The Radical Right’s New Rules

Oh my! It’s time to change the rules, starting with those laid down in our high school civics books. They were in that chapter titled “How a Bill Becomes a Law.”

Remember them?

Sure you do. We all do, because that chapter was repeated in every government text we read from K to B.A., in every handout we received on class tours of the state Capitol, in every outer office homily delivered by every legislator compelled to meet visiting civics classes.

They’re easy to recite: A legislator introduces a bill, it passes both houses of the Legislature, then it goes to the president or the governor’s desk. He or she signs. Voila! It’s the law.

Ah, but you were a good student. You remember that other chapter titled “The Judiciary Branch.” That law you’ve been violating can be challenged in court – all the way up to the United State Supreme Court, where, if the august Supremes decide it’s constitutional, the law remains the law of the land.

President Barack Obama followed the rules. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, passed both houses of Congress. He signed it, and the ACA became the law of the land.

Opponents, of course, challenged it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where it was pronounced constitutional.

End of story. Right? Of course not. Those civics texts need to be revised because a band of right-wing radical Republicans has changed the rules. They don’t approve of the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, many of them won their congressional seats back in 2010 by blistering the ACA as a tyrannical governmental intrusion in the lives of liberty-loving Americans.

So despite its having won congressional approval, despite the signature of the president, despite the Supreme Court’s imprimatur and despite the re-election of the president who proposed it, these radicals assert their right to close down the United States government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.

And if early reporting on the shutdown is any indication, these radicals intend to keep the United States government shuttered right into the debate over raising the debt ceiling. If they don’t raise it, the United States will default on its obligations. The strongest, richest, greatest country in the world will play penniless, drunken sluggard passed out in a global gutter.

Allow me to offer another suggestion – not to shut down anything, but rather to slow down things.

A couple of columns ago, I lambasted the president for threatening to launch a military strike on Syria. Yet, within days, the threatened military strike on Syria turned into an admission from Assad that he possessed poison gas, and an international, peaceful effort to remove and destroy it began. President Obama’s tortured speech morphed into just one more step on the road to making Assad’s use of sarin gas old news.

More recently, some of my fellows excoriated Tourism Authority honcho Mike McCartney for draping a mural at the Hawaii Convention Center. McCartney had deferred to protests by a Hawaiian activist to the depiction of iwi in the painting.

I hadn’t gotten around to writing about it, but I agreed with McCartney’s critics. Censorship injures the health of both artists and writers.

Yet within days, the drape came down, the Hawaiian activist mollified, the artist’s freedom respected. McCartney had done his job.

Sometimes, we in the scribblin’ trades just have to breathe deeply and wait a column or two.