Over the weekend, Harry Reid and John Boehner both allowed their members to slip out of town and seek a reprieve from the most vicious, partisan rancor I’ve seen in my 30 years manning the political barricades.
Like Congress, I used the lull to gather my own thoughts. I decided to slip away to a place of refuge and wisdom that I’ve always enjoyed visiting: Colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg has yet to be swallowed by the government, which has been the fate of so many other historic sites. Obama has succeeded in closing nearby Yorktown and Jamestown, for example. But as I strolled along Duke of Gloucester Street, I was able to forget about the pain Barack Obama is so wickedly dishing out to the helpless. And it helped me to get some perspective after a very intense week.
Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has told agencies to maximize the pain for “average Americans” during the standoff. So they’re shutting down everything they can. In Florida, the federal bureaucrats even tried to shut down the ocean. Didn’t you know the government claims ownership of the fish in the sea? If the government is shut down, then by goodness they’re going to keep you from your favorite fishing spot.
Interestingly, my time of reflection made me fondly remember Bill Clinton, a president I spent eight years writing about in decidedly unflattering terms. Heck, my first bestselling book was Slick Willie: Why America Cannot Trust Bill Clinton.
I thought back to the last government shutdown, when Bill Clinton was meeting with Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich on a near-daily basis to forge a common consensus. Quite a contrast to Obama’s handling of our current situation.
Frankly, I hope that this shutdown serves as a wake-up call to the public to stop nationalizing our parks, vital resources, and laws. State leaders should be jealously guarding what power they still have. The federal beast has grown too big and powerful.
Take healthcare, which is nearly half nationalized now with Medicaid providing for the poor and Medicare providing for the elderly. Obamacare closes the loop and guarantees all Americans equally poor care under the protection of the federal government. That is, unless you’re part of the U.S. Congress and you get an exemption and a subsidy of over 70%. The gap between the governing class and the governed has never been larger. Obamacare only increases the gap.
While in Williamsburg, I was quietly reminded that a disconnect between the governed and the governing class is not new. In colonial America, this same dilemma sparked the violence in Lexington and launched the War for American Independence.
In fact, most of the world still suffers under this two-tiered system. In China, many Communist Party officials live fabulously decadent lives while rural peasants continue to suffer in abject poverty. In Russia, Communism may have collapsed, but Putin and his KGB cronies have been able to replicate their palatial living standards.
In these countries, the words of Thomas Jefferson must cut like a knife: “When governments fear the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” I think Jefferson’s words should once again be on the lips of Americans. These simple words inscribed here in Williamsburg are powerful and true. And while my weekend trip has cleared my vision, I’m saddened to report to you, friends: We too now live in a land of tyranny.
This commentary originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.