Kudos to health-beatreporter Kevin Sack for his Tuesdayfront-page profile of Montezuma, Ga., resident Bob Collier, a "calm" conservative opponent of Obama-Care: "Calm, but Moved to Be Heard In the Debate Over Health Care."
The story is faintly condescending, with Collier subtly portrayed as a good conservative, not like the other town-hall loudmouths. But Sack stays out of his way and lets Collier voice his concerns without too much murmuring editorializing. The story also demonstrated that if people like Collier can be stirred up to action, Obama's vision of intrusive health "reform" is in serious jeopardy.
Until Thursday evening, nothing in Bob Collier's 62 years had stirred in him the slightest desire to take a stand - about anything - in public.
He skipped the antiwar protests of his college years, took a job as a regional salesman of paper and chemical products, and built for himself a quiet life of family and church (and hunting and fishing) in his rural hometown in southwest Georgia.
But on Thursday, Mr. Collier drove more than an hour down Route 19 to attend a health care forum in Albany, Ga., being held by his congressman, Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr., a Democrat serving his ninth term.
To his wife's astonishment, as the session drew into its third hour, Mr. Collier rose to take the microphone and firmly, but courteously, urged Mr. Bishop to oppose the health care legislation being written in Washington.
He told Mr. Bishop that his wife of 36 years had survived breast cancer through early detection and treatment, and that he feared that her care would be rationed if the disease returned.
"She'd be on a waiting list," he said.
"This is about the future of our country as we know it," Mr. Collier warned, "and may mean the end of our country as we know it."
The Colliers are committed conservatives who have voted Republican in presidential elections since 1980. They receive much of their information from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh's radio program and Matt Drudge's Web site. But they said their direct experience with the health care system had persuaded them of the need for change.
If everyone is covered, Mr. Collier said, supply and demand will dictate that some must wait for their care. He does not believe the president's promises that the elderly will not stand in line behind those with longer life expectancies.
"I don't trust him on that," he said, and then echoed a phrase used regularly by opponents of government in health care: "I think you're going to have all the efficiency of the post office with the compassion of the I.R.S."
The Colliers worry about the financial burden the health care plan may place on their two grown children and young grandson. While Mr. Collier said he did not object to paying more to support coverage for the truly needy, he predicted that a universal coverage system would dole out tax dollars to "lazy and irresponsible people who play the system."
Doing something, he said, is not necessarily better than doing nothing.
In their heart of hearts, few in the Obama administration would have predicted late last year that they would be this well positioned by June to achieve a major victory on health care.