For as little as $6, you could own Barack Obama's handwritten letter to someone named Lynne defending why Obamacare was not a "giveaway to insurance companies" and why he has to listen to what Joe Lieberman thinks, currently up for auction at ShopGoodwill.com. (Update: Goodwill writes to say it's a print of the letter -- see update below.)
It provides a little window into the history of the health care law. The letter is undated, but it refers to Lynne's complaints about Joe Lieberman in the health care debate ("The reason that Joe Lieberman and other individual senators have so much leverage is because of the filibuster rule in the Senate"). That would seem to date the letter to December 2009, when Lieberman said he was considering voting against health care reform if it allowed people aged 55 to 65 to purchase Medicare. (The option was taken out before the bill arrived on Obama's desk.) "This is a Senate rule that has been greatly abused by the Republicans this session, but it is not one that a President can change," Obama wrote.
Every night, Obama reads 10 letters from the 20,000 he receives daily, according to a report from March 2010 by The Washington Post's Eli Saslow, and he sometimes responds. This appears to be one of those responses. Obama once said that about half the letters "call me an idiot." This one's anger seems more focused on the Senate. In his loopy lefty handwriting, Obama explains that he thinks the filibuster is frustrating, too, but presidents can't do anything about it. "I understand your frustrations -- I share them -- when it comes to the process," he wrote, "but this bill will be worth the fight!"
We don't know why Lynne gave away the letter. The obvious joke is that she's totally over Obama. But items leftover from estate sales and gifts from relatives often end up donated to Goodwill, too. Here's the full text:
I received your note and wanted to respond. The reason that Joe Lieberman and other individual senators have so much leverage is because of the filibuster rule in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to move forward with a bill. This is a Senate rule that has been greatly abused by the Republicans this session, but it is not one that a President can change. So I can disagree with any single Senator's position and use the bully pulpit all I want -- but if they won't vote for a bill with certain provisions, that is their perogative… and how our democracy works.
As for the bill itself, it is absolutely not true that this is a giveaway to the insurance companies. In fact, in addition to providing 30 million people coverage, it has the toughest insurance reforms in history, which is why the insurance companies are still spending millions of dollars opposing it. I understand your frustrations -- I share them -- when it comes to the process, but this bill will be worth the fight! Barack Obama
Goodwill notes there are "Some scuffs and soiling to frame, some smudges on glass."
Update: Goodwill writes to clarify that this is just a print of the letter, not the letter itself. And a reader emailed to say that Lynne was the writer's sister, that Lynne was once a delegate to the Democratic party in Washington state, and that Lynne died in June. We wrote back to try to get more details for confirmation, and are awaiting a response. Meanwhile, bidding on the letter is up to $5,000.