We learned two things from the second Presidential debate. The first is that Tom Brokaw needs to get over himself.
In turning the town hall format on its head – last time I checked, it was supposed to be geared towards the audience, not the egomaniacal moderator - Brokaw removed any opportunity for some spontaneity that might have forced Barack Obama and John McCain out of their scripted shells.
Acting as the single arbiter of questions and so frequently interjecting as speech-time policeman, Brokaw continually stole the focus from the candidates.
His lowest point was at the close of the debate when McCain and Obama came together to shake hands at center stage. Perturbed that they were blocking his teleprompter script, Brokaw snapped at them to move out of the way. He then concluded with noting the upcoming third debate and, "Thank you, Sen. McCain. Thank you, Sen. Obama. Good night, everyone, from Nashville."
How many decades has Tom Brokaw spent in television and he couldn't ad lib THAT?
But even as Brokaw savaged the town hall format, it was one of his queries that provided our second revealing moment. That is, for anyone who wasn't lulled into a coma by the debate's overwhelming dullness.
Following up to a question on health care, Brokaw asked the candidates, "Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?"
McCain viewed it, not surprisingly, as a responsibility.
Obama's answer? "Well, I think it should be a right for every American."
For someone who claims to be a Constitutional lawyer, Sen. Obama seems to have not examined the first ten amendments to the Constitution – better known as the Bill of Rights – very closely.
In the case of the first nine components of the Bill of Rights, each one is a "negative right"; a restriction on the government.
The government has no right to abridge your speech, to prevent you from peaceably gathering or from bearing arms (despite some Leftists' determination to throw out this one, it's still a part of the Constitution). The government is prohibited from unreasonable search and seizure. Your right to a speedy trial will not be violated. And so on and so forth.
(The tenth and final item in the Bill of Rights leaves anything not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution respectively to the states or to the people. Thus is the reason that Roe v. Wade is an abomination of Constitutional law. But that's another issue for another day.)
So why are these "negative rights"? The answer to that question is made clear in the introductory language of the Declaration of Independence.
In addition to boldly announcing that "all men are created equal," the Declaration goes on to state that such men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." And furthermore, "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Our rights are not gifts from the government. They're derived from our simple existence, are enumerated in the Constitution, and a government "of the people, for the people and by the people" is there to ensure their protection.
In naming health care as a right, Obama heads where Franklin Delano Roosevelt's progressivism (read: socialism) tried to steer this nation – and largely did – decades ago. Roosevelt proposed a "Second Bill of Rights," enumerating "positive rights": the right to a job and living wage, to homeownership, to education, to recreation.
Oh yeah, and to – you guessed it – health care.
So if each American has a guaranteed right to these things that aren't inherently possessed simply by one's ability to inhale and exhale, then someone or something must provide them. Even the most devout of believers would have to confess that it's unlikely any Creator would be doling out jobs, homes and a paycheck any time soon.
So who is left guarantee us our right to health care that Obama is promising?
You guessed it! The government.
Some Republicans snipe that Obama is running for "Jimmy Carter's second term." It might be more accurate to say he's running for FDR's FIFTH term. And that might be even worse.