Monthly Archives: October 2010

WHAT MCGOVERN MEANT

You frequently hear the word “historic” thrown around to describe legislation or elections. I believe modern political history was made on October 13, 2010, in a campaign debate in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

The debate featured candidates for Massachusetts’ 3rd District seat in the House of Representatives. Republican Marty Lamb is challenging incumbent Democrat James McGovern. In the context of expressing disagreement over a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, McGovern said this:

“…a lot of the campaign finance bills that we have passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” Congressman McGovern said. “I think the Constitution is wrong. I don’t think that money is the same thing as human beings…”

Of course, campaign representatives for McGovern were quick to say he misspoke, which has become the default response by Democrats in 2010 when they say exactly what they mean, but the statement either triggers controversy or is found to be factually inaccurate. Another example of that came from Richard Blumenthal, candidate for Connecticut’s open seat in the U.S. Senate, who “misspoke” about serving “in Vietnam” rather than “during the Vietnam era.”

The reality is that Congressman James McGovern said exactly what he was thinking. He clearly expressed his disdain for the encumbrance of the Constitution:

“We have a lousy Supreme Court decision that has opened the floodgates, and so we have to deal within the realm of constitutionality. ”

For the record, there was no instant explosion from the audience, and no immediate correction by Congressman McGovern. After saying he thought the Constitution was wrong, he continued to elaborate seamlessly about his opinions on the rights of corporations. McGovern did stutter slightly when he said “corporation” but not when he said “Constitution.”

Regarding the Constitution of the United States, Congressman James McGovern said what he meant and he meant what he said.

This is significant…according to opencongress.org, he ranks 14 of 440 in sponsored bills, with one of those made into law (ranking 42 out of 440). As a co-sponsor, he ranks 3rd out of 440 with 869 bills. 17 of those became law, giving him a 93/440 rank.

The point–the one I’ve screamed over and over to everyone who would listen since March–is that politicians make laws. James McGovern is a politician who has won elections, and in seven terms as a congressman, has made laws. And on October 13, 2010, he admitted explicitly that he thinks the Constitution is wrong.

What has outraged so many of us is that McGovern’s comments are not anomalous. They fit a pattern of statements made by Democrats in 2010. Remember these?

“Are you serious? Are you serious?” That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), October 22, 2009, responding to the question: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”

“I don’t worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest.” That was Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) at a town hall, responding to questions about the constitutionality of Obamacare. Video of that exchange went viral in April.

The difference—that makes James McGovern’s comment historic—is that he stated brusquely that the Constitution is wrong. While his peers in the 111th Congress have avoided or dismissed questions about how they derive constitutional authority, McGovern candidly expressed contempt for the document itself. He just came out and said what he and his peers in the incumbent majority really think about having to work around the Constitution.

Politicians make laws, and this lawmaker says the Constitution is wrong. Does your congressman or congresswoman agree with James McGovern? I enthusiastically recommend you find out before November 2, 2010.

References:

OpenCongress.org (McGovern page): http://www.opencongress.org/person/show/400263

James McGovern’s debate excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqbWfn9rPhc&feature=related

Nancy Pelosi’s response to CNS question: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/55971

Phil Hare conversation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2iiirr5KI8&feature=player_embedded

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THE BULLY PULPIT

“So I call up my preacher,

I say ‘Give me strength for Round 5.’

He said, ‘You don’t need no strength…you need to grow up, son.’

I said, ‘Growing up leads to growing old, and then to dying…

And dying to me don’t sound like all that much fun.'”

–John Mellencamp, (The) Authority Song, 1983

On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, President Barack Obama had an Oval Office conference call with thousands of religious leaders regarding the new health care law, telling them to “get out there and spread the word,” according to Politico.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42540.html

It wasn’t the first time he had enlisted religious leaders to sell his health care reform plan. Ben Smith of Politico reported on Wednesday, August 19, 2009, that Obama had told Rabbi Jack Moline and others “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death.” Some of the attendees put that quote in their Twitter feeds.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0809/We_are_Gods_partners_in_matters_of_life_and_death.html

President Obama told the religious leaders he met with this year that “The debate in Washington is over, the Affordable Care Act is now law…”

There is no question that the measure is now law. But the resolution of the debate—in Washington or elsewhere—is another matter entirely. The president himself acknowledged on February 25, 2010 that hard decisions were made and “then that’s what elections are for.”

By prematurely pronouncing the debate over, Obama is employing a familiar tactic…creating a sense of urgency or finality, to stifle or circumnavigate any real debate. This is a predictable exercise of the bully pulpit from which this president governs.

This time, the president was using his bully pulpit to influence church pulpits.

The unpopularity of both the substance of the health care reform and the process used to secure its passage have made the president’s “signature legislation” so toxic that few Democrats reference it on the stump. The select few who do talk about it in their campaigns are most often those who voted against it.

The GOP addressed its commitment to the repeal and replacement of the law in its “Pledge to America” document. It also declared that Republicans would fight funding of the new health care law.

http://pledge.gop.gov/resources/library/documents/solutions/a-pledge-to-america.pdf

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), responding to the public outcry that stemmed from passage of the new law, promptly introduced a bill to repeal it (H.R. 4903) on March 22, 2010.

By September, there were 20 states joining forces to challenge the law in court. One of the core issues in the legal challenge was the individual mandate that requires Americans to purchase government-approved health insurance. On September 14, a judge rejected the administration’s request to throw out the case, allowing the challenge to proceed.

It was beyond premature for the president to declare that the debate was over. However, the president hopes some religious leaders will risk their credibility to advance that assertion. There are two very real challenges, legislative and judicial, either of which could derail the new law, and Obama clearly knows that. Unless they lead sequestered lives, the religious leaders probably knew it also. In saying the debate is over, the president used the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to try and get those leaders to use their positions of trust to sell his unpopular law.