The American people were treated on Thursday to a (mostly) full and complete reading of the Constitution of the United States from the floor of the House of Representatives. The performance was proposed and organized by the new Republican majority in that chamber for the purpose - according to them, anyway - of announcing that America is about to start going back to being America again. There's an irony in this, insofar as they chose to skip the Constitutional parts about African Americans not really being people. That portion of the document is a vital part of our shared history, so yeah, leave it to the GOP to to snip, redact and edit our founding document, even if it's just in a bit of political theater.
A friend astutely observed that this reading of the Constitution was an essentially meaningless act without including a recitation of the complementary documents and supporting arguments; i.e. it is akin to reading the owner's manual of a car, but not knowing how the thing really works once you open up the hood. Within my friend's opinion, however, lies a hidden solution to what is going to be, in my estimation, a truly messy and dangerous 112th Congressional session: make them read everything, up to and including the Federalist Papers. By the time they get through it all, this congressional session will have run its course, and a great deal of damage will have been averted.
Despite my cynical tone, I do think a reading of the Constitution on the House floor is, by and large, a good thing. It is never a bad idea to review the essential genius of the Founders...and besides, I'm pretty sure there was at least one new House member who’d never read the thing before. I can imagine the mental conversation that took place within the mind of some newly-minted Tea-Partying GOP Representative:
"'Well-regulated' militia? Has it always said 'well-regulated'? Well, shoot, guess I'll have to change my opinion on legalizing shoulder-fired grenade launchers sold over the counter at Wal-Mart without waiting periods or background checks. Gosh, I'm really glad we did this!"
Hey, a guy can dream, right?
It wasn't all sunshine and Constitutional roses in the House on Thursday, however. As one House member read the text from Article Two, section one - "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President" - a woman in the Gallery who called herself Theresa began shrieking, "Except Obama, except Obama, help us, Jesus!" Yes, friends and neighbors, she was a "Birther," one of those who refuse to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States, and is therefore ineligible to be President. In other words, Theresa is a pillar of the base that supports the "Tea Party" faction of our newly-minted House majority.
Shades of things to come.
A vast amount of Stupid is about to start coming down the pike in the coming weeks, now that people like Darrell Issa (R-CA) have been given chairmanships of House committees. Rep. Issa, who now chairs the House Government and Oversight Committee, gives every indication of preparing to follow in the spectacularly ugly footsteps of Rep. Dan Burton. Burton, during his Clinton-era time as chairman of this committee, issued more than 2,000 subpoenas against the White House, for no other reason than to generate headlines and gin up the idea that a scandal lurked around every corner, and Mr. Issa is getting ready to pick right up on that particular process. If you think Rep. Issa won't listen to people like Theresa and undertake an investigation into President Obama's status as a citizen, well, I've got a big, red bridge in northern California to sell you.
The 112th Congress is going to waste a fabulous amount of time and money (the Constitutional display on Thursday cost American taxpayers $1 million, for starters), all under the banner of saving time and money...but don't expect the hypocrisy to abate any time soon. After passage of a huge new rules package, one that reflects the shift in power that has taken place in the House, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), raised a proposal that would require all members of the House to disclose whether or not they will be participating in the excellent government-run health care plan available to all members of Congress. His proposal was defeated on a party-line vote. To wit: every Republican in the chamber voting against letting the American people know which of them will be partaking in the government-run health care they purport to despise.
You will, of course, recall how many GOP members of this House either saved their seats, or won their seats, by railing against "Obamacare." Not only does their resistance to government-run health care stop at their own health care interests, they are also not at all interested in letting you know about it. No health care for you, but they get theirs, and we don't even get to see a list of names.
I'm shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment.
As bad as all this is certainly going to be, there is one thing that worries me even more...because it is something that has been going on for two years already, and at this point, shows no signs of abating. From Thursday's Boston Globe:
During the health reform debate in 2009, Republican alarmists decried a provision to pay doctors to discuss end-of-life treatment options with Medicare patients as tantamount to "death panels." The bill as finally approved lacked that clause, but late last year Obama administration officials authorized such counseling in a Medicare regulation on annual physical examinations. Now they have withdrawn that provision in a cave-in to expected opposition. The retreat is lamentable.
Conversations about a patient's preferences for or against heroic, life-extending measures have nothing to do with death panels denying care to elderly or disabled patients, the red herring raised by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, then-House minority leader John Boehner, and others. Those leaders weren't mistaken; they were deliberately disingenuous, going to any extreme to defeat health reform. Instead, they blocked what had been one of the most widely accepted, and least controversial, parts of the bill.
After the dust cleared, a national organization of hospice-care providers and members of Congress asked the Obama administration to establish counseling reimbursement in a new regulation. Far from depriving patients of the right to make decisions about their own care, the regulation would have increased their autonomy by encouraging discussions about care options during routine exams and not in the midst of a medical crisis. The administration should have stuck by its convictions.
The Obama administration in a nutshell: do the right thing, at least to a degree, and then fail to let people know the good that was accomplished, or, in this case, retreat from a perfectly good policy position because people like Theresa and her pals in the GOP spray lie after lie after lie. Don't fight for the policy, but run like cowards from the Republican Lie Machine.
This crap happened all too often when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. Now that people like Rep. Issa have been given very large megaphones, the barrage of lies is only sure to increase by orders of magnitude. Mr. Obama has begun what is reported to be a wholesale turnover of his administration staff, so perhaps the people getting broomed out are the ones who didn't have the stomach to fight against this tidal wave of disinformation.
But I don't have a great deal of hope in that, if the Globe's analysis is correct. "The administration should have stuck by its convictions," said the Globe editorial.
How many times have we heard that before?
How many times are we going to hear it again?
This - I think, I fear, I suspect - is going to suck, unless the Obama administration gets out of their permanent crouch and finally starts fighting back against a newly-empowered GOP, and the lies that will be pouring fourth like polluted water from an open spigot.
The simple fact that Mr. Obama tapped William Daley, a JPMorgan Chase executive whose purview was "corporate responsibility," to be the new White House Chief of Staff does not bode well at all. Try not to laugh too hard at seeing the words "JPMorgan Chase" and "corporate responsibility" in the same sentence.
Yeah. I'm pretty sure this is going to suck.