a phrase that has long been used in certain big-city political circles.

It has always been said with an implied -- and sometimes literal -- sneer:

"They think it's on the legit."

It refers to people who are trusting by nature -- occasionally novice political adversaries, often the general public -- and who make the mistake of actually believing a proposal that is being presented to them. People who, hearing a promise, take it on faith.

"They think it's on the legit."

Meaning:

Bob Greene
Bob Greene

"Suckers."

This is Thanksgiving week. For all the heated talk about, and blame-placing over, the deeply troubled federal health care initiative -- for those who blame President Barack Obama and the Democrats for the screwed-up rollout, for those who blame the Republicans for their longstanding opposition to the White House plan and their determination to combat it at every turn, for those who are furious that the early pledge about being able to keep current insurance was not real, for those who take delight that the website has been a disaster because it makes one side come off as incompetent -- this may be a good moment to step back and think, with real-life compassion, about what sometimes gets lost in the partisan back-and-forth.

To think about the people who don't care much about Beltway haggling, but who desperately need dependable health care for their families, and who were hoping against hope that readily available medical care was at last going to be theirs. The people who heard the promises.

They thought it was on the legit.

At base, this isn't -- or should not be -- a matter of politics, of Washington winners and losers. The families to whom reliable health care has been an unattainable dream don't care which party finds a way to that health care for them. And both parties, at least in their public statements, agree that while they might not concur at all on the method of getting there, they concur on the goal. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida: "As policymakers, we must focus on making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans."

Let the ideologues on both ends of the right-left continuum make a game of this, if they wish. But do you think, when a person with a sick child finds a doctor who will help and who will bring peace of mind, the parent cares whether the physician is a Republican or a Democrat? The same goes for how a person in such need would feel about a member of Congress who helped him or her find a path to decent care.

For those among us fortunate enough to have doctors we can go to, and the means to pay for them, this Thanksgiving week is a time to remind ourselves how grateful we should feel to be in such a position. Because it is only when you're not in that position -- when you are sick and have nowhere to turn, or, worse, when it is your son or daughter who is sick and you have to explain that you have nowhere to turn -- that you fully understand the fear and helplessness that kicks in in the middle of the night.

Come October 1, the people who yearned for a way to take care of their families' health were told, such a way will be yours.

Well-to-do people are always going to have more options for finding the best health care for their families. That is a fact of life.

But -- and here is where political leaders of both parties, whatever their differences, should find common ground -- access to health care shouldn't be a luxury. Health care is not a Mercedes, or a mansion on a hill. A family should not be deprived of it merely because they lack wealth, or have lost employment. Republicans and Democrats, Americans all, should acknowledge that health care is not a diamond bracelet to be gazed at with longing through a store window.

It's time to cool down the rhetoric and the finger-pointing. Before we get any deeper into the recriminations about rollouts and delays and extensions and penalties and startovers and repeals, we might want to pause, this Thanksgiving week, to put ourselves in the shoes of the people to whom the promise was profound and real.

There but for the grace. . . .

The people who need health care and who wait for this mess to be cleaned up are the people who have always been asked to wait. They will wait again, because they have little choice.

For the rest of us, perhaps this is a week not only for prayers of thanksgiving for what we have, but also a week for thoughts of those families who believed it when they were told that things were going to change for the better.

Who thought it was on the legit.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:28 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT