Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: Our opinions on health reform, NFL protests and Columbus

In politics, expect the unexpected. Issues suddenly arise we didn’t know were issues. But one thing you can rely on: your columnists always have opinions on issues — and non-issues.

After another stinging defeat, is congressional health care reform dead and buried?

Pignanelli: “Republicans campaigned on [Obamacare repeal] so often we have a responsibility to carry it out. That's pretty much of a reason as the substance of the bill." — Sen. Chuck Grassley 

As with many Americans, I wince at commercials showing poor animals suffering from abuse. I experience the same painful emotions watching Republicans attempting to pass health care reform. They are clearly uncomfortable in this role, and relieved to move onto safer topics like taxes. But the issue is not dead.

Later this year, insurance rate increases will aggravate employers and working families. Furthermore, problems that existed before Obamacare, or caused by it, will increase in severity. Expect Republican voters to express frustration that a GOP-controlled Congress cannot deliver needed changes. These dynamics could push possible intraparty challenges, even for Utah federal officeholders.

To preempt this, I predict another round of torturous health care reform deliberations in Congress. Unfortunately, we can't count on the Humane Society saving them, and us, from the resulting pain.

Webb: It is unfortunate that the Graham/Cassidy legislation failed. It was the country’s best chance to improve health care and control its costs. By devolving much of Medicaid funding to the states, each state could have crafted solutions that best fit the needs of its citizens. The wails of woe and despair by the various liberal advocacy groups and the medical/insurance complex were self-serving and deceitful. These groups simply want big federal government health care. It is inexplicable to me that virtually everyone believes the federal government is a mess, yet so many people want the federal government to run health care.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox described President’s Trump’s criticism of the NFL for allowing players to kneel in protest during the national anthem as a “diabolically brilliant” action that divides the country. Is the always magnanimous Cox correct, or is there a real issue behind Trump's actions?

Pignanelli: Cox nailed it again. Trump also understands deep in the American psyche is the belief that politics and sports can mix, but never on the playing field. It was a shrewd distraction from his unfulfilled agenda.

Webb: Trump didn’t need to engage in this fight and went too far in calling for the players to be fired. I’m all for peaceful protest at the right time and place. Go protest in front of city hall or the police station. But I’m absolutely offended to see NFL players and coaches exploit the singing of the national anthem and our flag before a captive audience to make a political statement.

This is in-your-face protesting. They are going out of their way to be as obnoxious as possible in front of millions of Americans who came to witness (or see on TV) a football game and, perhaps, to feel a little patriotic as the flag is shown and the national anthem is sung. It is hijacking and exploiting the country’s most sacred symbols to make a political point.

If it’s not about the anthem, or the flag, as they say, then why use the song and flag as a backdrop? Why stuff it down the throats of football fans who aren’t interested in their political views?

Their action is not illegal. It’s constitutionally protected. But it’s bad judgment, ill-mannered, insulting, offensive, rude, divisive and disrespectful.

The Salt Lake City Council may consider a resolution to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. A handful of other large cities have done this in recognition of the atrocities suffered by Native Americans by European settlers. Is this necessary?

Pignanelli: Columbus Day was created to celebrate all immigrants, in response to nasty ultra-nativist activities. Because this great explorer was Italian, millions who share my ethnic heritage are proud of him and the magnificent contribution we make to our beloved America.

Columbus was not perfect but his bravery and tenacity opened the New World to millions seeking opportunity. If unfair treatment of Native Americans is a standard to strip honorific days, the following holidays are jeopardized: Independence Day (creating a government that warred against tribes), Thanksgiving (we know how that turned out) and Christmas (spreading Christianity was a frequent rationale for maltreatment).

Equally important, honoring anything Italian is always good for American souls-regardless of heritage.

Webb: Columbus was a remarkable explorer who established the first permanent colonies in the Americas in four difference voyages. Most historians say he was also ruthless — exploiting, enslaving and otherwise mistreating the natives. As did many other European conquerors. As did the indigenous people themselves among their warring factions.

I think it is fine to celebrate indigenous people with a special day, as Utah does on Nov. 3. But I do not see harm in commemorating the beginning of the European settlement of America, and calling it Columbus Day, while also acknowledging – and learning from -- the barbarism that occurred. It is easy, but not always fair, to judge what occurred more than 500 years ago by the standards and values of today’s modern, civilized world.