Teachable August

Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the House home on Friday after giving each of her 256 Democrats a little card with the talking points she thinks they’ll need to sell the awful House healthcare bill.  House members went home after the Energy and Commerce Committee wrestled four Blue Dogs to the ground and passed the $1 trillion + measure. 

Many members of congress will be going on global boondoggles for part of August, but all of them — for a time — will be home visiting with voters. 

This is one of those “teachable moments” that our president is so fond of preaching.  And it should be one for those members of congress to learn from their constituents in all those hundreds of “townhall” meetings they’ll hold while they’re home in August. 

There are three lessons voters should teach: on healthcare, on the Dems’ war against the CIA and on bringing Guantanamo Bay terrorist inmates to the United States.

In a just-released poll, Gallup reports only 20% of Americans believe the healthcare system is in crisis and only 16% say healthcare reform is the top priority.

The Gallup poll is most revealing in finding that 70% of Americans say that the economy is the top problem and that Obama gets his lowest marks on handling the national budget deficit.  Congress doesn’t score well either:  two-thirds of Americans say that members of Congress don’t have a good understanding of the issues involved in healthcare reform. 

Healthcare is a personal matter for every American, one of those “kitchen table” issues we heard about so often in the 2008 campaign.  Congress needs to hear that the government-centric approach of Obamacare — including the “government option” to create a federal health insurance program — is destructive of the best healthcare system in the world.

It’s destructive because it will interfere directly in the choices that are now made by physician and patient.  No American wants some government bureaucrat making those decisions for him or for his doctor.

And the so-called “government option” is destructive of Americans’ access to care in two other ways. 

First, no government agency will ever “compete” in the commercial market because they don’t ever need to make a profit and can fund their operations with money the US government compels us to pay in taxes.  The “government option” will drive private insurers out of the market. 

Second, the federal health insurance program will be enormously expensive.  Speaker Pelosi has said she’s comfortable with a bill that costs around $1 trillion over ten years. Even someone who is sufficiently credulous to believe that we can afford that new burden cannot possibly believe that the costs won’t increase enormously over time, just like Social Security and Medicare did. 

Social Security and Medicare are the Lindsay Lohans of government:  “affordable” and attractive when they began, they have become — to be charitable to Ms. Lohan –unsupportable.  Even before Obama’s multi-trillion dollar spending spree, Social Security and Medicare had an unfunded liability in 2008 of $53 trillion and climbing, by themselves enough to bankrupt our nation.

Both of those points are “teachable,” and it’s up to everyone going to those townhall meetings in August to make sure their representatives and senators learn.  There’s no crisis in healthcare they need to rush to solve.  But there is a crisis in our intelligence community that needs to be dealt with immediately: ending the Dems’ war against the CIA.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, in an unprecedented op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post, bemoans the relationship our spies have with Congress.  He said it is characterized by “…an atmosphere of declining trust, growing frustration and more frequent leaks of properly classified information.”

Members of congress need to learn that the Democrats’ war against our intelligence agencies must be brought to an end.  Leon Panetta’s astounding op-ed is a plea to his former Democratic congressional colleagues to stop damaging the CIA’s ability to gather and analyze intelligence and conduct covert operations. 

Panetta — a former California congressman and one-time chief of staff in the Clinton White House — is a long-time partisan Democrat.  Panetta says his recent disclosure of a secret CIA program didn’t earn any greater understanding or cooperation from congress.  Instead, he wrote, “the meeting sparked a fresh round of recriminations about the past.”  For him to condemn the Congressional reaction in these terms shows how desperate the situation has become.

Two people are responsible for this mess:  President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.  Obama — in his eagerness to keep the Bush label on the Republican Party — has cherry-picked classified information about the so-called “torture” of terrorist detainees, and refused to release the other half of the equation, the documents that prove the “enhanced interrogation methods” produced actionable intelligence that saved American lives.

Speaker Pelosi has lied — repeatedly — about her knowledge that the CIA had used waterboarding on an al-Quida prisoner.  And, when caught in her lies, she accused the CIA of lying to Congress. 

The relationship between the CIA and Congress has become so strained that the CIA — as Panetta’s op-ed implies — can’t trust Congress to perform its constitutional function of oversight or even to keep its secrets. 

Successful prosecution of any war depends greatly on intelligence-gathering, and this one more than any other in our history.  Congress needs to hear, and learn, that our intelligence community is not the enemy. 

Some few members of Congress understand this.  Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo), for one.  Bond is the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and he’s authored a provision in the 2010 intelligence authorization bill to compel the CIA to resolve the issue Obama doesn’t want resolved: by declassifying and releasing four documents which show that the “enhanced interrogation methods” worked to produce valuable information we’d not otherwise have.

His fellow senators need to hear grassroots support for Bond’s amendment.  And in the House, there’s no solution other than an investigation into Pelosi’s accusation that the CIA lied.  A public investigation — by a bipartisan committee and with a deadline of completion this fall — is the only way to get Pelosi off the CIA’s back.  House members need to hear this in August.  They also need to be reminded of the Gitmo issue.

The Obama administration appears to be floating trial balloons in news reports that the administration is readying a plan to relocate inmates from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba terrorist detention facility either to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas or an about-to-be-closed maximum security prison in Michigan. 

Three months ago, the Senate voted 90-6 to deny Obama funds to transfer to the US and incarcerate there any Guantanamo Bay inmates.  But within a day of the vote, Obama was accusing people of using scare tactics and “…words that, frankly, are calculated to scare people rather than educate them.”  Apparently, the president missed the teachable moment in the Senate vote.  Both he, and the members of Congress, need to be reminded that there’s no good reason to close Gitmo far less move its dangerous inmates ashore.

It’ll be a busy August for Congress.  It should be, too, for every voter.

And one final thought: if your congressman or senator likes the idea of “Obamacare,” tell him to think of it as “Fannie Med.”  Everyone other than Barney Frank should understand that.

Before the House recessed, they managed to add $2 billion to the “cash for clunkers” program in about ninety minutes of floor proceedings.  At that rate of spending — given that there are about 43,200 minutes in a month — the House of Representatives saved us about $2 trillion by just going home for a month.  If only we could persuade them to stay home until the 2010 elections.