September 17, 2009
Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, and perhaps to many officials in the Obama administration (!), today was the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. On September 17, 1787, George Washington and 38 other delegates attending the convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution, which then went to the states for ratification. It went into effect the following June 21, when New Hampshire became the ninth of the 13 states to ratify it.
So why does any of this matter? "Is this going to be on the final exam?" For some people who regard Obama as the Anti-Christ, the number 222 may hold special significance, as one-third of the demonic number 666.
A much bigger reason to reflect on this occasion is that the debate over health care policy has largely overlooked some fairly obvious questions about the constitutionality of the proposed measures. What is there in the Constitution that even hints at the Federal Government having the power to require citizens to purchase health insurance? The fact that so few Americans seem to care about that is a troubling sign that our liberties are slipping away faster than most of us imagine. I am not one of those who are in a panic about an alleged plot to turn America into a socialist economy, but I am very concerned about the gradual, long-term slide toward statism. We either pay more heed to the Constitution and demand that the government abide by its limitations, or else we will lose our freedoms. There will be no turning back.
The big Tea Party in Washington last Saturday was a big success in terms of "energizing the Base," though it also exposed some zealots and fringe elements who would be better off keeping out of the public eye. As a result, the impact on policy-making remains to be seen. According to the Washington Post,
The demonstrators are part of a loose-knit movement that is galvanizing anti-Obama sentiment across the country, stoking a populist dimension to the Republican Party, which has struggled to find its voice since the 2008 elections.
Yes, indeed. At a moment of transcendant historical importance, it appears that abrasive radio talk show hosts like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are driving the dialogue on the conservative side, while the voices of prudence and reason (e.g., George Will) are taking a back seat. (Groan.) In the interests of "fairness and balance," I present two video reports on the tea party in Washington. First from the conservative side is a look at some participants who make compelling arguments against Obamacare, etc.; hat tip to Yankee Phil:
Then from the left side (New Left Media, to be precise) comes this quite slanted but still funny series of interviews with some of the less-sophisticated "tea partiers"; hat tip to Cliff Garstang:
Just a few random thoughts before I write something of a more serious nature about President Obama's speech to the nation about health care last week...
To me, Obama seemed less poised and focused than usual, perhaps an indication that he realizes he can't have his way in "transforming the nation" with his charm alone. He remains curiously detached from the policy formulation process, apparently not wanting to stake too much of his prestige on the outcome of this particular initiative.
I doubt that many people were influenced very much by the speech, one way or the other. The country remains deeply divided on this very fundamental issue.
During the speech, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) said what many people believe ("You lie!"), but he picked a very bad time to say it, thereby creating more sympathy for Obama than would otherwise be the case, and giving the Democrats a golden opportunity to play the "race card." Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Obama's "cheerleading" performances at some of the pro-Obamacare rallies strikes me as very unseemly and unpresidential.
The compromise plan offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) seems dead on arrival, and he is apparently being used as a pawn to float a trial balloon as just one phase in a prolonged series of bargaining sessions.