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Kennedy's 'Right' Is Wrong

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When Sen. Ted Kennedy, valiantly fighting brain cancer, took the stage at the Democratic convention on Monday night, he made it clear that he is now on a mission that cannot be completed unless he returns to the Senate next year -- with Barack Obama in the White House.


Kennedy's quest is to socialize medicine in America.

"For me, this is a season of hope," he said. "New hope -- and this is the cause of my life -- new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American -- North, South, East, West, young, old -- will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege."

The crowd at the convention gave a standing ovation to this radical proposition that falsely equates a proposed new welfare benefit to a "fundamental right."

The American idea of fundamental rights is that they come from God, not government. Government can protect them or violate them, but it cannot give them or take them away. They are inalienable -- even though their exercise is not invulnerable to malevolent, or merely maladroit, public policy.

The Bill of Rights expressly recognizes some real rights and prescribes, in plain language, government's role in relation to them.

"Congress," it says, for example, "shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."

But even this simple mandate seems to confuse some liberals. They act as if it means Congress can abridge some of the speech of some of the people some of the time, and subsidize some of the speech of other people all of the time. For example, under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, some groups were prohibited from mentioning the name of a candidate for federal office in an advertisement in the weeks before an election.


On the other hand, there have been liberals who have argued that the First Amendment left Congress no choice but to provide tax dollars to art aficionados who wanted to publicly display photographs of bullwhips inserted into odd body parts and crucifixes submerged in urine. So, too, there are members of Congress who annually insist that freedom of speech requires taxpayers to underwrite "counseling" at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Still, no liberal I know of has ever argued that this perceived First Amendment mandate to subsidize some people's freedom of speech must be extended to everyone. Where, for example, are the liberals who argue that the First Amendment requires Congress to subsidize the freedom of speech of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin?

Yet, when Ted Kennedy declared that we must "guarantee that every American -- North, South, East, West, young, old -- will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right" -- an arena full of modern-day Democrats stood up and cheered.

If Americans accept this principle and allow Congress to enact it into law, they will soon find themselves parsing Kennedy's declaration as if it were a sworn statement by Bill Clinton.

The universal right to "decent, quality health care," they will discover, depends on the meaning of "decent" and "quality."


Many liberals, for example, deemed it an act of "decent, quality health care" when a judge ordered the feeding tube yanked from Terri Schiavo. He was respecting her "right" to die -- by ordering her slowly starved and dehydrated to death.

The majority of Oregon voters in 1997 decided that "decent, quality health care" included authorizing doctors to assist sick people in murdering themselves. They called it the "Death With Dignity Act." The U.S. Supreme Court upheld it.

If we claim health care as a "right" from government, we should not be surprised if government, in return, tries to claim our right to life.

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