A word of warning before you read any further: I'm mad as hell.
I never watch Fox News, so I was unaware that President Obama was interviewed by Bret Baier last night.
I became aware when our alarm clock went off this morning and I heard the NPR hourly news update. What I heard during that update was so shocking I immediately booted up my computer and went looking for secondary, then tertiary confirmation, unwilling to trust my ears.
What I found made me punch a fist against the nearest wall. That's pretty angry for 5:30 in the morning.
Then NPR statement was, roughly: The President told Fox News he doesn't care about legislative procedures.
(The reason I can't give the exact quote is because NPR subsequently dropped it from the news update. In fact, all Presidential quotes regarding health care during the Baier interview have now (8:30 a.m. EST) been expunged.)
He doesn't care about the process? I thought. What???????
And I am not comforted. Mr. Baier repeatedly asked the President if he supported using the controversial "Deem and Pass" parliamentary manuever. Here are some of the President's responses (with my emphasis):
What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don't think we should pretend otherwise.
And I don't think we should pretend that "whatever form" the vote takes is unimportant. The form of the vote- the actual process- is all that stands between the Constitution and its destruction. The President took an oath to protect that constitution:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Can you recite those words and then say "whatever" about congressional procedures?
What the American people care about is the fact that their premiums are going up 25, 40, 60 percent, and I'm going to do something about it.
Ah, yes, the old "the ends justify the means" argument. Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket? That road down there- what's it paved with?
So the issue that I'm concerned about is whether not we're fixing a broken system.
And the issue I'm concerned with is: must we break one system (Constitutional governance) to fix another? So much concern displayed for health care, so little displayed for democracy.
What I'm saying is whatever they end up voting on — and I hope it's going to be sometime this week — that it is going to be a vote for or against my health care proposal. That's what matters. That's what ultimately people are going to judge this on.
No, Mr. President. What matters is preserving an orderly, Constitutional process of creating laws. The people will ultimately judge you based on whether you obeyed or destroyed the process. If the process is destroyed, no amount of government largesse can repair the public trust.
...by the time the vote has taken place, not only I will know what's in it, you'll know what's in it because it's going to be posted and everybody's going to be able to able to evaluate it on the merits.
This notion that this has been not transparent, that people don't know what's in the bill, everybody knows what's in the bill. I sat for seven hours with —
I have placed these two quotes together because they contradict one another. Do we now know what is in the bill or do we not? And how is our Democracy strengthened if the content of such a massive bill is not revealed to the people until mere days before it is voted upon?
I've got to tell — I've got to say to you, there are a lot more people who are concerned about the fact that they may be losing their house or going bankrupt because of health care.
And so we return to the "ends justify the means" argument. See earlier remarks concerning handbaskets and road paving.
But here's the thing, Bret, I mean, the reason that I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating is because the focus entirely is on Washington process.
Yes, Mr. President, it is. And it should be, because that pesky 'process' is all that protects ordinary Americans- like me- from exploitation and abuse. We care about that process, and we want know that you care about it.
Mr. President, I'm aware that "Deem and Pass" has been used before by both Democrats and Republicans. I didn't vote for you, but I might have retained some vestige and trust and respect for you if you had attempted to defend "Deem and Pass" or at least explain why it could be justified. I might not have been persuaded by your arguments, but I would have listened.
But you didn't do that. Instead, you spent the entire interview shrugging off "the process" and insinuating that your vision for healthcare reform was more important than any parliamentary restraints.
Is this an isolated example, Mr. President? What other things are more important to you than the pesky "process"? How often can we expect to hear this line of reasoning in the future? Where do you draw the line, Mr. President?
Mr. President, "the process" counts. Just this month, millions of ordinary Iraqis risked their lives for the sake of "the process."
Maybe you should look to their example.