President Obama finally makes it back to familiar and frozen Copenhagen, scene of his earlier success in winning the Olympics for Chicago, trying to figure out a way to make zero plus zero amount to something big. His prospects are not good.
He leaves behind a chaotic debate over his health care “reform,” a debate awash in irony, confusion and incredulity. The next stop is farce. ObamaCare, which the president promised would be a simple, thrifty, economical cure-all for the health care system, runs to 2,074 pages that a roomful of Philadelphia lawyers (or worse, Washington lawyers) couldn’t parse. But what everybody does understand is that it will cost $2.5 trillion - that’s a “t,” not a “b” - that vastly expands the government bureaucracy, raises taxes and premiums on private insurance and devastates Medicare, and probably only make things worse. Other than that, it’s a start.
“And here’s the outrageous part,” says Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leader of the Senate Republicans. “At the end of this rush, they want us to vote on a bill that no one outside the majority leader’s office has even seen. The final bill we’ll vote on isn’t even the one we’ve had on the floor. It’s the deal Democrats have been trying to work out in private.”
But the disgust with ObamaCare, in the version nobody seems to have seen, goes beyond harsh partisan assessment. Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and sometime presidential wannabe, says if he had a vote, he would cast it against the “current” health care bill. He doesn’t like it because it doesn’t go far enough in expanding bureaucracy, raising taxes and premiums and devastating Medicare. Not only that, he sounds fed up with the president himself. “Sometimes the country is more important. I’m going to support President Obama when he runs for re-election. Not vigorously.”
The carnival in Copenhagen has already descended into farce. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the global-warming giveaway the blessings of the Obama administration Thursday with a proposal that “the developed nations” - the nations of the West and mostly the United States - contribute $100 billion a year for 10 years to prop up various regimes of the Third World while they learn to do something about their emissions.
Some of the “emissions” are entertaining. Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, took his allotted five minutes before the Copenhagen assembly to give a half-hour lecture on baseball, Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Simon Bolivar, Jesus Christ, the state of the world and the awful evils of the evil United States. He’s not happy with the Copenhagen carnival, either. “It’s not democratic, it is not inclusive. But isn’t that the reality of the world? The world is really an imperial dictatorship. Down with imperial dictatorships! A silent and terrible ghost is in the room, and that ghost is called capitalism.”
Well, ghosts are always silent, at least the ghosts beyond the borders of Venezuela, and ghosts, terrible or not, can’t hurt you. But Mr. Chavez got an amen from Robert Mugabe, who has turned Rhodesia, once a garden in the heart of Africa, into the dump called Zimbabwe. “When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it’s we the lesser mortals who gasp and sink and eventually die.”
The Chavez and Mugabe rants were greeted by the thunder of rapturous applause, but the man from the island republic of Tuvalu, of which few delegates had ever heard, was the crowd favorite. Ian Fry, the Tuvaluan delegate, broke down in a speech begging for “tough action” against the evil nations of the West. “I woke up this morning crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.”
This was enough to flush a cynic’s mockery with hot salty tears, but it’s not clear just which country Mr. Fry is talking about. He’s a Ph.D. candidate at the Australian National University, but what does he have to do with Tuvalu? Asked by reporters whether he had ever lived in Tuvalu, his wife replied: “I’d rather not comment.”
President Obama will have to be up to his game with a speech to follow purple stuff like that. He can win cheers rivaling those of Hugh Chavez and Robert Mugabe with news of how his administration is leapfrogging Congress to impose global-warming restrictions though the Environmental Protection Agency. Copenhagen is weird company for a president of the United States, but Mr. Obama should feel right at home.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.