Paul Greenberg

It's the way every new Congress begins -- with pomp amid familiar circumstances. Once again, the Outs have become the Ins, and the opposition now becomes the majority, at least in the People's House.

Change places, allemande right, do-si-do and off we go. Or maybe just march in place to much ado. If this change proves only ceremonial, the other party may soon enough get to call the next dance.

Or as John Boehner, the incoming speaker of the House, put in his first and very direct remarks to his colleagues, now augmented by 87 new Republican members:

"The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel."

The new Speaker's fellow Republicans in the ever-changing House would do well to remember their leader's words. The other party forgot caution and, intoxicated by its sweeping victories at the polls over the past few years, must have thought the Millennium had arrived. It learned better last November.

After the congressional elections of 2006 and the coming of the messiah with the presidential landslide of 2008, Democrats may have believed all that guff about a Permanent Democratic Majority -- much as giddy Republicans believed Karl Rove had ushered in a permanent GOP majority a few years earlier. It turned to be just a fleeting moment in the ever-revolving fortunes of American politics.

The taste of victory can be so intoxicating it leads straight to defeat. The Greeks had a word for it: hubris. And it's as present in every new Congress as it was when Alcibiades played pied piper to Athenian democracy. All of which may explain why Nancy Pelosi is now the former majority leader of the House. (Oh, is there a sweeter phrase in the American political lexicon than Former Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi?)

It's so sad it's almost funny, but mainly it's cautionary to re-read all those assurances Democrats were handing out as ObamaCare was whisked through the last Congress in what amounted to a plain brown wrapper. With her usual foresight, the once and let's hope only once speaker of the House, the ever confident, ever obtuse Ms. Pelosi told doubters to relax, that the American people would love this bill once we found out what was in it.

But the more Americans find out about ObamaCare, the less we seem to like it. By now even the administration is backing away from it, or at least from the stealth regulation about end-of-life/death consultations that one of its bureaucrats tried to put over ever so quietly.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.