The decision by Senator Olympia Snowe to support the health care bill in the senate finance committeeon which Senator Snowe sits is good news, but it may not turn out to be a turning point towards getting meaningful health care reform. Snowe's vote gave the bill a solid 14-9 majority in committee. Snowe's vote helped the bill out of committee and gave a bipartisan facade to what was otherwise a party line vote. There is still a long way to go, however, between this vote and real health care reform.
The question of whether or not some of the attacks on President Obama are racist is not likely to end anytime soon. There is little that can be done to persuade some supporters of President Obama that comparing the African American president to a witch doctor is not racist, or that the disrespect shown to Obama during his address to congress on health care would not have been on display if the president had been white. Similarly, critics of the president will continue to insist that this is simply all about the issues and that race has nothing to do with it.
If anybody was so hopeful that they believed that the Republican Party leadership did not like the level of nastiness we have seen in recent months, they must now abandon that hope. It is hard to imagine that had a Democratic member of either house of Congress shouted "you lie" at President Bush during an address to congress in 2007-2008 we would have heard silence from Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid of the kind we have heard from the Republican leadership. Importantly, while it can be argued, although probably wrongly, that the anti-Obama fervor is no worse than the anti-Bush feelings of a few years ago, it cannot be argued that the two parties have engaged in this rhetoric in the same way.