Mr. Obama Speaks Power to Truth

Yesterday the President of the United States addressed the Catholic Health Association. Yes, even though Obamacare went out of its way, unnecessarily, to violate “Catholic” freedoms, seeks to redefine women’s “health” to include abortion etc., and, unchecked, would essentially make all such medical “associations” subsidiaries of the Federal government, the CHA welcomed him to its annual meeting.

But leave all that aside for the moment – and also leave aside the connivance in passage of the healthcare law by a shameful list of Catholics with names like Pelosi, Sebelius, Biden, Mary (“the Louisiana Purchase”) Landrieu, and innocents like then-Representative Bart Stupak, a pro-life Catholic who believed it when he was told that the new health law would incorporate Catholic concerns – and left Congress soon after, disillusioned.

But we shouldn’t overlook Sister Carol Keenan, the Daughter of Charity and CEO of the CHA, who – if there were such – could be the first recipient of a Catholic Suicide Award. She provided the opportunity for Obama to speak, despite his having one of the most anti-Catholic records of any American president, and gushed about what a “privilege” it has been to “work with” our high-handed chief executive.

People in the healthcare business want to advance healthcare. But Sister Carol is not alone among Catholics in ignoring the fact that deals with government should be a two-way street. Or perhaps they don’t much care about the traffic that should be coming in the Catholic direction. In any event, we could have had healthcare reform – and may yet – without the deliberate infringement of religious liberties. And perhaps even without allowing Federal intrusion into every nook and cranny of a business that intimately touches our lives – and will surely become more radicalized, given federal involvement, with the passage of time.

But let us come to cases. What was the president speaking about at CHA? And why? In his mind, he came to offer Obamacare as a “moral and practical” victory. Others seem to take a different view – and with reason.

Such as the 55 percent of the American people who believe it is neither. The trainwreck of this hastily concocted and shadily passed monstrosity first became evident with the disastrous website rollout, followed by delay after delay of various “mandates” that would have added more trainwrecks, car pileups, and plane crashes to the process.

Sister Carol Keehan greets President Barack Obama
Sister Carol Keehan greets President Barack Obama

All this was supposed to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, both praiseworthy goals. But in the rush to pass something, anything, it’s unclear what we have, given the Byzantine regulatory system it spawned. Insurance companies around the country are currently warning that, far from making insurance affordable, they will need to charge much higher premiums, over 50 percent in a sober state like Minnesota, to offset losses since the law went into effect.

And yesterday, just before the Supreme Court is set to rule on “state exchanges” (of which more below), the president went to a Catholic healthcare group more or less to gin up support – and, let’s be candid, threaten the Justices if they send the whole system into chaos. Earlier in the week, he claimed that the Supreme Court should not even have taken up the case, as if the Court’s men and women did not have their own constitutional prerogatives and the right to carry them out as they see fit.

If you haven’t followed this controversy, the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka, Obamacare) deliberately included incentives for states to set up healthcare “exchanges” to cover people not covered by insurance companies. If the states did not set up such exchanges – and 37 of the 50 chose not to – they would forfeit federal subsidies to their citizens. The 37 balked because the deal wasn’t so great. The Feds would pay less and the states more over time. So “federal exchanges” were set up in those states. But federal exchanges are not eligible for subsidies according to the plain language of the healthcare bill.

We have such short attention spans that, in these days before the decision, almost everyone has forgotten MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, an advisor to the administration on the healthcare law, who boasted that various deceptions had been practiced, which the White House knew to be such, because of “the stupidity of the American voter.” More to the point, he admitted: “What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” That seems to clinch what was intended.

In the way of legal decisions, however, it’s difficult to say which way the Court will decide – we’ll know in a few weeks. But whether it gives Obamacare one more colossal fix or throws this specific question back to Congress, it will reinforce the idea in many people’s minds of just how much a matter of administration whim one of the most fundamental changes in recent American law has been. And how much we are now living under a system in which the president capriciously asserts power not only against traditional American truths like religious liberty, but brazenly denies what his own people knew to be their intentions in crafting Obamacare, when it’s to his advantage.

We often talk about the government takeover of at least one-sixth of the economy with Obamacare. But the economic questions are far from the worst of it. In proclaiming the HHS mandates that forced religious groups to cover medical procedures they found morally offensive, President Obama – who once taught Constitutional law – discovered that “women’s health” was fundamental, apparently more fundamental than the First Amendment protection of religious liberty. His Department of Health and Human Services, therefore, issued and insisted on absurd regulations aimed at coercing groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. His IRS has decided (on what grounds we need the Supreme Court to tell us) that federal exchanges were meant to be included in the original healthcare law, though there are no words in the written law to that effect.

But none of this matters because we have a president who is less concerned with the rule of law than in speaking power to truth.



Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.