“Access to power,” Plato said in The Republic, “must be confined to men who are not in love with it.” I think that’s pretty good advice, and I wish our masters in Washington were a bit better at following it than they are. It is a curious irony that the burning desire for high office is a disqualifying character trait for the beneficent exercise of high office. But we see corroborative evidence of that irony all around us.
More from Plato: “All goes wrong when, starved for lack of anything good in their own lives, men turn to public affairs hoping to snatch from thence the happiness they hunger for. They set about fighting for power, and this internecine conflict ruins them and their country.” Plato could be pretty obscure, but here he speaks with arresting clarity.
I don’t suppose that President Obama has much occasion to ponder the writings of Plato. That’s probably just as well, since Plato’s fantasy about the abolition of private property and the cultivation of a class of Guardians who ruled through a mixture of coercion and dissimulation might give him ideas—not, I think, that he needs any more than he already has. Pop quiz: Plato or Obama? “If anyone is to practice deception, either on the country’s enemies or on its citizens, it must be the Rulers of the commonwealth, acting for its benefit.”
As it happens, that one is Plato. But it takes a sharp man to tell. I think Obama would find a lot to savor in The Republic. What do you think? “If you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.”
That’s what President Obama said, repeatedly (at least 36 times), when selling ObamaCare to a skeptical public. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period”
Turns out, of course, that when he said “period,” he meant “gotcha.” No one yet knows the extent of the damage caused from ObamaCare. One recent report estimates that more than 50 million Americans will be forced out of their current health care plans by ObamaCare. But although we do not yet know the extent of the damage—how many lives will be blighted or lost—because of ObamaCare, we know for a certainty that the legislation was sold to us on false pretenses. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” There was never any chance of that, as numerous critics pointed out at the time. They knew it could never be, and so did Obama.
Does it matter? Does anyone really care whether the president of the United States ostentatiously breaks a promise he made publicly on at least 36 separate occasions? We know what would happen if the president of an insurance company made and then flagrantly broke a promise that his customers could keep their health care coverage if they liked it. He would be prosecuted and jailed.
Making and breaking a promise like that is what the law calls “fraud,” and as Andy McCarthy points out today in “Obama’s Massive Fraud,” the law takes a dim view of fraud because it erodes the trust upon which civilized life depends. “Fraud,” Andy notes,
is a serious federal felony, usually punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment — with every repetition of a fraudulent communication chargeable as a separate crime. In computing sentences, federal sentencing guidelines factor in such considerations as the dollar value of the fraud, the number of victims, and the degree to which the offender’s treachery breaches any special fiduciary duties he owes. Cases of multi-million-dollar corporate frauds — to say nothing of multi-billion-dollar, Bernie Madoff–level scams that nevertheless pale beside Obamacare’s dimensions — often result in terms amounting to decades in the slammer.
Bernie Madoff will be probably cooling his heels as the government’s guest for the duration of his life. And Obama? Nothing but nothing will happen to him. Still, it is interesting (if also depressing) to ask why. Andy McCarthy reminds us that Obama knew at least three years ago that the Affordable Care Act would force millions of people out of their insurance plans. But “the president hid the data”—just as various financial institutions hid data from their investors about the risky mortgage-backed securities they were peddling. The difference is that those financial institutions are being sued by the Justice Department while President Obama . . . well, you know.
Once again, Obama has managed to astonish me. I thought people would be rioting in the streets over this example of what Andy McCarthy rightly calls “massive fraud.” But, no. His popularity has ticked down a bit more. Some of his vulnerable Democrat colleagues are panicking a little as they prepare to face what is certain to be a hostile electorate. But what will happen?
Probably nothing much. Which is too bad. The other day, I went to a launch party for David Horowitz’s new book The Black Book of the American Left. In the course of his remarks, David made a point I have several times made in this space: ObamaCare is only incidentally about health care. At bottom, it is about control—more specifically, it is about the federal government’s control of the lives of its citizens. That, indeed, is why the Internal Revenue Service has been enlisted to enforce the provision of this monstrous piece of legislation. This government agency, which was brought into being to collect taxes, has in intervening decades become an important instrument of governmental coercion. ObamaCare was custom-made for an agency like the modern IRS: meddlesome, bureaucratic, and minatory.
My friend Robert Bork was fond of quoting Justice Scalia’s mournful observation that “day by day, case by case, [the Supreme Court] is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.” People tend to think that revolutions are violent and dramatic occurrences. Sometimes they are. But sometimes they happen almost by stealth, an imposition here, a regulation there, an ancient habit of probity or fair dealing quietly elided to make room for some new understanding of the relation between citizens and the state.
Over the last few years, the president of the United States has lied, publicly and repeatedly, about a matter of grave national importance to millions of people. His dishonesty, like Falstaff’s, is “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.” What will we, the people, do about it? I think Andy McCarthy is right when he suggests that it is “highly unlikely that Barack Obama will ever be impeached.” I am not so sure, however, that he is right that it is certain “that he will never again be trusted.” I wonder about that. Andy ends with the observation that “the American people will not think twice about taking out their frustration and mounting anger on those who collaborate in his schemes.” I’d like to think so. But I wonder about that, too.