Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a website of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).
Saving Obama from Himself: The Machiavellian Thing vs. the Moral Thing on Healthcare
The late Republican political strategist, Lee Atwater, a brilliant Machiavellian, used to invoke what he called "The Napoleonic Maxim:" Never interfere with the enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself.
If Atwater were alive today, how would he advise conservative Republicans in responding to the "healthcare reform" being pushed by President Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress? Would he suggest they do the Machiavellian thing or the moral thing? I'm hearing both options.
Consider the Machiavellian thing: Conservatives, particularly on talk-radio, are in an all-out frenzy to rally Americans to halt "Obama-care," and for good reason. But what happens, politically, if they succeed?
If conservatives succeed in stopping this train-wreck, they may save Barack Obama from himself. They will untie the albatross that could sink his ability to win a second term; ditto for another term by this radical-left Congress. And if Obama is reelected, he can do countless other things they will consider likewise destructive, from taxes to social policy to the courts to foreign policy, often under the radar.
While the analogy isn't perfect, think about the election of the Republican Congress in 1994, which was propelled by President Bill Clinton's early leftward lurch, most evident in Hillary Clinton's 1993-94 attempts to socialize medicine. The public responded by electing the Gingrich Congress. Forced to moderate, a more centrist Bill Clinton emerged, and easily won reelection.
That more moderate second term had some benefits, even producing balanced budgets. But it was a second term that included some terrible things, from partial-birth abortion to court picks that made conservatives cringe, not to mention the sordid impeachment trial.
So, conservatives urging a halt to "Obama-care" should be careful what they wish for: Could they help produce four more years of President Obama? Would that be best for conservatism? Would it be best for America?
That brings me to the counter-argument, raised by several friends of The Center for Vision & Values. Call it the "moral thing:" If the Obama-Reid-Pelosi plan is as bad as it seems, then, indeed, the higher priority ought to be to stop the Europeanization of our healthcare system -- to avoid unnecessarily revolutionizing the world's best healthcare system.
Since 2003, Barack Obama has openly advocated a "single-payer universal healthcare program," repeatedly and explicitly, as have his liberal colleagues in the Congress. Such a system, such an ultimate end-goal, potentially begun by this current plan, would permanently bureaucratize the system.
Ronald Reagan once said that the closest we will ever get to eternal life on this planet is a government bureaucracy. He was right. And if you turn America's healthcare system into a single-payer government system, it would be extremely difficult to turn back. It would be like unscrambling eggs. And what's at stake?
I'm greatly concerned with a toxic combination of inevitable rationing and what's being termed end-of-life counseling, which some fear may be mandatory. As someone who has been in the pro-life movement for years, plus studied history, politics, and, before that, worked full-time in healthcare -- both as a hospital employee and reporter for healthcare publications -- I've closely observed the long march by liberal "progressives" from the eugenics of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to euthanasia. They got their way on abortion -- which, according to the AP, is covered in the current government "healthcare" plan -- and God help us if the door to euthanasia is cracked.
It also doesn't help that likewise steaming down the track are the modern left's parallel obsessions with "people problems" like "overpopulation" and "climate change."
None of this is good. And these forces are coming together at a time, a perfect storm, when the left has finally achieved the political power it has craved. This is the "crisis" it needs, to borrow from Obama's chief of staff.
For years, the political left has groped for control of the nation's healthcare. Now, at long last, the prize is in sight, thanks to the way Americans voted in November 2008.
This is not to say we don't have problems in our healthcare system. No one is saying that. But for the radical progressive, that isn't the issue. These folks dream of federal power, of central planning, of literal management of lives. This is their long-awaited, glistening moment.
Reform healthcare with legitimate reform, addressing real issues, like the genuine problem of the minority of Americans who, for whatever reason, are not insured. Do the moral thing.
"How can anyone take this man seriously?" writes Marilyn, a frequent reader of our Center for Vision & Values articles.
Attached to Marilyn's email was this headline, "Gore compares climate change fight to war against Nazis." As the accompanying article noted, Al Gore, speaking at the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment in Oxford, warned his audience -- mostly British -- of the imperative to confront climate change, as Britain and the Allies once battled Hitler.
"The former U.S. vice president said the world lacked the political will to act," reported the London Times, "and invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill by encouraging leaders to unite their nations to fight climate change."
Fancying himself a contemporary Churchill, Gore sounded the clarion call, declaring that the essential missing ingredient is courage and commitment. Like the brave Sir Winston in those ominous days of the Battle of Britain, Gore stoically exhorted: "We have everything we need, except political will."
As for those pusillanimous appeasers who cover their eyes to the need for urgent action? Presumably, they are modern Neville Chamberlains, appeasing the evil of global warming, just as history's Great Appeaser placated Hitler.
Predictably, Al Gore's extremist proclamations were largely ignored by the mainstream press that tragically serves as educator-in-chief to most Americans. This isn't the kind of headline deemed newsworthy by Katie Couric and CBS News.
That brings me back to Marilyn's email: How can anyone take this man seriously? Well, the fact is we've done just that for almost 20 years. Believe it or not, Gore stated precisely these things in his 1992 international bestseller Earth in the Balance. What Al Gore said in London last week is no different from what he has said -- and gotten away with -- for decades.
Consider some passages from Gore's 1992 manifesto: In one of the many deeply disturbing passages in a deeply disturbing book, Gore hailed ecological activists as "resistance fighters" and "people of conscience" engaging in a just war akin to the World War II resistance that fought the Nazis.
That thought alone is incredibly offensive, especially in what it implies of those who reject Gore's environmental prescriptions. In particular, however, the parallel is a grave injustice to those who suffered under the Nazis. Jews ought to be outraged. Gore's moral equivalency reveals a breathtaking lack of historical measure -- odd for a man who writes on the triumph of "reason."
Gore's Nazi metaphors are ubiquitous in Earth in the Balance. Warning of an "environmental holocaust," Gore exhorted: "Today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin." Gore asserted that America's consumption of resources is reminiscent of Germany's descent into fascism.
As if his Nazi analogies weren't aggressive enough, the Nobel Peace Prize winner envisioned
. . . a kind of global civil war between those who refuse to consider the consequences of civilization's relentless advance and those who refuse to be silent partners in the destruction.
Yes, that's right: a "global civil war."
Consequently, Gore urged, the rescue of the environment must become the "central organizing principle" of all societies and modern civilization. This will require not just sacrifice and struggle but "a wrenching transformation of society."
Al Gore prophesied nothing short of environmental Armageddon, an apocalypse, and called for a crusade. The word crusade, in this case, had religious connotations, in contrast to when FDR, Eisenhower, or Reagan called for "crusades" for freedom.
Indeed, it is rarely recalled that Earth in the Balance carried the instructive subtitle, Ecology and the Human Spirit. This environmental manifesto was a sort of spiritual autobiography by Gore, his epistle to Mother Nature, his adoration of the Earth. This is evident in the chapter, "Environmentalism of the Spirit," where Gore insisted that the "environmental crisis" demands "a new faith in the future of life on earth."
So, in short, Al Gore's remarks in London are nothing new.
In a just world, or at least, in an America where "journalists" provided objective news coverage, these Al Gore absurdities would have been exposed long ago, and this man would have never gotten close to the vice presidency let alone the presidency. Of course, that's why journalists never touched them, in the hopes that Gore's scary statements would never see the light of day -- or of television cameras.
What's even scarier is that a majority of Americans took this man seriously enough to vote him president in 2000. We dodged that bullet, but Al Gore's dream lives on with sudden renewed vigor, as the most leftist president and Congress in American history stand poised to make it a reality. ("Cap-and-trade" is the first shot in their environmental salvo.)
At long last, Al Gore's "wrenching transformation" may be upon us, courtesy of Americans' choices at the voting booth. *
"If you live to be one hundred, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age. --George Burns