The Audacity of Washington

Posted: Dec 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Audacity and transparency are running rampant in Washington. Elected officials are transparent about their audacity.

President Obama ran on the promise of hope and change. If voters would dare to be hopeful, he would steer the country toward change we could all believe in. The goal was for Washington to end business as usual and for transparency to rule. Obama championed the idea that we were entering an era of post-partisan politics, when the American people's interests would trump those of special interests.

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But here's what we got: Instead of carrying out business as usual, elected officials are audacious, transparent about engaging in deal-making for votes. Instead of entering an era of post-partisan politics, we have entered a time when a lone Republican vote is being championed as bipartisan legislation. Instead of change we can believe in, we are being asked to change what we believe.

Voters don't want the current health care bill. According to the latest Rasmussen tracking poll, 55 percent of voters nationwide are opposed to the health care bill and 41 percent favor it. But Washington is determined to deliver it anyway, in an unseemly manner.

If you examine the underlying belief system of the current administration and Democrats in Congress, that they know better than the average voter, and more government is the answer, no matter the question, it should not be surprising that they are pushing through unwanted legislation. They are simply implementing their beliefs.

The White House is declaring victory. "Health care reform is not a matter of if," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "health care reform now is a matter of when."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in regal red, began the celebratory news conference after the house approved its version of the health care bill on Nov. 7 with the exclamation, "Oh, what a night!"

The final vote for the House Democratic health care bill included 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats voting no, with 219 Democrats and one Republican voting yes.

Pelosi called this a bipartisan victory.

Now that's audacious.

The Senate moved its version of health care reform at 1 a.m. last Monday after securing the 60 votes needed. The last vote acquired was that of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. He accepted a permanent exemption for Nebraskans -- they will not have to pay their share of Medicaid expansion, while the other 49 states will. This means that federal taxpayers will pay Nebraska's portion equaling $100 million over 10 years.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked about the deal, he said: "You'll find a number of states that are treated differently than other states. That's what legislating is all about."

Sen. Olympia Snowe, D-Maine, had a different opinion. "I just think it's so politically egregious and grotesque that we would have these kinds of exemptions embedded in this legislation as a way to secure votes." Snowe voted nay.

Reid tried to explain the deals this way: "I don't know if there's a senator that doesn't have something in this bill. ... That's what this legislation's all about."

Some might call it buying votes or having special interests dominate -- Reid calls it legislating.

Now that's audacity, but at least it's transparent.

With a Democratic president, and Democratic control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, all power resides currently with the Democratic Party. But as we all know, nothing lasts forever.

The party of power had a crack in its foundation on Tuesday, when Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama changed from Democrat to Republican.

"I believe our nation is at a crossroads, and I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy, and drives us further and further into debt," said Griffith.

The retired cancer doctor minced no words about the bill. "I want to make it perfectly clear that this bill is bad for our doctors," he said. "It's bad for our patients."

Now he, too, was audacious and transparent -- but in Alabama, where his voters live.

As for change we can all believe in, America has been about individual responsibility, about people -- not institutions -- helping others, creating value and making a difference. This happens in a country of opportunity, free enterprise and limited government.

Instead of focusing on how to structure markets so people create more, the government is focusing on how to take from one voter and give to another. Instead of being a nation of makers, we are becoming a nation of takers. If we are not careful, we are going to have change, in what we believe.

The audacity of Washington.