The Obama Watch

Moments of Conception

In the Obama era, socially transformative legislation is immediately viable while babies are not.

By 8.17.09

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You would think Barack Obama of all people would be up for allowing things to gestate a good long while before ultimately deciding whether they should be allowed to come into being.

This is a man, after all, who during his tenure in the Illinois State Senate was a staunch enough defender of the Peter Singer-wing of the pro-choice movement to prefer allowing infants that somehow survived the tribulation of "induced labor abortions" with beating hearts to die in soiled utility closets (the hospital unsurprisingly preferred the euphemism "comfort rooms") rather than risk voting for a bill that might define what he nonsensically (or dishonestly) deemed "pre-viable" fetuses -- what living child isn't "pre-viable" if you lock it in a grimy closet long enough? -- as "persons" entitled to Constitutional protections.

"The equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child," Obama reasoned during a 2001 speech in opposition to an Illinois "born alive" bill, "and if this is a child then this would be an anti-abortion statute."

See how complicated things can get when one delves into the minutiae of a bill?

So important was it to him to ensure every "i" was dotted and every "t" crossed, Barack Obama took upon himself the heavy, lonely task of dragging legislative due diligence into uncharted waters. "Birth has been the law's bright line, at least since Roe v. Wade," David Freddoso writes in the harrowing chapter of The Case Against Barack Obama on abortion. "Apparently not for Obama." Later Obama insisted he would have voted in favor of the almost identical 2001 Born Alive Infants Protection Act that unanimously passed the U.S. Senate (98-0). The august body he was destined to soon blip through, it seems, finally got the language just right.

So…if what is good for the goose really is good for the gander it would seem safe to presume what is okay for a sentient child just forcibly evicted, ex utero, would be just fine for the latest illiberal legislative doorstop Nancy Pelosi or Henry Waxman are cooking up, right?

The very same Barack Obama who once fretted over the lack of "any clear deliberation or debate" on bills "a foot high" that "nobody has read" during the New Dark Ages of George W. Bush has had an Oval Office epiphany early on in his presidency: Whatever proposed law his young administration may be midwifing at a particular moment becomes inviolable and sacrosanct as soon as Pelosi faxes Obama an ultrasound of the shadowy legislative zygote.

These days the citizen craving assurance their representatives might have some idea what is actually in a bill everyone seems to agree will fundamentally alter the nation is liable to be shellacked as an "un-American" obstructionist with a nefarious preference for the Napoleonic Waterloo over the ABBA remix. (Presumably John McCain supports both.) We're expected to accept it as natural that less time is allotted for debating major legislation in Congress than Obama set aside for mulling over the merits of Bo the Portuguese water dog with Malia and Sasha. And crikey! Don't you realize how annoying the President finds your jibber-jabber? "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking," Obama groused recently, a pristine example of the subjective judgment.

It's an intriguing contrast. When it comes to preventing theocratically inclined religious fundamentalists from punishment by means of baby, Obama will deliberate over every nuance of a bill's wording. But a law that, say, punishes the country on behalf of an urbane eco-fundamentalism with a cap-and-trade regime that will cost the nation millions of jobs, reduce GDP by trillions of dollars, and increase electricity prices by perhaps 90 percent…well, the President now feels a moral imperative to "urge" Congress to rubber stamp a mountain of "ayes" upon what has been aptly summarized as "1,200 pages of text -- containing, at last count, 397 new government regulations and 1,090 new economic mandates -- followed by over 300 pages of text with no index that amended the previous legislation on paragraph by paragraph basis" -- on the basis of a mere nine hours, never mind nine months, of deliberation.

At least a humanoid bad seed, albeit with notable exceptions (Lyle and Erik Menendez, Damien Thorn), is only able to "punish" you for the eighteen years before you can legally evict him from your basement. A bad government program can't even be compared to the living dead. It never expires long enough to be resurrected as such.

Obama is even more radical when it comes to healthcare reform: Like Kyle Reese in The Terminator, the President appears willing to be sent back in time to rescue humanity from the clutches of the insurance agents he believes make Skynet look like Amway -- tell me Obama's argument for healthcare can't be reduced to "Come with me if you want to live" -- and salvage Obamacare at its very moment of conception, a date he has variously placed between sixty ("Whenever I hear people say [health care reform is] happening too soon, I think that's a little odd. We've been talking about health reform since the days of Harry Truman") and 100 years ago ("It's not too soon to reform our health care system, which we've been talking about since Teddy Roosevelt was president").

The President makes it sound as if the Rough Riders have been treading around a dusty Big Pharma corral with a satchel containing Obamacare's exact progenitor since 1905, tragically unaware that cynical Astroturf enthusiasts in Washington, D.C. have been killing scheduled vote after scheduled vote on the same compromise healthcare reform package since 1948 in an effort to preemptively stymie the Chicagoan Hopemonger of longstanding prophecy. This sort of misdirection is no doubt much easier to prettify rhetorically than a full court press for passing an elephantine bill barely fertilized never mind conceived, just as the President almost certainly prefers saying "the time for talk is through" over the less romantic "You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about."

Indeed, while the public is struggling to discern the contours of a given Democratic statist brainchild -- will I be knitting pink or blue booties in the reeducation camp? -- the White House has signaled Obama may or may not be indifferent to the details. When the Weekly Standard's John McCormack queried Robert Gibbs as to whether the President might be bothered to actually read the healthcare bill he is so passionate about, the White House press secretary sniffed, "I don't know what his vacation plans are currently." Hey, Mr. President, it might not be as interesting as your beloved Entourage, but for those of us who would like to believe you'll pull out if the whole enterprise ends up as actually ill-conceived as it seems (a tall order, certainly!), the knowledge that you might have taken more than a cursory peek at the text would offer a measure of comfort. For a guy so incensed over Waterloo allusions Obama's attitude can at times seem not all that far off from Napoleon's on the morning of the battle: "I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad troops, and this affair is nothing more than eating breakfast."

If born infants living completely outside of a woman's womb could be denied medical attention as well as even a glimpse of human compassion for the duration of their sad, brief lives in order for Barack Obama to have the time necessary to become comfortable with legislative language, it hardly seems too much to ask that we back away from the haphazard, crisis-hyping-in-place-of-consideration assemblage process that has so far characterized the debate over mega-legislation so pregnant with peril and maybe do a little of that due diligence our President was once so fond of.

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