Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ramming Speed

"[R]am the damn thing, Mr. President. Ram it!" Wow! If you were looking, on the subject of health care, for a veteran pundit from the Left to offer you some reasoned deliberation leading to a sober conclusion, you'll not find it in Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's most recent piece. Instead he reads more like Melville's Captain Ahab. The Great White Whale of socialized medicine is now within sight, within reach even, but, alas, it is not quite yet within grasp. The difference, of course, is that this Moby Dick is not to be killed, but rather to be saved. (Liberals saving whales? Who'd of thought?) In any case, like it did Ahab before him, the whole business is driving him and a host of other liberals mad.

Cohen's madness is demonstrated in at least a couple of ways. First, he has apparently lost patience with the people, who just can't seem to see what he sees so very clearly. As a result, he's lost patience as well with the system of government that otherwise gives them voice. "The baleful fact is that the country suffers from a surfeit of democracy." "A surfeit of democracy"? And this coming from a man who, from his side of the ideological divide, normally champions the franchise for everyone, to include illegal aliens, convicted felons, and even dead people? Madness I tell ya.

Second, the failure of the people to not only recognize, but also embrace what he is metaphysically sure is in their best interest, can only mean one thing: They must be led. As a consequence, he vents his frustrations with President Obama for failing to do so. Of course, leadership for Cohen means a willingness to "ram", which, in this particular case, means using the otherwise arcane Senate rule of "reconciliation" to achieve what may be impossible to achieve through normal procedures. To encourage the president, he provides examples of other successful presidential "rammers" like Lincoln, FDR, Truman, and LBJ.

But he conveniently forgets (or his madness blinds him to them) the facts in each case. For Presidents Lincoln and Truman, the Emancipation Proclamation and the desegregation of the military, respectively, were the products of executive orders. Both presidents were within their constitutionally defined role as Commander-in-Chief when issuing those orders and neither required authorizing legislation from the Congress. And the "ramming" of FDR and LBJ was actually nothing of the kind. The Lend-Lease Act and the Civil Rights Act passed both houses of congress with solid bipartisan majorities. (Lend-Lease Act: House: 317-71, Senate: 60-31; Civil Rights Act: House: 290-130, Senate: 73-27)

But as important as those issues were for their time, health care, for Cohen, and apparently for most liberals, is of a different, and higher order altogether. For him, "this bill is as dramatic as the difference between sickness and health--the great divide of mankind." Is he serious? The great divide of mankind is between those who have health insurance and those who don't? I would have thought those who are free or those who yearn to be free would have made at least one of the two teams. Madness.

As his side currently wields the power in Washington, we on the other side are mostly reduced to hope. But who knows? If we're lucky, at the end of this long, sad tale, we may find ourselves like Ishmael, floating on the ocean, clinging desperately to a coffin for life. (How apt an image is that?) Meanwhile, in the distance, we will spy Cohen, along with countless other liberals, tangled in the ropes that are themselves tangled around the whale. The saved White Whale that drags them down, beneath the water, to their political death. Later, once we paddle safely to shore, we'll set about cleaning up the mess.

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