The most important thing about what anyone says are not the words themselves but the credibility of the person who says them.
The words of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff were apparently quite convincing to many people who were regarded as knowledgeable and sophisticated. If you go by words, you can be led into anything.
No doubt millions of people will be listening to the words of President Barack Obama Wednesday night when he makes a televised address to a joint session of Congress on his medical care plans. But, if they think that the words he says are what matters, they can be led into something much worse than being swindled out of their money.
One plain fact should outweigh all the words of Barack Obama and all the impressive trappings of the setting in which he says them: He tried to rush Congress into passing a massive government takeover of the nation's medical care before the August recess— for a program that would not take effect until 2013!
Whatever President Obama is, he is not stupid. If the urgency to pass the medical care legislation was to deal with a problem immediately, then why postpone the date when the legislation goes into effect for years— more specifically, until the year after the next Presidential election?
If this is such an urgently needed program, why wait for years to put it into effect? And if the public is going to benefit from this, why not let them experience those benefits before the next Presidential election?
If it is not urgent that the legislation goes into effect immediately, then why don't we have time to go through the normal process of holding Congressional hearings on the pros and cons, accompanied by public discussions of its innumerable provisions? What sense does it make to "hurry up and wait" on something that is literally a matter of life and death?
If we do not believe that the President is stupid, then what do we believe? The only reasonable alternative seems to be that he wanted to get this massive government takeover of medical care passed into law before the public understood what was in it.
Moreover, he wanted to get re-elected in 2012 before the public experienced what its actual consequences would be.
Unfortunately, this way of doing things is all too typical of the way this administration has acted on a wide range of issues.
Consider the "stimulus" legislation.
Here the administration was successful in rushing a massive spending bill through Congress in just two days— after which it sat on the President's desk for three days, while he was away on vacation. But, like the medical care legislation, the "stimulus" legislation takes effect slowly.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will be September 2010 before even three-quarters of the money will be spent. Some economists expect that it will not all be spent by the end of 2010.
What was the rush to pass it, then? It was not to get that money out into the economy as fast as possible. It was to get that money— and the power that goes with it— into the hands of the government. Power is what politics is all about.
The worst thing that could happen, from the standpoint of those seeking more government power over the economy, would be for the economy to begin recovering on its own while months were being spent debating the need for a "stimulus" bill. As the President's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said, you can't let a crisis "go to waste" when "it's an opportunity to do things you could not do before."
There are lots of people in the Obama administration who want to do things that have not been done before— and to do them before the public realizes what is happening.
The proliferation of White House "czars" in charge of everything from financial issues to media issues is more of the same circumvention of the public and of the Constitution. Czars don't have to be confirmed by the Senate, the way Cabinet members must be, even though czars may wield more power, so you may never know what these people are like, until it is too late.
What Barack Obama says Wednesday night is not nearly as important as what he has been doing— and how he has been doing it.