Friday, August 7, 2009

A little more on the health care debate

I am troubled by the Democratic Party's response to people who are expressing their concerns about the nature and pace of the proposed health care reform legislation. Instead of listening to people who simply want to express their concerns and get answers to their questions or trying to persuade these people about the merits of health care reform, the Democratic Party has decided to demonize them by claiming that those who do not agree with the proposed reforms are merely right-wing extremists in the employ of the Republican Party.

While I believe in less government, I also believe that most drugs should be legalized and that gay couples should be allowed to engage in civil unions so that they can have the same rights of inheritance and adoption that heterosexual couples (I say civil unions because I view "marriage" as a religious matter). So I am neither a member of the Republic Party nor in its employ. I am guessing that most of those who want to meet with their representatives in Congress to express their concerns about health care are also not in the Republican Party or its employ.

Consequently, the Democrat's response to the concerns of ordinary citizens will only serve to weaken respect for governmental institutions and lead to a greater sense of disenfranchisement. Peggy Noonan has a great column on this subject today in the Wall Street Journal. Some highlights:

The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town hall meetings
weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.

People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United
States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered
sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.

Then came the Democratic Party charge that the people at the meetings were suspiciously well-dressed, in jackets and ties from Brooks Brothers. They must be Republican rent-a-mobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that people are “storming these town hall meetings,” that they were “well dressed”, that “this is all organized,” “all planned,” to “hurt our president.” Here she was projecting. For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama.

The Democratic National Committee chimed in with an incendiary Web video whose script reads, “The right wing extremist Republican base is back.” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement that said the Republicans “are inciting angry mobs of . . . right wing extremists” who are “not reflective of where the American people are.”

But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to The White House said it was merely trying to fight "intentionally misleading” information.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Wednesday wrote to the president saying he feared that citizens’ engagement could be “chilled” by the effort. He’s right, it could. He also accused the White House of compiling an “enemies list.” If so, they’re being awfully public about it, but as Byron York at the Washington Examiner pointed, the emails
collected could become a “dissident database.”

All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter. Is this what the president wants? It couldn’t be. But then in an odd way he sometimes seems not to have fully absorbed the awesome stature of his office. You really, if you’re president, can’t call an individual American stupid, if for no other reason than
that you’re too big. You cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan “extremists” and “right wing,” or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They’re citizens. They’re concerned. They deserve respect.

The Democrats should not be attacking, they should be attempting to persuade, to argue for their case. After all, they have the big mic. Which is what the presidency is,
the big mic.

And frankly they ought to think about backing off. The president should call in his troops and his Congress and announce a rethinking. There are too many different bills, they’re all a thousand pages long, no one has time to read them, no one knows what’s going to be in the final one, the public is agitated, the nation’s in crisis, the timing is wrong, we’ll turn to it again—but not now. We’ll take a little longer, ponder every aspect, and make clear every complication.

You know what would happen if he did this? His numbers would go up. Even Congress’s would. Because they’d look responsive, deliberative and even wise. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Absent that, and let’s assume that won’t happen, the health-care protesters have to
make sure they don’t get too hot, or get out of hand. They haven’t so far, they’ve been burly and full of debate, with plenty of booing. This is democracy’s great barbaric yawp. But every day the meetings seem just a little angrier, and people who are afraid—who have been made afraid, and left to be afraid—can get swept up. As this column is written, there comes word that John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO has announced he’ll be sending in union members to the meetings to counter health care’s critics.

Somehow that doesn’t sound like a peace initiative.

It’s going to be a long August, isn’t it? Let’s hope the uncharted territory we’re in doesn’t turn dark.

Here is a copy of the Democratic Party ad that Peggy Noonan mentions in her column:

BTW, here is a video of an angry, right-wing mob. I think that Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was lucky to come out unscathed:

John Whitehead, a constitutional lawyer who blogs on the liberal-leaning Huffington Post, also expressed his concerns about President Obama and the Democratic Party's position on those seeking to have their voices heard on health care reform. Here are some of the highlights from Mr. Whitehead's column:

Responding to the increasingly vocal protests of Americans who are concerned about the Obama administration's plans to overhaul health care, the DNC has released "Enough of the Mob," a web ad that attacks the constitutionally protected right to protest. "The Right-wing extremist Republican base is back," proclaims the ad. "Desperate Republicans and their well-funded allies are organizing angry mobs... This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they've called out the mob. Call the Republican Party. Tell them you've had enough of the mob."

President Obama has taken this chilling message one step further, actually encouraging Americans to report on those who are spreading "disinformation about health insurance reform." As the White House blog states, "These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to" This is the official message coming out of the White House.

Months ago, I warned that the government would be targeting for surveillance those who disagree with the administration politically. Now we see it unfolding before our very eyes. The Obama administration is trying, none too subtly, to put down a resistance movement.

Thomas Jefferson, that revolutionary patriot who advocated rebellion every 20 years or so in order to remind the government that a spirit of resistance flourished among the people, must be turning over in his grave.

After all, the people who fomented the American Revolution did so using the same tactics as those protesting Obama's health care plan and the nation's mounting debt. They spoke out at rallies, distributed critical pamphlets, wrote scathing editorials and took to the streets in protest. They were rebelling against a government they saw as being excessive in its taxation and spending. For their efforts, they, too, were demonized and painted as an angry mob, extremists akin to terrorists, by the
ruler of the day, King George III.

It's a sad statement on the political bias of many within the civil liberties arena that few outside conservative circles have spoken out against these overt attempts to quell constitutionally protected speech. Had it been George Bush attempting something similar, the outcry among liberals would have been tremendous.

So where is the outrage?

No matter what your political persuasion may be, every American has a First Amendment right to speak their mind, gather together and protest against government programs with which they disagree. And there's a lot to be concerned about. For example, the secretive nature of Obama's administration and his seeming
disregard for civil liberties has some on both sides of the aisle asking what happened to the change they were promised. Congressional corruption is rampant: 17 lawmakers are currently under investigation for allegedly breaking ethical standards. Government spending is out of control: the House of Representatives actually approved nearly $200 million to buy themselves three deluxe jets. This list goes on and on.

It should be noted that much of the so-called mob's ire is being directed at lawmakers who are back home during Congress' summer recess. As one newspaper reported, "Concerns over the pace and breadth of health care reform have birthed a fiery wave of activism during the congressional recess as fearful citizens make their voices heard with resounding vigor."

Finally, Americans are taking the time to voice their concerns at town hall meetings and elsewhere, and that's as it should be.

This is democracy in action, and it's about time.

No comments:

Post a Comment