Heckling the President

question timeIn his Daily Beast debut, Alex Massie rises in defense of Joe Wilson’s outburst. No, not so much whether Obama was lying in this particular instance but rather the very notion that it’s “inappropriate” to heckle the president.  The whole piece is worth a read but here’s a taste:

Trivial though it may seem, this brouhaha highlights a great flaw in the American system: You elect a monarch. In olden days and on the old continent, criticizing the monarch might limit your life chances. So too, alas, in the American capital today, as the arbiters of acceptable Washington indecency—that is, the Davids Broder and Gergen—decry your shortage of civility and surfeit of vulgarity.

The convention that Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of the President in His Presence elides the great difference known to every Briton—that between insulting the head of state and insulting the mere head of the executive branch of government.

Insulting Queen Elizabeth is one thing; insulting Gordon Brown is practically an obligation. Disrespecting the former is an act of treason; disrespecting the latter and his office, a necessity: Every Wednesday, Brown must endure Prime Minister’s Questions, during which his enemies in Parliament grill him. Prime Minister’s Questions may not be the be all and end all, but it affords an opportunity for “telling truth to power” that does not exist in the regal American system.

America’s problem is that it has combined the head of state and the head of the executive branch into a single office, and it can no longer distinguish between the two roles. Obama’s health-care address was not given in his role as head of state. It was, rather, a political speech made by—pinch yourselves—a mere politician seeking to advance his own political agenda.

He makes a very good point here, extending the argument Alex Knapp makes in Bring Heckling to the Colonies! And, as a matter of principle, I agree.  Of course Wilson has a right to call Barack Obama a liar.  But there’s a time,  place, and manner for everything and an address to a joint session of Congress is not the appropriate venue.

The more I think about it, though, the idea of the president calling Congress together to give them their marching orders on health care is inappropriate.  I’m not calling out Obama here; he’s merely following recent precedent.  But, aside from the annual State of the Union address (which, frankly, I’d be happy to see return to its written message to Congress format) and genuine national emergencies such as the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks, the very format is a bad idea.  It’s yet another way that we reinforce the mistaken notion that the president is “the boss” and that Congress has an obligation to carry out his agenda.

Presidents have the bully pulpit by the nature of their office and can easily get their message to the people whenever they want.  But let’s do away with him calling the elected representatives of the people together and lambasting them for not doing what he wants.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Politics 101, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    The more I think about it, though, the idea of the president calling Congress together to give them their marching orders on health care is inappropriate.

    Agreed. I only watched the last 20 mins. of the speech but was immediately taken by the tone that Obama was laying out what his token congress should ratify to give his edicts the appearance of legitimacy. It seems to be a persistent tone with Obama. Bush was accused of an imperial presidency but his tone was never overtly dictatorial when speaking to congress. I can’t help but wonder if the “caesar dictating to the senate” tone doesn’t chaff the members of the equal and separate legislative branch.

  2. odograph says:

    This is just like the guns & presidents argument:

    You are turning an argument about venue into a general argument which is already moot.

    Mr. Wilson could go on Meet the Press and say “the President is lying.” No problem.

    This is not a “monarchy” problem.

  3. odograph says:

    The more I think about it, though, the idea of the president calling Congress together to give them their marching orders on health care is inappropriate.

    Any more inappropriate than a country of 300+ million people having a single “leader?”

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    People, Ode are leaders not by election but by ability. Obama has not shown the ability to lead. Congress or the Apollo group wrote the stimulus bill, in fact, congress wrote cap and trade, and the health care package. Obama has not truly outlined except in very vague terms, what he wants and will sign.

  5. odograph says:

    What I’m pointing out is that having a single “chief” executive is interesting. It is probably about how deeply ingrained “tribal” structures are to human societies.

    The problem with Congress is that they are just the right size to think of themselves as a tribe in their own right 😉

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Given that President Obama had just called some opponents of his plan liars during a nationally televised joint session address I think Wilson’s response was somewhat appropriate. You don’t call a public meeting and then insult people without being called on it.

    It was shocking that Wilson spoke up but I’m warming up to the idea of speaking up against those who abuse the system.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    I guess the question in my mind is whether Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Hastert should be expected to be heckled when speaking to the House. If the answer is no different from the President, then this whole line about the impartiality of heads of state is misguided.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Argh. . .

    imperiality = impartiality

  9. odograph says:

    Watch out Steve, a Death Panel is right behind you!

  10. DavidL says:

    Respect is earned and not granted. I have never extended any respect to B.J. Clinton after it was shown that he was lying when he wagged his finger at the American people and denied ever having sex with that Miss Lewinsky.

    Likewise the Liar-in-Chief can not defend his health care proposal without resorting to petty name calling and lying. If the vain one wants some respect, he had better start showing some. Apologizing to Sarah Palin would be a good place to start.

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Odo, That’s not much of a reasoned argument. You sound just like the President, paint all opponents as kooks so the real debate can be ignored. Those tactics are failing.

  12. Wayne says:

    “Mr. Wilson could go on Meet the Press and say “the President is lying.” No problem.”

    Actually there are congressional rules prohibiting a member calling the President a liar. Not that the rule has been upheld in recent years.

    “the idea of the president calling Congress together to give them their marching orders on health care is inappropriate. I’m not calling out Obama here; he’s merely following recent precedent.”

    What recent precedent is that? Maybe I miss it somewhere but the only time I remember such a thing is after a tragedy like 9/11 and State of the Union address. Trying to pass healthcare bill doesn’t fall under either one of those categories.

    The President calling other liars, partisans and other names opens himself up to like treatment. The President should be held to a higher not lower standard than congress and\or Joe citizen.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Given that President Obama had just called some opponents of his plan liars…

    Those ranting about “death panels” are liars, end of story…

    You don’t call a public meeting and then insult people without being called on it.

    Who knew that calling out liars was “insulting”…

  14. odograph says:

    Give me a factual argument Steve and I might give you a reasoned response. As it was the Death Panels gag should have reminded you that real lies were told.

  15. Jack Bauer says:

    “I guess the question in my mind is whether Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Hastert should be expected to be heckled when speaking to the House.”

    Who knows? That’s up to them and their members. Although it is nominally called THE PEOPLES’ HOUSE, the rules of the House are designed for the protection of its members. The House is constitutionally empowered to make its own Parliamentary rules.

    In other words, it can do as it damn well pleases.

    The President is Chief Executive of a co-equal branch of government, and as such, he has to be invited to make a political statement in a House that is not his. I hope we all understand that this was a highly political act.

    This was not a debate governed by House rules. I see nothing in the House rules regarding Joe Wilson making a political statement back to the President.

    Does any one think the nodding and bobbing Nancy, and the continuous disruptions from the Democrats was NOT an inflammatory political act?

    Given the Congress is oh — a political place, it’s a rather apt location to make a political outcry, is it not?

    Or are the people’s Representatives to be chastised for making a political statement, however pithy, in the PEOPLES’ HOUSE?

    Joe Wilson acted creditably — as per Rule XXIII, Code 1.

    RULE XVII
    DECORUM AND DEBATE
    Decorum
    1. (a) A Member, Delegate, or Resident
    Commissioner who desires to
    speak or deliver a matter to the House
    shall rise and respectfully address the
    Speaker and, on being recognized, may
    address the House from any place on
    the floor. When invited by the Chair, a
    Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner
    may speak from the Clerk’s
    desk.
    (b) Remarks in debate (which may include
    references to the Senate or its
    Members) shall be confined to the question
    under debate, avoiding personality.
    Recognition

    RULE XXIII
    CODE OF OFFICIAL CONDUCT
    There is hereby established by and
    for the House the following code of conduct,
    to be known as the ‘‘Code of Official
    Conduct’’:
    1. A Member, Delegate, Resident
    Commissioner, officer, or employee
    of the House shall behave at all times
    in a manner that shall reflect
    creditably on the House.
    2. A Member, Delegate, Resident
    Commissioner, officer, or employee
    of the House shall adhere to the spirit
    and the letter of the Rules of the
    House and to the rules of duly constituted
    committees thereof.

    WAYNE — I have downloaded the official Rules of the House.

    http://www.rules.house.gov/ruleprec/111th.pdf

    I can find no such reference to a rule that prevents a member calling the President a liar.

    Are there addition rules that I have failed to reference. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction here? Thanks

  16. TangoMan says:

    Those ranting about “death panels” are liars, end of story..

    If this is the standard you wish to apply, then show me in clear text where the right to abortion is stated within the Constitution of the United States.

    If Rep. Wilson owed President Obama an apology for calling him a liar in the august chambers of the House, then President Obama most certainly owes Governor Sarah Palin, the prominent politician her referred to as a liar. It was rude of him to use such a privileged platform to falsely smear his political opponents. While he’s on his apology tour he can also issue an apology to the American people for tarnishing the Presidency in such a manner. It was painful to watch it run into the mud.

  17. odograph says:

    That response does not address the Death Panel question at all TangoMan. It was not abortion which was at issue. It was the attempt to reimburse doctors who council their patients about end-of-life issues.

    Most of us will probably get there eventually, and most of us should probably have that conversation before we do.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Of course abortion appears nowhere in the Constitution…but since I’m not an abortion booster, I don’t have to defend it…who knows what that has to do with the inane ramblings of the former governor of Alaska…the president has nothing to apologize to her for, as he was correct to call her lies exactly what they are…if you are so fond of apology tours, maybe you could write to your number one crush and ask her to apologize to the citizens of Alaska for ditching them…

  19. TangoMan says:

    It was the attempt to reimburse doctors who council their patients about end-of-life issues.

    Yours is a selective framing of Governor Palin’s comment. Here is the full context:

    The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

    I swear to god it’s like liberals missed school on the day that English class taught the concept of metaphor. Governor Palin has documented President Obama’s call for a commission to be established that will work to ration care, she’s pointed out the writings of the President’s health adviser where he advocates that people be judged on the quality of their lives when medical rationing decisions must be made. The bill incentivizes physicians to counsel end of life provisions, and as the Veterans Administration’s “Death Book”, authorized by the Obama Administration, makes clear, the efforts to encourage reduction of medical services, the refusal of care, etc are akin to Death Panels in that the party (government) paying the bills benefits from the patient’s choice of death.

    The counseling sessions are the point of the Death Panel spear, they focus all of the regulations onto one point in time. Physicians are judged, by their paymasters, by how effectively they utilize medical resources. When government is involved in medical decisions it has a conflicted interest in that it benefits from reducing medical costs. Government should stand as a neutral arbiter to which parties can make fair appeal.

    The criticisms usually applied to Death Panels is that the phrase never appears in the legislation. True, but neither does the phrase the “right to abortion” appear in the Constitution.

    If President Obama was not setting up a mechanism to bring about Death Panels then he’d fire Dr. Ezekial Emmanuel, he’d disband the rationing boards that he’s already funded to the tune of $1 billion, and he’d abandon the notion of “competing” against private insurers, for once the government “out-competes” the private insurers then patients have no choices available to them if they don’t like the dictates of the Death Panels. The market doesn’t ration. Rationing is a conscious decision by a central actor. Government health care means government rationing. Rationing is done by some concocted scheme. Those who are deciding on how the rationing should take place are, in effect, sitting on death panels.

    We already see Death Panels in Oregon, where the State wouldn’t pay for chemotherapy but was willing to pay for suicide. We saw Death Panels at the VA. We see Death Panels in nations with single payer systems.

    Further, as we saw with Buck vs. Bell, progressives are quite comfortable with their schemes to manage other people’s lives. The resistance to eugenics came from the religious community of the time.

  20. Steve Plunk says:

    Odo,

    Rep. Wilson called out after the President referred to the point of illegal aliens not being covered. The fact is the Dems changed that provision after being called on it. The President called people liars for pointing out illegals could be covered when in fact they were correct. Who’s the real liar and who’s bearing false witness?

    Now I never brought up the “death panels” but I’ll bite and defend the term. There has been clear discussion about how high end of life care costs are. There have also been discussions about appointed boards having say in some decisions regarding end of life care that could have life and death consequences. It is a reasonable statement to call these death panels if one opposes such a notion. Certainly not much different than calling abortion freedom of choice or family planning. Hyperbole in both cases but not lies.

  21. TangoMan says:

    who knows what that has to do with the inane ramblings of the former governor of Alaska…

    At least she knows that the US isn’t comprised of 57 states and that the principal language of Austria isn’t Austrian. Don’t forget that the President views her as a prominent politician.

    the president has nothing to apologize to her for, as he was correct to call her lies exactly what they are…

    Pick a standard and apply it uniformly. If Rep. Wilson should apologize for rightly calling President Obama a liar, then President Obama should apologize for calling Governor Palin a liar. If President Obama, whose transgression is far worse, has nothing to apologize for, then neither does Rep. Wilson.

    if you are so fond of apology tours, maybe you could write to your number one crush and ask her to apologize to the citizens of Alaska for ditching them…

    I’ll get on that as soon as President Obama apologizes to the voters of Illinois for ditching them, as soon as Secretary Clinton apologizes to the voters of New York for ditching them, as soon as Secretary Sebelius apologizes to the voters of Kansas for ditching the, as soon as Vice-President Biden apologizes to the voters of Delaware for ditching them, etc.

  22. Steve Plunk says:

    TangoMan, Teach me to write. You summed it all up so well. Well done fellow Oregonian.

  23. odograph says:

    I think all you’ve done Steve, and TangoMan for that matter, is hide the pea under a different walnut.

    The President, in his speech, factually called out lies that were told.

    The main thing about Wilson is venue and decorum, but I think there might be a problem from him from the facts.

    The President said that his forthcoming proposal would not include benefits for illegal immigrants. Did Wilson see it before saying “lie?”

  24. odograph says:

    (If you say “teh Dems” have tried to give benefits to illegals, you are cheating. Those were not Obama’s proposal.)

  25. TangoMan says:

    odograph:

    The main thing about Wilson is venue and decorum, but I think there might be a problem from him from the facts.

    This sword cuts both ways. I have no problem with criticism of Wilson’s comment being a breach of decorum, irrespective of its factual basis, so long as the same standard applies to a President who calls together both Houses of Congress and then declares those who see the consequences of his policies to be liars. If the venue and the importance of the speech are to be held paramount, then there is a shared responsibility, the audience should be polite and the speaker should be honest.

    (If you say “teh Dems” have tried to give benefits to illegals, you are cheating. Those were not Obama’s proposal.)

    Obama doesn’t have a proposal. He’s relying on the text of the bills in Congress. In respect to those bills, Republicans on two occasions tried to pass amendments that would insure enforcement mechanisms regarding illegal aliens and these were voted down by the Democrats, in one case on a strict party line vote.

    The gimmick that the President is relying on is similar to declaring a national speed limit on the nation’s highways and then prohibiting any enforcement mechanisms to be brought to bear on speeders. The police can’t catch a speeder if they’re not allowed to use radar or to clock a car.

  26. odograph says:

    Squirm, squirm, squirm.

    It was the President’s speech. He could say what he wanted, as long as he did it in a civilized way.

    He was civilized, as he called out actual lies.

    On “Obama doesn’t have a proposal”, his speech was a kick-off. Wilson didn’t wait to see if the promise was kept. He called “liar” before he saw what the Whitehouse tried to work with Congress as a result.

  27. odograph says:

    Note: If you want to hold the President to his statement, you do that when the bills are presented for a vote. Then, if the President endorses them, and they care for illegals, you can say he lied.

    If someone says “I’m going to stop smoking” and you say “liar!” are you being fair? You haven’t given him a chance, you’ve just assaulted his character.

  28. TangoMan says:

    It was the President’s speech. He could say what he wanted, as long as he did it in a civilized way.

    This line of reasoning is bulls**t and you know it because you wouldn’t apply it if it was President Bush who was declaring Democrats who disagreed with the consequences that arose from his policies to be liars.

    He was civilized, as he called out actual lies.

    Lies much in the way that New Deal proponents were liars, much in the way that those who opposed President Reagan’s stance towards the Soviet Union were liars, much like those who opposed President Bush’s stance on the War in Iraq were liars. You know, like “we went to war for oil” is a lie because nowhere in the official documentation supporting the war decision is there any mention of the decision being made for the benefit of oil companies.

  29. TangoMan says:

    If you want to hold the President to his statement, you do that when the bills are presented for a vote. Then, if the President endorses them, and they care for illegals, you can say he lied.

    This statement fails a test of internal validity. If it is improper for Rep. Wilson to claim that President Obama lied about coverage for illegal aliens because President Obama has yet to show the text of the bill that he supports then it is similarly improper to deem those who have been discussing Health Reform Bills coming out of Congress to be liars when the speech is supposed to be about the Bill that he will support.

    Do you see the problem? How can people referring to Congressional Bills be liars about President Obama’s non-existent Health Care Reform Bill? Again, the sword cuts two ways.

  30. sam says:

    @Tangoman

    Further, as we saw with Buck vs. Bell, progressives are quite comfortable with their schemes to manage other people’s lives

    Do you really think that any modern liberal, which I suppose you’d call “progressive”, would endorse the sterilization laws sanctioned by Buck vs. Bell? Any more than a modern conservative would endorse the miscegenation laws overturned by Loving vs. Virginia? (Which laws, of course, were implemented to manage other peoples lives.)

  31. odograph says:

    I was watching Anthony Bourdain. He was eating octopus so fresh they were still squirming. He said “it’s dead, it’s just too dumb to know it’s dead.”

    Your argument is like that. You want to stop Obama from telling the truth, politely, and you want to defend Wilson for saying something at best unproven, impolitely.

    Should we say “fair and balanced?”

  32. TangoMan says:

    Sam:

    Do you really think that any modern liberal, which I suppose you’d call “progressive”, would endorse the sterilization laws sanctioned by Buck vs. Bell?

    Modern progressives wouldn’t jump to conclusion Z (sterilization laws) from point A, (the start of the debate) but they would, I believe, jump to point Z from point Y.

    Liberals have an affinity for Philosopher-Kings. They believe themselves to be smarter than most people and their decisions to be better. This is why they so often gravitate to solutions which have government bureaucrats, informed by wise liberals, making decisions for other people’s lives. Big Government, the trademark of liberal policies, is predicated upon the notion that government solutions, dreamed up by fellows like Van Jones, are better than the messy and diverse solutions implemented by millions of disparate citizens.

    The progressives who supported the eugenics laws all believed that they were not evil, that they were acting in the best interests of both society and the afflicted that they targeted, and they probably took pride in the sheer logic and efficiency of their policy proposals. They didn’t wake up one day and, out of the blue, declare a desire to start sterilizing the unfortunates, rather they, step by step, built up to that position and the incrementalism of their utilitarianism masked the immorality of their ultimate position. There is a very good reason why the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is so apt.

    If you look at the eugenics debates, it was the Catholics and a few other groups who were the main opponents of the laws. The horrors weren’t laid bare until after Hitler’s crimes were exposed. That same religious perspective, and I say this as an atheist, is a good part of what fuels the opposition to the death panels of ObamaCare. These folks saw the consequences of “enlightened” utilitarianism back in the day and they see it today. Dr. Death, aka Dr. Ezekial Emmanuel, writes very matter of factly about judging the worth of people’s lives based on their usefulness to society. At this point, he’s not at Point A but is closer to Point J or so. The Death Book at the VA is also not at point A. The Oregon decision to deny chemotherapy but provide a suicide pill is probably at Point R. Each incremental steps seems reasonable when taken in isolation, but what the opponents see is the root of the evil being laid bare. For progressives, that root is masked by their love of Philosopher-Kings, their belief in their own intellectual superiority and their propensity to be swayed by utilitarian arguments and their rejection of the slippery slope as ALWAYS being a fallacious argument.

  33. sam says:

    I find that entire argument unpersuasive. But to the premises:

    For progressives, that root is masked by their love of Philosopher-Kings, their belief in their own intellectual superiority and their propensity to be swayed by utilitarian arguments and their rejection of the slippery slope as ALWAYS being a fallacious argument.

    That, I think, is flat false, and betrays your biases. I consider myself a liberal with a libertarian streak, and 1) having studied and taught philosophy, I have no faith in philosopher-kings, at all (but I think that’s just a rhetorical device, for you); 2) I have a vanishingly small belief in my intellectual superiority; 3) most of us are swayed by, and employ, utilitarian argument–it’s the most natural form argument when weighing courses of action that the few and the many (not in all cases the best, just the most natural); 3) I don’t consider slippery slopes arguments to be, per se, false–I use them myself when arguing against seemingly innocuous incursions on our civil rights; as with all arguments, slippery slope or otherwise, it depends on the argument.

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but if anything, you seem to be enamored of the “over-arching” explanation: Progessives (liberals) are all… a hallmark, itself, I feel compelled to say, of absolutist thinking.

  34. floyd says:

    Character?? Certainly, you could only assault his character as it applies to what he pretends to be, like a movie role!

    Although ACORN supports those of “character” where ever they can find them , even registering a real “character”…, Mickey Mouse, to vote in several states.

    Well, at least “Mickey Mouse” was “born” in the U.S. of controversial parentage as “Mortimer Mouse”.
    (Some say he was stolen from his real father shortly after birth)
    A.K.A “Steamboat Willy”, He only switched to his later alias when it was thought he might benefit from the resultant Cult of Celebrity!
    Hmmm!! Sounds fami-LIAR!!

  35. Steve Verdon says:

    Technically speaking we already have something that is kinda sorta like the “death panels”. For example, a living baby born too early will be denied care and allowed to die. Of course, this may very well be the most humane thing to do, but there it is, a policy that lets a living human being die.

    In the U.K. certain patients are denied care, for example smokers are denied certain types of care, at least until they quit smoking for a sufficient amount of time. Here in the U.S. I recall a case where a person was not allowed on a liver transplant list because (going my memory here) medical marijuana use.

    So in a way we already decide to let certain patients die and it is due to policy.

  36. TangoMan says:

    Sam, do you think that your progressive forebearers knew that the negative eugenics that they were advocating and enforcing was evil or do you think that they were thinking that they were doing good, that they were good people, that what they were doing was best for society and for the feeble minded who couldn’t think properly for themselves?

    1) having studied and taught philosophy, I have no faith in philosopher-kings

    OK, I don’t know anything about you and how typical you are of liberals. You didn’t ask me to write about you, you asked about modern liberals. Most modern liberals do not have libertarian streaks as you claim to have, so while your criticism about my perspective might not be applicable to you you err by using yourself as a typical liberal and thus declaring that my whole position is invalid.

    Secondly, if we’re to argue about your positions I’d need to know the particulars of how you construct solutions to many of the issues that society faces. If most of your solutions require government to get involved and as a consequence this diminishes the freedom of choice for affected people to address the issues in manners of their own choosing, then I’d be inclined to argue that you do indeed support the notion of Philosopher-Kings, wise government bureaucrats implementing “wiser” “solutions” than those concocted by disparate peoples.

    I have a vanishingly small belief in my intellectual superiority;

    Again I take you at your word. I don’t know the particulars of your world view. I was speaking about liberals, in general. They, in the case of this health care debate, argue for universal health care, and the more liberal of the liberals, argue for single payer systems devoid of profit seeking players. These folks seem quite content with imposing their restriction of choice on the masses because they have faith in their ideological vision. The majority of voters are now opposed to the Obama vision for health care, 86% of people are satisfied with their individual coverage, and yet these ultra-liberals want to remove those choices from people because they believe that they know what is better for all individuals than do the individuals themselves. If that’s not describing you, then don’t include yourself in that category. However, to claim that I’m wrong in that analysis by redefining the term “liberal” to mean people with a libertarian streak is a distracting tactic and it doesn’t really speak to the issue.

  37. TangoMan says:

    Here is an example of Philosopher King government in the UK:

    The Children’s Minister claimed today that millions of Britons must be placed on a new Big Brother-style child protection database to stop a repeat of the Soham murders. . .

    An astonishing 11.3million people – one adult in four – are likely to come under the watchful eye of the Independent Safeguarding Authority. . . .

    The plan goes way beyond the current Criminal Records Bureau system, which covers only 6million people.

    For the first time, 300,000 school governors, dinner ladies and parents who visit schools or nurseries to read to children will be involved.

    It will even apply to parents who, at the request of organisations like junior football teams or the Guides, give their children’s friends lifts to or from events.

    If they do so without first being vetted by the ISA’s 200 staff, they could be fined up to £5,000 and given a criminal record.

    The clubs themselves will face a £5,000 fine – potentially enough to ruin them. Parents who host foreign pupils on school exchange trips will also have to be vetted.

    The government needs to get involved in people’s relationships in order to protect them. The government doesn’t give people a choice, rather it imposes its requirements on people’s free associations because these philosopher-kings know what is best for society.

  38. Steve Verdon says:

    Liberals have an affinity for Philosopher-Kings. They believe themselves to be smarter than most people and their decisions to be better.

    Wasn’t it Hillary Clinton who stated that “we” are going to take things away from you for the common good? Wasn’t there a post here about Thomas Friedman extolling the virtues of the chinese totalitarian system?

  39. Steve Verdon says:

    The Children’s Minister claimed today that millions of Britons must be placed on a new Big Brother-style child protection database to stop a repeat of the Soham murders. . .

    A huge new bureaucratic monster to prevent an rare event. A monster that will impacting millions of people’s lives who have done nothing wrong.

    But its okay to drive 65 mph on the freeway which will kill people.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    At least she knows that the US isn’t comprised of 57 states and that the principal language of Austria isn’t Austrian. Don’t forget that the President views her as a prominent politician.

    But she didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine was nor could she name any newspapers that she supposedly read…

    Pick a standard and apply it uniformly.

    Sure, the standard is that the talk of death panels, whether meant as a metaphor or otherwise, is a lie, period…

    I’ll get on that as soon as President Obama apologizes to the voters of Illinois for ditching them, as soon as Secretary Clinton apologizes to the voters of New York for ditching them, as soon as Secretary Sebelius apologizes to the voters of Kansas for ditching the, as soon as Vice-President Biden apologizes to the voters of Delaware for ditching them, etc.

    A false comparison, as all those people left their positions to take on other ones…and she left for what again…

    And obviously partisan hypocrisy runs both ways…if a Democratic Representative had called Bush a liar during one of his Congressional speeches, conservatives would have been apoplectic…oh, and if we are going to hold liberals/progressives responsible for views held by some progressives in the early part of the 20th century, then let us paint conservatives with the racist brush, as that was a view held by many conservatives in the same time period during the last century…

  41. floyd says:

    AW!!C’MON…. We all KNOW that newspapers are mostly ADs,
    and what little is left, lies between the ADs!

  42. TangoMan says:

    But she didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine

    It’s been obvious to everyone that she’s been applying the Bush Doctrine in the past week of this health care debate, in that she preemptively bombed President Obama’s address and issued the prebuttal to his speech.

    A false comparison, as all those people left their positions to take on other ones.

    That doesn’t matter. How is signing on to do a job and then shirking the responsibilities of that job so that one can seek a better job a preferred course of action to acting honorably?

    f a Democratic Representative had called Bush a liar during one of his Congressional speeches, conservatives would have been apoplectic

    Rep. Wilson broke decorum, just like Democrats did when President Bush was delivering his 2005 State of the Union address. Rep. Wilson spoke the truth, he just broke the rules. Did all of the Democrats who booed and heckled the President have the decency to call him and apologize for breaking decorum? No, they didn’t.

    f we are going to hold liberals/progressives responsible for views held by some progressives in the early part of the 20th century, then let us paint conservatives with the racist brush, as that was a view held by many conservatives in the same time period during the last century…

    Your comparison fails on two counts. The views of liberals back in that era were just as racist as those of conservatives. Secondly, the scope of comparison differs. Progressives and liberals, back then and still today, like to use government power to force their will onto unwilling people. The views on race held by conservatives back then was to use government to enforce endogamy. The views on race held by conservatives today are that the government has no business in policing the issue and these views are personal. The nature of the views of progressivism hasn’t changed over time – you still believe in coercive government enforcing the progressive vision of the good life, with progressives in charge of determining what the good life shall be and making sure that people follow the rules laid down by progressives. The views of conservatives have changed from using the power of government to maintain a racially unjust legal system to one where the government shouldn’t be using its coercive power to intervene in the personal affairs of people and their free associations.

  43. TangoMan says:

    who knows what that has to do with the inane ramblings of the former governor of Alaska…

    Let’s compare: one President in waiting, writing from her Fortress of Solitude in the frozen tundra of Alaska only has the power of Facebook at her disposal. The arch-villian hiding in his lair in Washington can command the airwaves at his whim and has scores of sycophants, aka White House Press Corps, at his beck and call, and the momentum of the Health Care Debate is with not with the Propagandist-In-Chief but with the Huntress of Alaska. Those ramblings of hers seem to strike a chord with many, many people. Perhaps she should take those ramblings and put them in another book, “How to Field Dress a President using only a Laptop.” I’m sure those ramblings would be a best-seller.

  44. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, the president is having trouble primarily because of the actions of the Wasilla Barracuda…I’m sure that the Obama Administration is scared to death of this formidable opponent…by the way, do tell how her quitting was “acting honorably”…also, if what the Dems did during the 2005 State of the Union Address bothers you, then what Wilson did should also bother you, unless of course you are just a partisan hack? Finally, yes, there are many liberals who like to use a coercive government to enforce their views…last time I checked, though, it wasn’t liberals who tried to use government coercion to interfere in the Terri Schiavo matter, or to tell women what they can do with their own bodies, or who want to introduce Intelligent Design into schools, or who want to prevent gay people from having the same rights as heterosexuals…no, the people behind all these things who want to use a coercive government are conservatives…

  45. An Interested Party says:

    …one President in waiting…

    I realize Palin does not possess a penis, but, metaphorically speaking, you are the most amazing fluffer I’ve ever seen…does she pay you by the fluff? Also, that was a lovely comic book tale of this mythical struggle between Palin and the president…but considering who you idolize, it’s not surprising that you would frame it that way…

    Perhaps she should take those ramblings and put them in another book, “How to Field Dress a President using only a Laptop.”

    Oh I’m sure she’ll try, as soon as she finds an appropriate ghost writer…maybe Lucianne Goldberg is available…

  46. anjin-san says:

    Respect is earned and not granted

    That probably explains why you don’t get any…

  47. TangoMan says:

    if what the Dems did during the 2005 State of the Union Address bothers you, then what Wilson did should also bother you, unless of course you are just a partisan hack?

    I never said it didn’t bother me, in fact I wrote:

    I have no problem with criticism of Wilson’s comment being a breach of decorum, irrespective of its factual basis, so long as the same standard applies to a President who calls together both Houses of Congress and then declares those who see the consequences of his policies to be liars. If the venue and the importance of the speech are to be held paramount, then there is a shared responsibility, the audience should be polite and the speaker should be honest.

    it wasn’t liberals who tried to use government coercion to interfere in the Terri Schiavo matter, or to tell women what they can do with their own bodies, or who want to introduce Intelligent Design into schools, or who want to prevent gay people from having the same rights as heterosexuals…no, the people behind all these things who want to use a coercive government are conservatives…

    You score some wins, some so-so on target, and some misses:

    -Terri Schiavo a definite hit.

    -Abortion isn’t about telling women what they can do with their bodies, it’s about protecting unborn life. I have no doubt that if technology developed which allowed for fetal transplant that anti-abortion folks wouldn’t care if women elected not to take their pregnancies to term. Instead of extincting the fetus, it would simply be extracted and incubated and the bill would be sent to the parents. The issue isn’t about controlling women’s bodies, it’s about protecting those who don’t have a voice or the means to protect themselves, which is how pro-life people view fetuses. Your not understanding these fine distinctions means you earn a so-so on this charge, good effort but sloppy execution.

    -Conservatives don’t want to introduce ID into schools, those folks are religious in nature. Moreover, even if ID is introduced in schools it doesn’t restrict anyone’s freedom, it just subjects them to a form of propaganda, much like the Left has been fostering over the years, e,g, race is a social construction. Again, this is a so-so, you did well in identifying a problem but you failed by invoking false equivalence and not demonstrating understanding of the underlying issues.

    -Conservatives don’t oppose equal rights for gays, they simply oppose the creation of special rights. Same sex marriage is the creation of a special right. Secondly, conservatives are not inclined to warp society in order to validate the feelings of individuals. Gays have just as much right to marry a person of the opposite gender as do heterosexuals. Their freedom isn’t abridged. Here you miss the mark by a mile. Fail.

    Oh I’m sure she’ll try, as soon as she finds an appropriate ghost writer…maybe Lucianne Goldberg is available…

    Maybe President Obama can put her in touch with Bill Ayers who served as the ghost writer for Obama. Stranger things have happened.

  48. An Interested Party says:

    …a President who calls together both Houses of Congress and then declares those who see the consequences of his policies to be liars.

    You’re being disingenuous…the president called the death panel fairy tale a lie, which it is…

    Abortion isn’t about telling women what they can do with their bodies, it’s about protecting unborn life.

    It’s about protecting unborn life only to those who see fetuses as such…but where do we draw the line…is it unborn life at conception? No matter where the line is drawn, conservatives who oppose abortion would like to use government coercion to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies…

    Conservatives don’t want to introduce ID into schools, those folks are religious in nature.

    Pardon me, religious conservatives want to use government coercion to teach fairy tales about our origins…

    Finally, of course conservatives want to deny rights to homosexuals that are allowed for heterosexuals…your accusation that equal rights would “warp” society only shows your own bias on the subject…

    Maybe President Obama can put her in touch with Bill Ayers who served as the ghost writer for Obama.

    Prove it, Fluffer…

  49. TangoMan says:

    You’re being disingenuous…the president called the death panel fairy tale a lie, which it is…

    No, it’s not, anymore than the criticisms of President Bush’s Social Security Reform were lies. You, President Obama and others can certainly believe that the Death Panel metaphor is a lie but you’re only acting on opinion and bias. Others believe that President Obama’s health care initiative is setting up a mechanism to ration care and withhold treatment from people. There is plenty of supporting evidence for this position. What we have here are different visions of the consequences that arise from this reform. Liberals are predicating their vision on their good hearts, how much they profess to care about people and they won’t look at evidence that contradicts their vision of themselves. Conservatives are looking at the actual reforms, the advisers that Obama has surrounded himself with, the past work of these advisers, the funding for rationing panels that has already been approved, President Obama’s own comments on the need for rationing, and they come to the very reasonable conclusion that faceless bureaucrats will be sitting on death panels.

    President Obama calling his opponents liars means that he’s calling people with a different vision of this reform liars. Just because we don’t share his vision doesn’t mean that we’re cynically lying about his position. Were all the people who protested for nuclear disarmament, or against Ballistic Missile Defense, or against the War in Iraq liars because they disagreed with the vision of the Presidents who were in office at the time of the protests?

    You can keep repeating the mantra that Death Panels are lies, but you just isolate yourself as a deaf ideologue who can’t be moved by reason.

    It’s about protecting unborn life only to those who see fetuses as such.

    Well of course. You can’t have dialog with your ideological opponents if you don’t understand their position, all you engage in is shouting talking points at them. If you understand that they view a fetus as a life worthy of protection, then some of their rhetoric and actions will be more easily understood. That doesn’t mean you have to sympathize with their POV, it just means that you understand where they’re coming from.

    ..but where do we draw the line…is it unborn life at conception?

    Good question. I don’t think that you’ll ever reach a wide consensus on this question. So long as people can intelligently articulate why they draw the line at various points of a pregnancy you should be able to understand why they hold their position and why they act in accordance with their beliefs.

    I have no problem whatsoever in understanding why pro-choice supporters believe as they do and why they argue their positions and similarly I have no problem at all in understanding why pro-life people believe what they do. I can honestly argue both positions forcefully. This is why I reject your argument that pro-life people are motivated by wanting to control women’s bodies. I’m quite sure that many pro-life people would be content, after ectogenesis is perfected, in treating pregnant women desiring an abortion, as we currently treat the men who want their unwilling partners to get abortions – if you don’t want to face the consequence of paying child support then don’t have sex. The same standard could be applied to women and women could maintain integrity over their bodies by having the fetus extracted instead of extincted. Presto-chango, women have control over their bodies but, like men, must accept the consequences that arise from sex, and no innocent children (Fetus) are killed in furtherance of another person’s desires.

    Pardon me, religious conservatives want to use government coercion to teach fairy tales about our origins…

    Yes, but religious conservatives do not directly map onto conservatives. Similarly, liberal creationists want to teach fairy tales about race and our schools are filled with such propaganda. I’m not defending ID by saying that one harm justifies the introduction of another, I’m just saying that your example is a poor one.

    Prove it, Fluffer…

    After you. You’re the one who is relaxing the rules and is in the habit of making unsupported accusations. I’m starting to like the phrase, “That sword cuts both ways.”

  50. An Interested Party says:

    You, President Obama and others can certainly believe that the Death Panel metaphor is a lie but you’re only acting on opinion and bias.

    No, it is based on what is actually in the bills out there, and none of them say anything in anyway about government panels denying care to the elderly and/or disabled…actually, it is merely your opinion and bias which is creating this myth…we already have rationing of care, and yet, I don’t see you decrying insurance company death panels…

    This is why I reject your argument that pro-life people are motivated by wanting to control women’s bodies.

    Pro-life people are motivated by their opposition to abortion…but if they were to achieve their objective, they would indeed be controlling women’s bodies…

    Yes, but religious conservatives do not directly map onto conservatives.

    Just because you want to claim no part of religious conservatives doesn’t mean that they aren’t part of the conservative movement…I notice that in the many arguments you have made against teaching liberal “propaganda” in schools, you don’t distinguish particular liberals as being “guilty” of this, rather, it is a “fault” that you lay on liberals in general…

    You’re the one who is relaxing the rules and is in the habit of making unsupported accusations.

    Actually, I am making a snarky prediction about a future event…since Palin hasn’t written any books yet, who knows what the details of that experience will be…the president, on the other hand, has already written books, and there is no proof that anyone else wrote them…

  51. anjin-san says:

    Same sex marriage is the creation of a special right

    Perhaps you can detail how 2 consenting adults who love each other being able to marry constitutes a “special right”…

  52. Jack Bauer says:

    Sam: I consider myself a liberal with a libertarian streak

    Oh really?

    Are you the Bill Maher type of “libertarian” who is actually a libertine socialist who believes in the primacy of big government as a quasi-socialist, womb to tomb, European-like welfare statist?

    That is: the opposite of a “libertarian”.

    Yes, it is odd how many “liberals” don’t know the difference between “libertine” and “libertarian.”

    But then, when you consider the institutionally leftist ignorance factories masquerading as schools and colleges, hardly suprising.

  53. TangoMan says:

    TangoMan: Yes, but religious conservatives do not directly map onto conservatives.

    An Interested Party: Just because you want to claim no part of religious conservatives doesn’t mean that they aren’t part of the conservative movement.

    If I wasn’t clear what I meant by mapping then let me illustrate it for you. Religious conservative is not a synonym for conservative much in the same way that Black Democrat is not a synonym for Democrat.

    When a Black Democrat is extolling the virtues of some policy advocated by the Black Congressional Caucus, that doesn’t mean that that policy is held by every Democrat.

    So, when you argue about conservatives wanting to impose ID in schools, you’re arguing about a subset of conservatives. I’m sure you’d be making the same distinction if I claimed that Democrats want to impose Reparations on the white citizens of the US. The fact that some Black Democrats hold this position doesn’t imply that Democrats also hold the position.

    No, it is based on what is actually in the bills out there, and none of them say anything in anyway about government panels denying care to the elderly and/or disabled.

    And we come full circle. The Constitution says nothing about the right to an abortion and yet the right to an abortion is read into the Constitution. Are all the people who claim that abortion is a Constitutional now rightly considered to be liars because the text of the Constitution doesn’t support that claim? Your threshold, and the President’s, for claiming someone is lying is quite stretched. When the health care bill is referring to rationing of care, when the President is funding a rationing board, when members of the rationing board are talking about judging people by their contribution to society, then that is sufficient evidence for a great many people to come to the conclusion that Death Panels are indeed an accurate way to summarize the process. You evidently disagree. No problem. However, your disagreement is not sufficient reason to dismiss the above evidence in support of death panels and label those who find the evidence compelling to be liars.

    Pro-life people are motivated by their opposition to abortion…but if they were to achieve their objective, they would indeed be controlling women’s bodies…

    Yeah, much like courts control the fruit of men’s labor. A man can’t escape financial responsibility for a child he sires even if he wants that child aborted. He’s trapped against his will. Yes, there are consequences that arise from decisions. Pro-life people want to prevent innocent children from being murdered and the consequence of this is that the women who wish to have an abortion can’t control their reproduction. I’m sure that many in the pro-life movement regret this loss of bodily sovereignty experienced by these women but in their view a life saved is more precious than the 9 month loss of bodily sovereignty. I’m getting the sense that we’re in agreement here. We’re not disagreeing on consequences and we’ve come to common ground on motivation. I don’t see further dispute.

    I notice that in the many arguments you have made against teaching liberal “propaganda” in schools, you don’t distinguish particular liberals as being “guilty” of this, rather, it is a “fault” that you lay on liberals in general…

    Most of my criticisms are directed at broadly held positions. Sam called me on his “libertarian-liberalism” (whatever that is) so if he doesn’t find that the topic of criticism resonates with his ideology then, of course, the criticism doesn’t apply to him. If you think that I’m making too broad of a criticism then call me on the specific criticism. I’m cool with that. I’ll reexamine my point of view if you present a compelling case. For example, I’ll make a broad case that liberals are in support of more economic redistribution. I won’t make the case that card-check is widely supported by liberals. In other words, you’re not seeing in print criticisms on which I hold fire. Card Check is a good example. I don’t believe that it stems from liberal ideology, rather I think it is a policy crafted to favor one interest group. In fact, the whole notion of doing away with secret ballots would, I imagine, offend many liberals. The fact that most remain silent in order to preserve the coalition is troublesome, in that they’re willing to throw principle overboard for partisan gains, but oh well, I suppose that’s the nature of all political coalitions. I’m not too enamored with some of my fellow travelers.

    Perhaps you can detail how 2 consenting adults who love each other being able to marry constitutes a “special right”…

    Most fathers love their adult daughters. That doesn’t mean that they should be permitted to marry.

  54. sam says:

    @Tangoman

    The government needs to get involved in people’s relationships in order to protect them. The government doesn’t give people a choice, rather it imposes its requirements on people’s free associations because these philosopher-kings know what is best for society.

    Part of what I was trying to get at upthread is that this is not solely a liberal proclivity (anti-miscegenation laws was the example I used). But let me ask a more fundamental question that occurred to me. It concerns utilitarianism. By “utilitarianism”, I will understand it in its simplest formulation: The weighing of the welfare of the many against the welfare of the few, with results tending to come down on the side of the many.

    It seems to me that utilitarian concerns are pervasive in a representative democracy such as ours. Indeed, much criticism directed at legislative attempts and outcomes is founded on a claim that said legistation is not utilitarian (even moreso for judicial decisions). Concerns about “special interests” (from left or right) and “special rights” are examples. That is, folks objecting to these outcomes believe that the interests of the few are being advanced against the interests of the many. (I’ll add here that a slippery slope argument is often employed–e.g., gay marriage will lead to incestuous marriage….)

    So, my question is this: Don’t you think that, in the minds of most citizens, utilitarian outcomes are preferred outcomes? (Whether such outcomes are, in fact, utilitarian is not really at issue–it’s what’s believed that’s important.)

  55. floyd says:

    “”Don’t you think that, in the minds of most citizens, utilitarian outcomes are preferred outcomes? (Whether such outcomes are, in fact, utilitarian is not really at issue–it’s what’s believed that’s important.)””
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    NO!

    The PRIMARY purpose of the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights, is to prevent this sort of thing!
    “Utilitarian” concerns, as you have defined them, MUST take a back seat to the concerns of liberty, if they are to be allowed on the bus at all!

  56. sam says:

    ffloyd, I didn’t ask if utilitarian concerns ought to be foremost (which is the question you answered), I asked if they are foremost in the minds etc.

  57. TangoMan says:

    Don’t you think that, in the minds of most citizens, utilitarian outcomes are preferred outcomes?

    Didn’t you read Thomas Franks “What’s the matter with Kansas?” where he expounded at great length about his befuddlement with voters who vote against their interests? It seems that people are content to vote their principles against the utilitarian outcomes which violate their principles.

    The ancillary point that rises from this situation is that liberals, with their heavy focus on utilitarianism, just can’t understand a different viewpoint.

    Look, quite a bit has been written about how conservatives are more adept at understanding the liberal point of view because they so often engage on topics where the ground rules are laid down by liberals but liberals can’t really get into the mindspace of conservatives and thus tend to engage against some form of caricatured conservative, either caricatured in mild or extreme form. Secondly, as researchers like Haidt have explained, the moral universe of liberals isn’t as well rounded as that of conservatives but instead focuses very heavily (more heavily than conservatives) on two metrics and pretty much ignores the remaining metrics. This, I think, helps explain why you see the moral universe as you do.

  58. floyd says:

    “”ffloyd, I didn’t ask if utilitarian concerns ought to be foremost (which is the question you answered), I asked if they are foremost in the minds etc.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    SSam;
    My answer makes your response a difference without a distinction.
    Preferred or not, a free society can not be maintained if utilitarianism, defined as “The weighing of the welfare of the many against the welfare of the few, with results tending to come down on the side of the many.” is allowed to supersede the principles of liberty as established in the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights.
    It is not so much whether the electorate “prefers utilitarian outcomes or not, it is whether they understand that enlightened utilitarianism would come down on the side of liberty and not so much on the above definition which bears an ominous resemblance to the communist manifesto.
    It is after all the rights of the individual that are the foundation of this noble experiment, and it is individual rights that, in the end result in the advancement of the welfare of the many.

    Unfortunately our politicians have lately confounded the understanding of the electorate to the degree that we, as a nation, now confuse rights with privileges and vice-versa.

  59. sam says:

    If people vote against their self-interest, and invoke principle in so doing, it doesn’t follow that they do not also believe that they are doing the greatest good for the greatest number in voting so. Indeed, I suspect that they would say that the principle upon which they base their vote is exactly a principle that, if followed, would maximize happiness, or “make the world a better place” for all. And please do note that I’m not arguing for utilitarianism. I’m only suggesting that it — in some form — is the default position of most people when they consider actions that affect the group.

    Finally, seriously, I don’t think you know how I see the moral universe.

  60. sam says:

    I’m sorry if it was not clear, that last was directed at Tangoman.

    And ffloyd, I don’t think you and I are in disagreement. The authors of the Bill of Rights knew full-well the dangers of majoritarianism. The Bill places constraints on a majority that all too often will invoke a utilitarian argument to restrain the liberty of a minority. In other words, it’s because of the predisposition to utilitarianism that the Bill of Rights is necessary.

  61. anjin-san says:

    the moral universe of liberals isn’t as well rounded as that of conservatives

    Of course it’s not, of course. Just ask Mike Duvall…

  62. floyd says:

    SSam,
    Agreed… Still I hold a serious concern for the type of politician produced by the aforementioned predisposition!

  63. sam says:

    @ffloyd

    Still I hold a serious concern for the type of politician produced by the aforementioned predisposition!

    And well you should. My point is, basically, the predisposition to use utilitarian justification is not confined to politicians of one ideology. (And of course, none of this means that there is no place at all for utilitarian justification. Sometimes utilitarian reasons are the best reasons.)

  64. Toby Wilson says:

    It is absurd to even suggest that “his highness” cannot be called a liar. We are a decadent society. We place things like style and decorum over truth and righteousness. These preening ninnies who decry Joe Wilson should not even be given a microphone, and the notion that a conservative would be against what Joe did sickens me. When style and decorum go out the window in favor a frankness and honest, when spin is stabbed through the heart and forthrightness rises in its stead, when protocol is buried with all the lobbyists so Mr. Smith’s voice can be heard in Washington, then we might have ourselves a decent nation.