Let's go back to one of my favorite book premises: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Let's talk about respect.
It is reasonable to expect that someone who grew up with a Kenyan anti-British colonial father, an expatriate mother, and a politically active Indonesian stepfather would have a bit of a different view of America than the rest of us. That's OK, and maybe it even brings something worthwhile to the melting pot. The problem is that Barrack Obama apparently missed the kindergarten lesson on respect.
On one level the discussion about the Constitution can be boring. Sure the Founding Fathers were well educated in the classics, in political theory, and in the failings of the monarchies in Europe. Sure, the document they crafted is brilliant with its separation of powers, its federalism, and its Bill of Rights. But as long as it remains abstract it is hard to get excited about Rick Perry's defense of the 10th Amendment (which reserves most powers to the states or to the people) or Senator Mike Lee's criticism of the Commerce Clause (which has been used to continually enlarge the scope of what the federal government can regulate in the name of interstate commerce.) Let's get more concrete in assessing the past three years.
On respect for the separation of powers: when President Obama used the setting of his 2010 State of the Union Address to publicly chastise the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision he disrespected the least political of the three branches in a public setting where they could not respond; when he ignored the War Powers Act with an extended air campaign in Libya without Congressional approval he thumbed his nose at a pliant Congress; when he made Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor
Relations Board "recess appointments" while the Democratic Senate was technically in session he disrespected a century of Senate rules.
On respect for federalism: when he determined that everybody in the country needed to buy insurance he greatly expanded the federal role (and probably violated individual rights); when his NLRB tried to determine that Boeing couldn't build 787's in South Carolina he disrespected both private enterprise and the states; when the EPA told Governor Jindal of Louisiana that he could not build a berm to protect the coast from BP's oil spill he took on the role of "sole protector"; when he sued Arizona for enforcing immigration laws he made adversarial what should be a cooperative effort.
But last week's decision to require all health insurance policies to cover contraception and some forms of abortion (with no co-pay or deductible) overturns the decades-long truce between pro and anti-abortion advocates. The Catholic bishops take the lead in defending the people of good conscience doing good deeds in hospitals and schools, but the implications are broader as the secular authorities show no respect for the religious convictions of millions of citizens or the role of Congress. In our diverse, pluralist society this is a big deal. The good news is that the 2013 implementation date gives the voters a chance to be heard and "repeal Obamacare" is a strong rallying cry.
This week's video is a brief clip of my San Francisco representative giving a "valley girl" prediction about the Republican nomination.
bill bowen - 1/3/12