Note to GOP Candidates: It's ObamaCare, Stupid!
Back in the day when monarchs ruled with an iron fist, royal councilors who proffered calamitous advice paid dearly for their lapse in judgment, sometimes with their heads.
Things have changed considerably since then. Winston Churchill, for example, was first lord of the admiralty at the start of WWI; after the Gallipoli debacle in 1915, he lost only his job in the war cabinet. Fortunately for us, he lived to fight another day, even after front line action with the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
So it will be interesting to see what fate awaits HHS Secretary Sebelius and White House adviser Jarrett for prevailing upon President Obama to dictate a policy on contraceptives to the Catholic Church -- how's that for chutzpah? -- that landed their boss in hot water with a traditional and influential Democratic Party ally. Maybe we will see the ladies "volunteer" in the days ahead to do penance as community organizers somewhere in Chicagoland, if Mayor Rahmbo will let them meddle in his backyard.
Failing to anticipate the obvious consequences of a decision is not just incompetence, of which there is plenty to go around in this administration. It is a mortal sin in politics if the opposition is thereby handed an opportunity to concretize pernicious abstractions. Objectionable principle can now be framed in a practical context and get the proverbial light bulb to reach incandescence, making it possible to see clearly what was hitherto deliberately hidden by legalese fog.
I'm talking about, of course, ObamaCare, seen by the citizenry at large as a long and complicated laundry list of stipulations and caveats buried in fine print -- something or other about mandating heath insurance coverage allegedly for the good of all. I daresay most Americans haven't read this monster, including Nancy Pelosi, judging by her infamous comment that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."
The pernicious abstraction that is now front and center in a new light thanks to the ineptitude of Sebelius and Jarrett is that the administration, in cahoots with a Democrat-controlled Congress, acted on a phony, potentially unconstitutional right when it passed a sweeping law regulating the behavior of citizens in the marketplace.
Even if it had the right to enact such legislation, a government not obsessed with power would have refrained from exercising this right because (a) it could have achieved the same outcome with a lot less fuss, considering the relatively small percentage of uninsured people, (b) such laws are not in the best interest of everyone concerned, a requirement on legislation in a democracy, and (c) citizens' prima facie right to self-determination would evidently be violated -- another no-no in a democracy.
Worse still, Sebelius and Jarrett have unwittingly damaged their boss's re-election prospects by helping to clear the air for Republicans vying to replace him. Despite the hasty retreat Obama had to beat in the face of complaints that he was sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, the fact remains that the logic-chopping subtleties that replaced the original edict on contraceptives still play into the hands of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and other conservative critics of high-and-mighty government.
Well, not quite. Make that "Santorum, Gingrich, and other conservative critics of high-and-mighty government" because Romney has no credibility whatever to argue against the new-improved-fortified codicil on contraceptives. Sure, he can object to it as an infringement on the right of religious authorities to decide implications of fundamental doctrine regarding the behavior of the faithful, but that argument doesn't help him stand out because Gingrich and Santorum can also make it.
Thanks to the Sebelius-Jarrett fumble, Romney is now in serious trouble. The former Massachusetts governor tried the other day to reinvent his Obama-lite record on health care with the comment that he was a "severe conservative" while in office -- "Hi, I'm Mitt Romney. I'm a severe conservative, and you're not." The impression lingers that he's a Johnny-come-lately to the cause and is making up sound bites as he goes along, sometimes with a tin ear.
Here is Sarah Palin on Fox News Sunday:
I am not convinced and I don't think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced, and that is why you don't see Romney get over the hump. He's still in the 30-percentile mark when it comes to approval and primary wins and caucus wins. He still hasn't risen above that yet because we are not convinced.
The repeal of ObamaCare must be the centerpiece of the Republican campaign and a key element of the GOP platform to be drafted this summer. Leaving this goal out of the platform would be sheer folly -- betrayal, even -- and giving it less than top priority would be just plain silly, tactically speaking. The legislation is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving. Who knows what other golden nuggets of absurdity lie waiting to be discovered by someone patient enough to wade through this morass page by page?
Repealing ObamaCare is a true-blue conservative goal if ever there was one; it's that simple. Two important philosophers who argued convincingly for limited government, John Stuart Mill and Robert Nozick, would have agreed in a heartbeat that the legislation is a clear example of despotic government. What more can one ask by way of a solid intellectual foundation?
But hey, I'm a good sport; I'll play devil's advocate. Let's say Romney and his followers manage to finesse the GOP platform so that it's no longer glaringly obvious that he can't run credibly as a critic of ObamaCare. How to convince Americans to vote for change?
- Reminders of Obama foreign policy snafus such as "leading from behind" in Libya? They will be countered with reminders that the administration bumped off Osama and put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Claims that new government initiatives are necessary to "get the economy going" or "put people back to work"? They may well fall flat if such measures prove unnecessary by summer, which could happen.
- Disestablishing this or that agency? The dispensable ones don't affect enough people and won't generate the excitement necessary to get out the vote, and the move doesn't do enough to further the goal of limiting government.
- Fears that failing to elect a Republican president will lead to more liberals on the Supreme Court? Such fears might not materialize if the GOP succeeds in capturing both houses of Congress, which seems likely.
- The appointment of "czars" for everything except instant replay in football? Obama would claim he had no choice and finger the allegedly "do nothing" Republican Congress for making him do it.
- Charges of corruption and mismanagement -- e.g., Solyndra and "Fast and Furious"? All true, though such charges belong in negative attack ads, not in a party platform, and in any case, they do little to define an election.
- Pointing out the sheer, unprecedented enormity of the debt this administration has created? This is a difficult problem solvable only in the long term and as such is too remote and abstract for people worried about mortgages and car payments.
In short, conservatism is about freedom, which means limited government, which means ObamaCare must go, which means Romney can't win because he represents a distinction without a difference.