Forget the iPad: Bring on the ObamaPad

Clever, and yet so very dumb: Attacking healthcare reform by co-opting Apple buzz and trashing government

Published April 8, 2010 4:49PM (EDT)

Bobby Eberle, the man behind GOPUSA (Mission: "to spread the conservative message throughout America"), professes to be enthralled by the iPad. But in the midst of an ostensible review, mysteriously titled "Obama-Pad vs. iPad," he poses a provocative query:

The iPad is truly different than any device I've ever used. But a serious question remains. As the country moves from capitalism to socialism, is there a need for the iPad? Shouldn't all Americans just use the Obama-Pad and be happy?

The ObamaPad? What's the ObamaPad? Not content with running GM, the administration now wants to get into consumer electronics? Well, no, at least not yet, but you have to watch the accompanying video to fully get the joke: The Obama-Pad is a metaphor for healthcare reform! It's the tablet that will be forced on the people by the commisars, even though they don't know what it does or how much it will cost, and didn't even want it in the first place. It's the tablet where, gasp, all the apps are created by government officials.

Listen to the ObamaPad buyer explain, in a tone of grudging "there's nothing we can do about this totalitarian crushing of our freedom" acceptance:

"I know a lot of people might be expecting to see what it does, but I don't know what it does either and neither did the guy who sold it to me. He didn't know what was in it, how it operated, or how I was supposed to use it. He said that once I bought it though, he'd be able to tell me more. All I know about this is, I paid for it, and they told me it won't start working until 2014..."

"If you are the CEO of Apple, are you really going to keep selling your quality, expensive product, when we've got Obama-Pads coming out?"

And so on. I have to concede, co-opting Apple's iPad buzz to attack healthcare reform is pretty clever, even if the default Republican position that government is incompetent compared to the private sector has never been more risible than right now, as we sift through the wreckage left by Wall Street recklessness. I also admire the jujitsu involved in taking a company whose products have always been disproportionately adored by highly educated creative class types (whose political sympathies skew liberal) and turning it into a vehicle for attacking government intervention in the economy. It's a lot more hip and cutting than anything Michael Steele has ever done. Kudos!

But I do wonder if the makers of the ObamaPad ever considered how useless the iPad would be without the Internet, which, of course, was created by the U.S. government. That's right, probably the single most important technological innovation of the late 20th century -- was concocted by government officials and funded with taxpayer dollars! Pretty hard to get your YouTube video instantly distributed to millions of people without the Net, you know? Just like it would be a lot more cumbersome to physically move around this country without the interstate highway system, another big government project.

The private sector does a terrible job of delivering affordable healthcare to Americans, a fact that inhibits our ability to change jobs or work for ourselves or compete effectively with the citizens of other nations. Healthcare shouldn't be thought of as a consumer product -- it should be regarded as essential infrastructure upon which a healthy, properous civilization can be built. Healthcare reform is as important to liberating human creativity and encouraging innovation as the Internet or the interstate system. It is exactly the kind of thing government should be doing, because the security of having healthcare will make it much, much easier for the next batch of nerds hanging out in their garage to cook up the next insanely great thing.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Apple Barack Obama Healthcare Reform How The World Works Ipad Tablet Computers