11/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Health Care Reform May Kill the USA

I'm feeling really strange tonight. I really need to get some sleep, because I'm attending a special health care reform meeting in the morning organized by the new Agenda Project.

But I can't shake the feeling that President Obama and the Democrats' commitment to health care reform may kill the USA. (Accidentally, of course, but kill the USA nonetheless.)

How ironic. Imagine this:

News Flash: In an attempt to prevent the needless death of thousands and thousands of Americans each year, President Obama and his fellow Democrats have accidentally caused the needless death of thousands and thousands of Americans.

This happened when what was once characterized as a "rebellion" by people who said "And I would hope that it would continue, but continue in a civil way" turned into a real, armed rebellion by the relatively small but very well organized Second Revolutionary War division of what it's leaders call the New Republic(an) Party.

This waking nightmare was prompted by House Minority Leader John Boehner's appearance on the PBS NewsHour Thursday night.

When I heard Minority Leader Boehner say "...we are in the middle of a modern-day political rebellion in America." -- and add historical validation to that idea a moment later by saying "It was Thomas Jefferson 220 years ago who said, 'A little rebellion now and then is good for our democracy.'" -- I got scared.

Not worried, but scared.

And I think PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown (who was conducting the interview) was concerned by this language himself (maybe more than concerned), when he followed Rep. Boehner's second use of the world 'rebellion' by saying "Right, but 'rebellion' is a charged word, of course, because the rebellion back then was a serious matter."

A serious matter indeed. In his day, Thomas Jefferson was the lead author of a pretty famous document -- The Declaration of Independence -- that formally justified the American Revolutionary War, in which the original thirteen colonies separated themselves -- by force -- from the rule of King George III of England.

So, why is the House Minority Leader speaking so positively of "rebellion"? Why -- as one might infer from his high position in the House -- isn't he saying:

Any attempts at a modern-day political rebellion in America are wrong. We have something here that a great many Americans have died to preserve. It's called democracy. It's the Law of the Land. And, as a firm believer in the Rule of Law, I want to assure the American people that I'm going to do everything I can to put to rest these feelings of rebellion I'm coming across. We don't need that kind of 'prairie fire" to start burning across America.

Why didn't he say that? I don't know. He didn't.

But here's the entire text of what he did say, the last portion of his PBS NewsHour interview.

'A modern-day political rebellion'

JEFFREY BROWN: Right. But as the leader of your party, as one of the leaders, how do you see your own role or responsibility in, for example, perhaps disassociating yourself from extremes or tamping down some of that rhetoric? What's your role?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think -- you've heard me over the last several months make it clear that we want Americans to involve themselves in this discussion, but it ought to be civil. And, by and large, almost all of it is. Oh, there's going to be someone now and then who's going to get out of control or yell, but we are in the middle of a modern-day political rebellion in America.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Rebellion. I've never seen anything like this. I've been around the country in a number of members' districts, and I've been watching this grassfire grow all year.

And the American people, they're concerned about what their government is doing. They know that these trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, this is not sustainable. And they're concerned that government here in Washington is getting too big, getting too much control, and they're making their opposition to it known. And all of my colleagues have encountered their citizens more engaged than they've ever seen them.

Now, I went to a tea party in West Chester, Ohio, on September 5th, Labor Day weekend, along with some of my colleagues; 18,000 people were there. And there were some Democrats there and some Republicans there. But three-fourths of the people there were people -- average Americans who'd never been engaged in the political process, really didn't know much about it, except that they were concerned about where our country was going.

And so this conversation that's underway is healthy for our democracy. It was Thomas Jefferson 220 years ago who said, "A little rebellion now and then is good for our democracy."

JEFFREY BROWN: Right, but "rebellion" is a charged word, of course, because the rebellion back then was a serious matter.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: It was. But having Americans engaged in this public debate is healthy. And I would hope that it would continue, but continue in a civil way.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right. House Minority Leader John Boehner, thank you very much.


I urge you to watch the entire 11-minute interview. It's pretty chilling to actually see Minority Leader Boehner say these words... so matter of factly, as if there's nothing he can do about it (or, one might surmise, wants to do about it).

To me, this kind of talk -- by someone who is supposed to be one of the adults in Congress -- is much more troubling than Rep. Joe Wilson yelling "You lie!" at President Obama. That could be brushed off as one man's emotions getting the better of him.

But here we have the reasoned and thoughtful remarks -- running for several minutes -- of a major political leader in Congress: someone with, I would think, more respect for the Constitution and the democratic traditions of our country than were demonstrated by these rebellion-friendly remarks.

Now, I'm no Constitutional expert. And it's too late for me to research this tonight. But -- unless one of you who reads the following answers it in a comment -- I'm going to find out if the Oath of Office, in which all members of Congress promise to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, doesn't make it a crime (or, at least, an offense of some sort) to speak positively of a new rebellion taking place in the United States... especially if that person then favorably compares a new rebellion to the rebellion championed by Thomas Jefferson.

Anyone know the answer?

We who believe in democracy -- rather than rebellion -- and who believe that President Obama is actually carrying out the will of the people (the majority of the American people, who elected him) in all the ways the Constitution authorizes him to do so, should not take likely the loose use of rebellion talk by people in responsible positions of authority.

I think there's a word for that kind of talk.

Let me think. No, the word is not treason. (see definition of treason below)

But maybe the word is the one at the end of this great John Wayne quote:

"Life's hard. It's even harder if you're stupid."

Yes, that's the word... for this kind of talk.



From US Legal Definitions:

A person commits the crime of treason if he levies war against his state or country or sides to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Treason is a crime under federal and some state laws. Treason is made a high crime, punishable by death, under federal law by Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Under this article of the Constitution, no person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Treason requires overt acts such as giving sensitive government security secrets to other countries, even if such countries are not enemies. Treason can include spying on behalf of a foreign power or divulging military secrets.