Loyal Opposition: The president has called on Republicans to "stop trying to frighten the American people." But telling the truth about the never-ending expansion of government is not scaremongering.
First, Democrats in Congress kept their colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle from a place at the table on health reform because Republicans "aren't offering a plan." The truth is that they aren't offering a big government plan, and Democratic leaders are blind to solutions that focus on the private sector.
Now, adding insult to injury, the president told Republicans during a White House meeting Wednesday with leaders of both parties to quit scaring the public, as recounted to reporters by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Let's see if we've got this right. Republicans are allowed to take part in decisions like the most sweeping changes in health care law in history, and rescuing the economy from the worst downturn since the Great Depression — but only if their ideas mirror liberals' trillion-dollar statist wish list.
And if they refuse to get on board the Democrats' juggernaut, they'd better not just get out of the way of it; they also don't have any business telling the American people about its size or its speed, or the havoc it will wreak on its journey.
As House Minority Leader John Boehner said, there's pretty much a hiring freeze going on in the country as businesses wait to see how bad Congress' dictates will be on the health insurance they provide to their workers. "And the president wants to blame us for informing the American people about what's happening here and how it will affect them."
As he added, "it's the policies that they're promoting here in Washington" that are the Democrats' problem, not Republican rhetoric.
Think about it. How often have Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell been accused of throwing their overpowering charisma around? Public support for Congress' multitrillion-dollar health care revolution isn't in the dumpster — only 41% according to IBD/TIPP; just 35% according to Gallup — because of anybody being charmed or excited by supposed GOP demagoguery.
It's because Americans increasingly know they're about to lose, for all its flaws, one hell of a great health insurance system. They're about to start paying thousands of dollars more a year in premiums in exchange for less consumer choice and reduced quality of care.
The 2,000-plus pages of new rules, regulations and federal micromanagement it will take to establish the new system in law will, in fact, explode costs to such an extent that not too far in the future these same Democrats will be screaming that to save health care we must enact Euro-style single-payer.
The White House, Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are understandably frustrated by the historic drop in the president's approval ratings, and in the concurrent unpopularity of their designs to transform medicine in this country. But they have no business insisting that the other side shut up.
At such a momentous juncture in history, the other side would be guilty of a dereliction of duty if it clammed up. As it is, Republicans are doing too much playing along, misguidedly offering amendments on everything from mammograms to what size business should constitute a "large employer."
The amendments' purpose may be to "delay, stall, slow down," as Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele urged in a strategy memo. But as Steele also wrote, the real objective should be to "ultimately stop" the Democrats' big-government proposal.
The advantage of offering amendment after amendment is that it can expose various harmful facets of the Democrats' health bill as each amendment is debated and covered by the press. But as Republican Sen. James Inhofe told the Hill newspaper this week: "I would have preferred, and the leadership decided otherwise, to handle it in the way of not making (the bill) any better by introducing amendments that might make it better."
One thing is clear: The way the public has revolted during 2009 against the domestic agenda of a president it only recently elected demonstrates the power of information in the American political process. The information providers are not about to shut up.