July 6, 2012
I hadn't really expected to see the "Don't Tread on Me" flag flying at an Independence Day celebration on Maryland's Eastern Shore. But I knew this would be a special celebration. Peter and Margarete wanted to include a reading of the entire Declaration of Independence at their gathering of family, friends and neighbors. The Chesapeake Bay breezes, very warm, ruffled and flourished the American,Maryland and Gadsden flags on Cook's Point.
The waters of the bay invited, but we were warned of jellyfish beneath the cooling waves. A boat ride may be better than a swim today. Maryland is just beginning its Bicentennial of the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago, it was stinging British warships that posed a greater danger than jellyfish in these waters. You cannot go anywhere these days, it seems, without pointed reminders of the country's heritage.
We began our July 4th observance with prayer. A priest reminded us of the rare privilege we have in this country to pray publicly and how this right is the basis for our civil liberty, as well. Then, we all faced the flagstaff as the Star-Spangled Banner was played.
Following this, our hosts' 13-year-old daughter stood atop a picnic table and read the first two stirring paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.
She read with the enthusiasm and conviction that only a bright teenager can bring to this venerable 236-year-old document.
I had the honor of reading the middle part, everything from "...pursuit of happiness" to "...let facts be submitted to a candid world."
My portion of the Declaration included that line stating that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." I cannot help but consider the process of passing Obamacare when we talk about consent of the governed.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House rammed through the Senate a bill that did not include protections from abortion coverage--on Christmas Eve, 2009. This in a country that Gallup tells us is increasingly pro-life. (51%-41% in the latest survey.)
Then, they spoke of having to go to a conference committee of the House and Senate to reconcile the different versions of the bill. That was because the House of Representatives in November 09 had passed Obamacare with the famous pro-life Stupak Amendment. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) joined with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) to attach a pro-life provision to the Obamacare measure that passed the House.
Earlier, on November 7, 2009, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed the House by a vote of 240-194. It was the highest vote cast on any measure related to the overhaul of health care. If you were seeking consensus, if you yearned for bi-partisanship, if you cared about the consent of the governed, you must look to this historic vote.
The Senate might have taken up the House-passed version, and passed it, with its pro-life provisions. Or, it might have gone to a conference committee, reconciled the two versions and then re-passed the result.
But the Senate had passed a milestone with the Jan. 2010 special election in Massachusetts. Republican Scott Brown had been elected promising to be "#41" --a decisive vote to stop Obamacare from passing. In that famously liberal state, in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Massachusetts voters emphatically did not give their consent to Obamacare.
Faced with the possibility of the Senate's having to swallow the House version, with the Stupak Amendment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged to go down the chimney, around the gate, over the wall; in short, to do whatever was necessary to steamroll the bill through. Stupak and most of his pro-life Democratic House colleagues were pressured and arm-twisted into swallowing an Executive Order from President Obama. They were gulled into believing this measure from the most pro-abortion president in history would protect Americans from having to pay for abortions. It wasn't a fig leaf; it wasn't even a bay leaf to hide their nakedness.
Dozens of those faux-life Democrats went down to defeat the following November as voters gave a "shellacking" to the president's party. But not before the whipped and tricked House Members voted through the Senate version of the health care bill, 219-212. It was a hair's breadth victory, but it met the Pelosi test of doing anything to jam and sham it through.
It was to this dog's breakfast of a process that Chief Justice Roberts gave his blessing in his infamous ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius late last month. Then, continuing a wholly dishonorable tradition, the Chief absconded to the island fortress of Malta. He left the country perhaps to avoid having to answer any questions about his tortured reasoning and its suspect timing.
The American people at every point had rejected this bill. They had voted in an avowed opponent in the nation's most liberal state. They had voted out scores of Obamacare backers in the House. And yet, Chief Justice Roberts genuflected to this bizarre legislation as evidence of his judicial restraint. He tells us he is constrained to respect this abuse of power, this rape of the representative process, as the prerogative of the legislative and executive branches.
One of the classic political science texts on Congress is called The Dance of Legislation. This bill might more properly be called the St. Vitus Dance of Legislation. And the four-Justice minority pointed out that if this is a tax, then tax bills have to originate in the House of Representatives (Art. 1, Sec. 7, Clause 1).
The pretzel pundits in many an elite journal are tying themselves in knots trying to see a silver lining in the dark cloud Chief Justice Roberts pulled over us.
He labeled the Individual Mandate a tax, they say, thus making it harder for this administration, or any liberal successors to do anything worse.
If you allow them to keep this scaffold in place, why do they need anything worse? Roberts' ruling merely takes away one rope. Just as then-Speaker Pelosi swore back in 2010, they will find another rope.
Let's understand what Obamacare is: It is the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade. It is the basis for the HHS Mandate against hospitals, schools and para-church ministries. The HHS Mandate is the gravest threat to religious freedom in our nation's history. It will force all of these private and religious groups, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to provide coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs. If they can Mandate abortion drugs now, why not Mandate abortion procedures and sex-change operations after election day? Then, as we've all overheard, Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world may see an even more "flexible" administration.
I believe the Roberts Ruling and the media reaction to it reflects a bottomless, Inside-the-Beltway cynicism. The best example of cynicism I've read comes not from Washington but from Paris. In 1815, France's Foreign Minister Talleyrand waited impatiently for the Russian Minister to meet him. When the Russian failed to show up on time, Talleyrand tapped his foot in irritation. Told that the Russian had collapsed and died in his carriage en route to the meeting, Talleyrand stroked his chin pensively and said: "I wonder why he did that." That's how I read the pretzel pundits.
Chief Justice Roberts may actually come back to the Constitution when the many lawsuits against Sec. Sebelius' HHS Mandate get to the Supreme Court. Let us pray he does. But that is no reason to go silent now. If his outrageous ruling of June 28th was a mere maneuver intended to give him more latitude later, that ignoble tactic can only work if conservatives help him out by raising a hue and cry against his unprincipled opinion. We must beat the drums of opposition to this appalling decision.
After he was confirmed in 2005, reporters asked Chief Justice Roberts if he would wear the three gold stripes that the late Chief Justice had added to his robes as a badge of rank. "I think I'll have to earn them," Roberts said with becoming modesty then. Now, unfortunately, it is the liberals and the pretzel pundits who are sewing on those gold stripes.
As the sun set over the Chesapeake, I was encouraged by the faith and courage of the good people I met on July 4th on Cook's Point. Our beloved Declaration was crafted with such folks, the "good people of these colonies," in mind.
After our reading of the Declaration, I pored over the names of those intrepid Signers of 236 years ago. Two names stood out:New Jersey's Rev. John Witherspoon andMaryland's Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian pastor, a leader among hundreds of clergy in the "Black Regiment" of preachers who rallied to Freedom's cause. Charles Carroll lived in my home town of Annapolis. A wealthy landowner, he was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration. Witherspoon and Carroll pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Can we do any less? In that Catholic-Protestant alliance our nation was forged. In such a strong faith coalition, it may yet be saved.