Every time I think the audacity of President Obama has reached its peak and could never be exceeded, he leaps to heretofore unseen heights of effrontery. Having determined his unprecedented assault from the presidential podium on the authenticity and credibility of ordinary American citizens isn’t having the desired effect, he is now wrapping himself in the cloak of morality, exhorting religious leaders and reports on a conference call on August 19th to stand against “some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness” regarding his hostile takeover of America’s health sector.
Any devout Christian or Jew would immediately recognize the President’s invocation of the Ninth Commandment from Exodus 20:16, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." I suppose he thinks that by using Biblical language, he is somehow resonating with people of faith and winning us over to his side. Frankly, I find it patronizing and more than a little cynical.
The Bible’s celebration of human life from the moment we are “knit together” in our mother’s womb doesn’t seem to influence his decisions regarding the availability of abortion services; thus far, he has compiled a record on this defining moral issue that journalist Quin Hillyer describes as “monstrously anti-life.”
Not only have his policy decisions, the inevitable outcome of which will be the expansion of abortion, contradicted his expressed desire to lessen the number of and need for abortions, his selection of advisors, when their past words and deeds are reviewed collectively, reflects a calculating and frightening worldview on life issues.
Their protestations of being taken out of context or of engaging in purely academic scenarios aside, these advisors have never declared their unequivocal commitment to the American moral imperative that all life is sacred regardless of stage of development or condition and worthy of government protection. They have never embraced, in language or action, Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
The President further insulted our intelligence during the conference call by declaring the end-of-life counseling provision in the proposed legislation as nothing more than estate planning. He claims the provision is there to authorize Medicare reimbursement for the preparation of legal documents such as living wills or advance health care directives.
The President and the people drafting this legislation are lawyers and they know how to use words to either clarify or obfuscate. If their intent was simply to authorize reimbursement of estate planning services under Medicare, why didn’t they just word it that way?
I recently completed a course on estate planning and “end of life counseling” isn’t a phrase any of the lawyers instructing us ever used.
The President recently stated in an interview, “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health-care bill out here.” If he has no intention of having government insert itself into “end of life” decisions, why allude to the cost issue at all? Who is the one bearing “false witness?”
While the President characterized opposition to his health care proposals as “an extraordinary lie” being promoted by right-wing opponents, he would do well not to ignore the thunder from the left. Nat Hentoff, a left-leaning libertarian, atheist Jew and renowned authority on the Bill of Rights, declares “I am finally scared of a White House administration.” Why?
“President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill.”
Camille Paglia, an iconoclastic, politically incorrect feminist, author and social critic, rejects the notion of some vast right-wing conspiracy to undermine the President’s health care plan:
“How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical, because Democrats control the White House and both Houses of Congress. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.”
Paglia also criticizes the President’s “vague and slippery promises” on health care reform and bluntly states, “Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.” I guess that means she thinks the President is bearing “false witness.”
His refusal to acknowledge the broad-based nature of the opposition to his plan and his continuing attempts to marginalize his critics is a moral failing in and of itself. His pride won’t allow him to acknowledge that he could be wrong either on the substance of his proposal or his reading of the American people on this issue. His lack of humility leads, in turn, to the leveling of false accusations against the very people he is sworn to serve as President. If that isn’t bearing “false witness against your neighbor,” then nothing else qualifies.
Perhaps the most galling statement the President made on the conference call involved another Biblical refrain. He accused his opponents of lying “in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now we are neglecting to live up to that call."
Speak for yourself, Mr. President. Your insistence that the federal government is the only viable avenue through which Americans can show compassion toward their fellow human beings turns the entire notion of being one’s “brother’s keeper” upside down. If anything, we have witnessed an alarming diminution of personal commitment to the well-being of others because we have rationalized that “letting government do it” is equal in moral weight to personally giving of our time, talent and treasure to our neighbors.
The principle of subsidiarity in the Catholic social teaching emphasizes the priority of family, the church and voluntary associations over central government in meeting the needs of society, and Christian doctrine teaches the value of personal engagement in the lives of the poor, the ill, the imprisoned and the lonely. In fact, Americans of faith are the most generous people on the planet whether it’s giving of their money, their skills and abilities, their time or even their blood.
Moreover, numerous studies affirm the generosity of the conservative Americans President Obama routinely denigrates for their heartlessness on health care reform. The World Values Survey, General Social Survey, the “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a joint study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Google, and a study by Professor Arthur C. Brooks based on 10 years of data and which culminated in his book on American charitable giving, “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism,” are just a few of the references which support liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff’s observation that “conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.”
Mr. President, if you believe the state taking responsibility for the care of its people so we as individuals are no longer responsible for one another represents the moral high ground, then you are entitled to your opinion.
Don’t challenge or impugn our morality, however, because we believe solidarity and love of neighbor begin with individuals reaching out to their fellow citizens for the common good. In the case of national health care reform, I trust a caring family member, friend, or neighbor with my life – or death - before I would trust a panel of so-called experts that lack any personal connection to me or my loved ones and who evaluate life in terms of policy rather than sanctity.