The president’s latest radio address is a classic example of Obamaspeak.
We’ve grown used to the drill.
First, some empty words about how he’s going to help the economy and the middle class. Then sanguine projections about what his program (in this case, Obamacare) will do for people to make things peachy-keen. Then the attack on the mean Republicans who are out to starve and murder widows and orphans or something like that, just out of the nastiness of their rotten hearts—oh, and out of their petty personal animosity for the august person of none other than Barack Obama himself:
A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me. But they’d just be sticking it to you.
Note the lofty nature of the rhetoric.
But the capstone of this particular speech was the following:
So I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure [Obamacare] works as it’s supposed to. Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn’t a privilege – it is your right. And we’re going to keep it that way.
Much commentary from conservatives focuses on the fact that Obama is positing a right where none exists. For example, PJ’s Rick Moran observes that “a president who decrees rights that are not stated or implied in the Constitution is treading on dangerous ground.”
Of course; such dangerous ground is the territory Obama staked out quite some time ago.
And as a lawyer who once taught constitutional law, Obama knows the difference between a right and a privilege in the constitutional sense, and so his statement cannot be explained away as the result of ignorance. It must be a conscious effort to play upon the fact that he’s pretty sure that a majority of the American people these days do not know the difference and/or do not care about the difference because they want health insurance to be a right, and that the press is likewise either ignorant or complicit with him in keeping the truth about the difference between rights and privileges from being told.
Obama has repeatedly left the word “Creator” out of a recitation of the famous line about endowed rights from the Declaration of Independence, misquoting it as, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
One can only conclude that this is no inadvertent omission, but a signal that Obama views rights as fluid things, subject to politics.
That approach is indeed dangerous territory for true “rights” which are not currently in political favor. Just ask the Catholic church.
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]