Title: Article Two, Section Two
Summary: The Powers of the President
Disclaim: Clever TV people own the West Wing, not me. It should be fairly obvious that the sections quoted from the US constitution are not mine either.
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Twenty percent of Americans have no health insurance. That's fifty million people in the richest country in the world who can't go and see a doctor when they feel sick. That's fifty million people who put it off and put it off because they don't have the money until finally when they get examined it turns out that it's too late to catch the tumor or the heart condition or the virus. Fifty million people left to decay. And these aren't the poorest people, who get Medicare and Medicaid, these are the people just above the poorest people, who could otherwise be considered fortunate.
Fifty million people is the population of a medium-sized country. It's enough people to form their own government, declaring that the chosen few who lead them are not leaders, but despots, who ignore the sufferings of their own people for the benefit of themselves. Who say "We're gonna tax you, but you can't have anything to show for it."
Fifty million people whose constitution promises them life and liberty (but not happiness, unless you've been reading a different edition from the one I have). How about a life that you can hold onto, because you can get a maintenance check every six months? How about being fit enough to pursue liberty no matter how far and how fast you have to run?
Trouble is, I don't really know how to make that happen. I can't for the life of me figure out how to make everything better.
And so I sit here reading about how twenty percent of Americans don't have health insurance, and I know that if anyone can make it better then certainly I should be able to. I know that if I could just think of something to do - something certain and watertight that wasn't going to get shot down in Congress because a 't' wasn't crossed in the right place, or because someone's aunt didn't turn up once at someone else's funeral twenty years ago.
I can see why people become dicatators.
I've never really been able to believe that the only thing driving despots and political desperados is the lust for power. I've always thought that there has to be something more to it than that. I think they start off setting out to do what they consider to be good, and then other people get in the way and they feel that they have to get rid of those people and do it all themselves. It's that thing people say about wanting a job done properly.
Now I don't mean that the only way to go forward is to go back to absolute personal rule, I'm just saying that sometimes, in the middle of the night when you can't sleep because you know you're going to get your ass kicked by the House of Representatives the next day, it's tempting to think that there are other ways to do things.
Maybe if you only got one chance at being President. If you didn't have to worry about re-election. If you could just relax and do what you thought was right instead of having to worry about offending lobby groups or what your staff got up to with themselves and each other when you were looking the other way. (Oh, don't think I don't know about that. I'm old but I'm canny.) If you never had to waste your time on worrying, and you could just get on with concentrating on getting things done.
That would be nice.
Did you know that Margaret Thatcher ruled her country for thirteen years - thirteen years, that's three presedential terms and some change - before she got kicked out of office by her own party? Mind you, she had a majority in both houses and the power to declare war on people without stopping to check with the legislature first that that was OK. And she had handbags. Never underestimate handbags, they're what make women so powerful. Gives a bit of mystery. She's outside the Houses of Parliament explaining to the press why she's just made thousands of people unemployed and half the people watching are wondering what she's got in the handbag. But I can't have one of those, so we'll have to think of something else. We should think of something.
Of course, in theory, any natural born citizen of this country, having attained to the age of thirty-five, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States can be President someday. Imagine that. Anyone.
But then we know that that isn't exactly true, and that there's more to making it to the top than a quick mind and a work ethic. We know that most people will never come close, because they don't have access to the kinds of opportunities that you and I had.
Which is why, I think, we have to do it for them. Why we have to think most often of those least able to talk to us, to tell us what they think we should do. And if fifty million Americans don't have health insurance then I think that they deserve our attention more than a sixty-year old Congressman with shares in private healthcare does.
Which is why I wish that we were free to do that. It's why I look at myself in the mirror some mornings and wish that I could just have a year, or a month, or a week or even a day to do what I needed to do and not have to worry about whether or not other people wanted me to do that. And it's a heresy, I know, and it's what people long ago fought to avoid - did you know, by the way, that only forty percent of Americans actively supported the Americans in the American Revolutionary War? I found that out yesterday and it scared the heck out of me - where was I? I know that it's wrong to think these things and still I can't help it. Maybe I should be put away someplace secure for everybody's sake.
But, well, I have to stay here and I have to try and get some good done.
Because what would be the point otherwise, huh? I can't give up, because I'm needed, and if the people out there need me of all people then there's something wrong out there that needs to be fixed. And maybe I'm the one to fix it.
Well, I can try. Trying's a good start, it can take you places. Try hard enough and someday there's no more slavery, and women can participate in politics, and a black man can walk into a restaurant and order breakfast and nobody bats an eyelid.
I can try.
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