On Wednesday, the president’s schedule included calls with two different clergy groups, intended to enlist them to sell ObamaCare to their “flocks.” The first call was with 1,000 rabbis from across the country:
In a morning conference call with about 1000 rabbis from across the nation, Obama asked for aid: “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform,” the president told the group, according to Rabbi Jack Moline, who tweeted his way through the phoner.
“We are God’s partners in matters of life and death,” Obama went on to say, according to Moline’s real-time stream. The president concluded by wishing the rabbis a “Shanah Tovah (Happy Jewish New Year).”
The 15-minute morning briefing was sponsored by the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism, and included rabbis of all persuasions. Although the RAC hosts the call each year, participants had never before heard from a sitting president.
Rabbi Moline must have caught heat from his Twitter comments because later in the day Moline deleted the feed, saying that it was a “huge mistake.”
The second call was to 140,000 clergy of all faiths:
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” he said.
Obama called the notion that his proposed changes to the health care system would lead to so-called death panels “just an extraordinary lie,” said the idea that they would require federal funding for abortions or provide insurance for illegal aliens was not true and told callers the plan would not amount to a government takeover of health care or to cutting Medicare benefits for the elderly.
The president framed the debate as a battle between hope and fear, a not-so-subtle attempt to convince the clergy that he was leading the forces of good against his evil opponents.
“These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation and that is that we look out for one another,” he said. “That I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper and in the wealthiest nation on Earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
The president called on religious leaders to “knock on doors” and “speak the truth” to help him spread the good word about health care reform.
At the end, Obama did not take any questions, and, with a simple “bye bye,” ended the call.
Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, was not happy about the president’s use of God to sell his program:
But now, as his scheme to take over health care unravels by the day, President Obama is attempting to exploit Jesus to justify more big government. As I recall, government was not very kind to Jesus. And Jesus never suggested that government should be a substitute for individual Christian charity. Helping our neighbors and the disadvantaged is an individual charge — not a call for more bureaucracy.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), disputed the president’s claim that the bill did not fund abortions. Johnson charged that Obama:
“brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component of the health care legislation that his congressional allies and staff have crafted.”
The NRLC explained that “as amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30 (the Capps-Waxman Amendment), the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions.”
“Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government-collected premiums. But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies,” Johnson explained.
“The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions — this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government.
These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion,” Johnson said.
The president’s basic religious arguments were a bit disingenuous. He was correct that revising the health care system in America is a moral issue, but the argument is not, as he claims, a disagreement over whether we should reform health care, but how. His opponents simply don’t like Obama’s plan — they certainly are not “evil,” as he implies.
Sarah Palin’s comments about “death panels” were hyperbolic, but they were not “bearing false witness.” While there is nothing in the ObamaCare bills about “death panels,” make no mistake about it, this plan will lead to rationing — it is simple economics.
The president is correct when he says the government would not force a change, but of course economics will encourage your company to force a change. If the government plan doesn’t have to make a profit, and if all other costs are the same, it can charge less. Which way do you think companies will go? If you have a group of competitors, but one has virtually unlimited resources and does not have to make a profit, how long before the competition has no customers?
Eventually you will end up with one insurance company — its name is Uncle Sam. And when your good Uncle Sam wants to save some money, he will start making bureaucratic decisions, rather than medical decisions, about your health. Mom won’t get that treatment to save her life because it is expensive and she has already lived 90 good years. Uncle Sam will tell the pharmaceutical company that they won’t cover their better heart pill — the one in use now is good enough, and heck, it already cures 70 percent of the cases.
How am I so sure? Because there has never been a government-run health plan, anywhere in the world, that did not ration care.
If the president wanted to talk about “bearing false witness,” maybe he should have talked about the false attacks he has made during this the health care debate regarding Fox News, the Republican Party, and of course — the villain du jour — the insurance industry.
Leviticus 19:14 talks about a commandment the Jews call Lifnei iver (before the blind). The verse says:
You shall not curse the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God — I am your Lord.
The Torah is not really talking about blind and deaf people — the verse has been interpreted by the rabbis as a prohibition against misleading people. The recipient of bad advice would be blind in regards to its accuracy, and they would stumble if the advice was damaging or otherwise bad.
The half-truths President Obama told clergy about his health care plan and its opponents are a perfect example of Lifnei iver, putting a stumbling block before the blind.
(If you would like to listen to the entire faith conference call, including the president’s remarks which start at the 30-minute mark, click here.)