During the time DrRich was composing and recording his prior post – published moments ago – President Obama announced his “compromise” to the dust-up with Catholics over mandated contraception/abortion/sterilization services.
DrRich asks his readers to note that the President’s solution to this problem preserves the one and only thing that he truly needs his original directive to accomplish – namely, to assure that women will receive these newly mandated medical services without paying for them. This is the one point he cannot abandon.
President Obama unleashed a firestorm when he ordered HHS to issue a directive requiring all organizations providing health insurance to their employees to cover contraception, “morning after” pills, and sterilization procedures. This directive has stunned the American Catholic leadership, whose support for the Obamacare legislation (they tell us) was predicated on assurances that healthcare reform would never require Catholic institutions to violate their fundamental principles. The bishops, and many American Catholics, feel betrayed.
Some bishops feel personally betrayed. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan met in the Oval Office with the President in November to discuss this very issue, and was assured by Obama’s own lips that the administration was committed to protecting the church’s principles. This new directive, Archbishop Dolan now says plaintively, “seems to be at odds with the very assurances that he gave me.” (This is as close as an Archbishop may come, when speaking of the President, to saying, “He lied to me.”)
Progressives (who innately dislike organized religion because a) religions find a higher authority than the enlightened leadership the Progressives propose to create for us, and b) religion stresses individual conscience and individual salvation over collective priorities), tend to be delighted with the new rule, which puts the principles of religious belief into their proper place. Their only reservation about this directive is that the backlash might be politically disadvantageous at this particular moment.
And indeed, that backlash promises to be formidable. Catholics are outraged. Despite the fact that Catholics (Progressives assure us) use birth control with as much enthusiasm as anyone else, they find it quite disturbing that the government is willing to direct their Church to pay for something which the Church (whatever the behavior of its members may be) considers a sin. Whatever else this directive may be, it is clearly an attack on religious freedom. Leaders of other religions – evangelicals, Mormons, Jews – have also expressed outrage at the President’s directive, and organized American religions of all types are mounting a campaign to have this rule reversed.
Senator Rubio and other members of Congress find in this directive a constitutional crisis in the making, and are introducing legislation to prevent the government from mandating that religious organizations violate their religious principles.
It is said that Vice President Biden, a Catholic, urged the President not to issue this directive. And several Democrat members of Congress, sensing growing political repercussions, have pleaded with the President to reverse himself on this issue. There is no telling what the President – who has proven remarkably willing to reverse himself on even his most heartfelt promises – will end up doing. But for now he is holding firm. Catholics will have up to a year to “phase in” their capitulation on their religious beliefs, but they still must capitulate.
The most interesting question, to DrRich at least, is: Why did President Obama choose, in an election year, to issue this directive, which he knew without any doubt, from Archbishop Dolan himself if not from other sources, would create huge problems with American Catholics? Catholics make up 27% of the electorate, and almost 50% of American Catholics are of the Hispanic variety, a group which, it is said, tends to take its Catholicism far more seriously than your average non-Hispanic Catholic. The president can ill afford to lose a substantial degree of support from Catholics, or especially, Hispanics. It also should have been plain to him that this directive would raise the specter of the government trampling on religious freedoms for people of all faiths – and with everything else going on, why would he want to add this issue to the mix in an election year? Finally, he had to know that his new rule would (yet again) call into question the degree of respect he has for the American Constitution as it is written.
Despite the fact that he is being cheered on by true Progressives (even causing Ms. Maddow to gleefully invoke, once again, her Amish Bus Driver Rule), the President’s directive, in net, is shaping up to become a major political liability for him, and in a critical election year to boot. And it would have been easy for President Obama – a very smart man – to see this ahead of time. Issuing this directive at this juncture makes no sense politically.
So why did he do it?
The reason DrRich is compelled, once again, to tear himself away from the fascinating re-write of his textbook of electrophysiology, to the point that he finds himself posting more often during his blogging sabbatical than during normal times, is that nobody in the media seems to have figured out the correct answer to this question. And it is important to know the correct answer, because it tells us a lot about the battle that is really shaping up.
The President did not issue this politically counterproductive directive because it was necessary for the health of American women. (One set of healthcare services American women have plenty of access to, regardless of their income levels, is birth control and abortion services. That, after all, is why we taxpayers fund Planned Parenthood.) So to imply, as some have done, that without this directive American women would be falling dead on the streets is just absurd.
Nor did he issue it in order to further weaken religious freedom, or to further undermine the Constitution as our founders gave it to us. These features of his directive, DrRich submits, are merely useful side benefits, and would not have been compelling enough to jeopardize his re-election.
The reason President Obama issued this directive was not to undermine religious or constitutional principles, but rather, to establish new principles of his own that are critical both to Obamacare and to the overarching Progressive agenda.
DrRich has pointed out many times that the real battle we will face as Obamacare is being rolled out is the battle over whether American citizens will retain individual freedom sufficient to be permitted to spend their own money on their own healthcare. Indeed, DrRich has written a series of posts that spells all this out in painful detail. If you need to know why limiting individual prerogatives is so critically important to Progressives, and why Obamacare must be the vehicle for establishing these limitations, simply read the first post in that series.
DrRich understands how paranoid this all sounds at first glance. To see the truth of it, one must take several glances, and observe, over time, the actual behavior of Progressives in the wild.
DrRich hereby asserts that this new directive – which various commentators insist protects the health of women, or undermines religious freedom, or tears down Constitutional guarantees – actually was issued in order to establish, once and for all, the essential set of foundational principles for Obamacare, to wit:
1) The government will determine what constitutes healthcare and what does not.
2) If the government says it’s healthcare, every insurance product must cover it.
3) If it’s not covered by insurance, thou shalt not have access to it.
The first two of these principles are pretty obvious, and constitute, in fact, the overt meaning of the President’s directive. The government has determined that contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization constitute essential healthcare services, and therefore all employers must cover them, whatever their religious beliefs or other sensibilities may be.
But if you listen carefully to the arguments being made by supporters of the new directive, you will hear them saying that it’s critical that women have access to these services, as Jay Carney, the President’s Press Secretary avers, without paying for them themselves.
And that’s what the whole fight comes down to. Women must be provided these services without paying for them.
Progressives pretend they mean by this that many, many women are going without these services today because they cannot afford them, and so we must make sure the services are provided for them free of charge. But of all medical services that exist today, access to birth control and abortion are likely the ones which are most accessible to women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. And if there are women whose financial status still precludes receiving these services (among whom are most likely not the women gainfully employed by Catholic institutions), surely the President can imagine remedies for this situation that do not require taking the kind of extraordinary political risk he has just taken.
No. Women must be provided these services without paying for them NOT because there are so many women going without them today due to the cost to them. Rather, women must be provided these services without paying for them because we cannot allow women (or any patient) to pay for these services (or any service the Central Authority classifies as “healthcare”) out of their own pockets.
All healthcare services must be covered by all insurance products – regardless of which institutions provide those insurance products – precisely because nobody can be permitted to pay for healthcare outside the sanctioned insurance product.
This is the principle which is being established by the President’s new directive. This principle, so critical to Obamacare and to the Progressive agenda, is a principle worth fighting for. None of the other explanations offered by proponents or opponents of the President’s action make any sense. Establishing this critical principle is the only thing that justifies the huge political risk the President is now taking.
And now, retreating back to the far simpler task of explaining the intricacies of cardiac electrophysiology to novices, DrRich helpfully and humbly reminds his readers: I told you so.
A few years ago, one of the Ladies on the View (DrRich does not recall whether it was Rosie or Whoopie or Joy or Daisy May) “proved” that George Bush was responsible for the collapse of the World Trade Center (and not the heat generated by all that burning jet fuel), when she proclaimed that “steel does not melt.” The audience went wild with approval.
DrRich, however, was puzzled. All those years ago, when America still had lots of steel mills and DrRich used to work in one of them, he could swear that once every six hours a massive door would open on the open hearth furnace, and molten steel would flow out of it. In fact, one of DrRich’s jobs was to advance a long-handled ladle into that molten stream of new steel to acquire a sample for analysis. He would be willing to attest under oath (say, to a Federal grand jury) that the steel in his ladle was in liquid form. So, unless DrRich’s Old Fart memory fails him, steel actually does melt, as long as you can make it hot enough.
The thing about conspiracy theorists, however, is that they are never deterred by facts. And if DrRich had actually sent Whoopie (or whoever) a letter explaining her mistake, as he had thought about doing, it would not have caused her to say, “Oopsie.” She simply would have shifted to another “fact” proving that Republicans (and not Islamists) had knocked down those buildings.
The other thing about conspiracy theorists is that their methods know no party lines. Whatever their political affiliation they are usually whack-jobs. And on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the birthers – who are convinced that President Obama was not born in the USA, but instead was born in Indonesia, or Kenya, or Mars – have displayed no more reasonableness than the Ladies on the View.
So, when one thinks about it, the truly puzzling thing about the birther controversy is not that the birthers won’t give up, no matter what evidence is placed before them. That’s just what conspiracy theorists do. What’s really puzzling is why President Obama and his legal team fought them for so long before they actually produced definitive evidence of his American birth.
Astute readers might respond, “You just answered your own question, DrRich. Conspiracy theorists don’t go away just because you have the facts on your side. Even a time machine that deposited them into the birthing room in Honolulu would not have deterred them. And indeed, when Obama finally produced his birth record, the birthers immediately found six ways to show it had been Photoshopped. Giving conspiracy theorists the real facts does not end the conspiracy theory.”
Very true. (DrRich is proud to have readers like you.) The President had no hope of making the birthers go away by releasing his birth documents. But by not releasing these right away, and instead letting the matter fester for several years, he just made more problems for himself. By fighting the birthers all that time, and running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills doing it, all he accomplished was to waste a lot of money, and to raise questions among millions of more reasonable Americans who are not given to conspiracy theories.
DrRich believes he has a possible answer to why Mr. Obama stonewalled for so long on his birth records. It may be that he was signalling to his Progressive followers his baseline contempt for the Constitution.
The birthers, as misguided as they were, were raising a constitutional question. For, if Mr. Obama had been born outside the U.S., he could not legally serve as President under the Constitution*.
*DrRich, for one, thinks this is a rather silly feature of the Constitution, which he believes Mr. Madison inserted into the document for the sole purpose of disqualifying Alexander Hamilton for the job.
Typically, therefore, inasmuch as a constitutional question is by definition an important one, one might expect that President Obama would have produced the definitive documentation right away, to resolve the matter once and for all. And, as it turns out, he easily could have done so.
But he chose not to. He chose to let the question fester and grow, for several years, before finally putting an end to it. It’s almost as if he was saying: It’s just a constitutional question. I will actively fight against having to acknowledge the legitimacy of my presidency under the Constitution, because to do so would be to acknowledge the importance of the Constitution. And that would be beneath me, and would be at odds with my real agenda.
This message must have offered much succor to nervous Progressives, who had watched him solemnly take the Oath of Office, and had listened to his public words.
Very few Progressives – much less the President of the United States – are willing to say publicly that the Constitution is a major impediment to their program, and that one of the absolute requirements for achieving the Progressive program is to nullify the underlying thrust of the Constitution.
For indeed the Constitution is an impediment, since it firmly establishes the primacy of the individual, and severely limits the government’s ability to control the property or the behavior of individuals – both of which are critical to the Progressive program.
Mr. Obama has said so himself, publicly, before he became President. He has indicated that the chief flaw of the Constitution is that it places limits on the power of the government, and thereby prevents the government from acting to assure redistributive justice.
You can listen to him say it himself on You Tube, here.
Mr. Obama is right about the Constitution, of course. For indeed, if the Constitution granted the government the power to affect redistributive justice, it would have had to make the government all-powerful, and to make all property communal property, controlled by that government. But the founders, having just fought a war with the world’s greatest power to guarantee the autonomy of individual Americans, were disinclined to write a Constitution that immediately nullified their great victory for mankind. So the Constitution simply does not suit the Progressive agenda.
After just two years, President Obama apparently found that he had no further need to continue the charade with the birthers. He has by now, of course, amply demonstrated that the Constitution will not be an impediment to him. He has created scores of hand-picked, unelected Czars who began setting national policy and running much of the government, in independent fiefdoms, answerable only to him; he has unilaterally cancelled contractual obligations to bondholders when “negotiating” with car companies; in addition to the auto industry, he has essentially nationalized the banking industry, the insurance industry, and student loans (and thus, colleges), and of course, the healthcare industry; he went to war in Libia without even a nod to Congress; he allows his DOJ to selectively enforce or ignore laws depending on who has broken them; and he inserted an individual mandate into his healthcare reform plan, which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will give the government unlimited authority to control the economic activity of individual Americans.
And that’s why it eventually became OK for the President to release his birth records. American Progressives, by that time, had been suitably reassured regarding his stance on the Constitution.
But thanks to the birthers, the President had a convenient way of signalling his attitude toward the Constitution, well before he had had the opportunity to demonstrate it overtly through his Presidential actions.
DrRich will only remind his conservative friends that, once a President has taken over private industry, made the Congress (the people’s branch of government) nearly irrelevant, promulgated the individual mandate, &c., the fact that the Constitution has in it some verbiage about the Presidency being limited to two-terms ought not to be given much weight.