Monday, March 29, 2010

The Good Fight

The Attorney General for Washington State, Rob McKenna, has enrolled the state in the lawsuit against the recent health-care overall effort. The state's Democratic establishment is, to somewhat understate things, hopping mad. (It's not shaping up to be a good first quarter for Governor Gregoire. The Attorney General isn't the only other elected official who's not being cooperative.)

Attorney General McKenna was on PBS yesterday, explaining his position. Of course, he was asked if he's against the reforms. This is to be expected, given that he's an elected Republican. In fact, Democratic fund-raising e-mails are thick on the ground, using McKenna's "rebellion" to soliciting funds. Admirably, the Attorney General refused to be baited, and calmly, if emphatically, explained that he felt that the Federal government calling for an individual mandate for citizens to purchase something from a private company on pain of penalty was simply outside of the powers that they had been granted in the Constitution. All in all it was very interesting, and it indirectly undermined a major Republican talking point - during one part of is argument Attorney General McKenna basically said that part of the reason that the individual mandate was unconstitutional was that it wasn't part of a government takeover of the health care system.

This argument makes perfect sense to me, even though I lack the Constitutional scholarship to evaluate its accuracy. But what I applaud the Attorney General for is not allowing himself to be pushed into the idea that a laudable goal should be allowed to trump the law. We all understand that it's possible to do something perfectly reprehensible while adhering to the letter, and possibly even the intent of the law. The flip side of this is that things that may be perfectly just, moral, ethical and necessary may be patently illegal.

The whole point behind the rule of law is that the rules are the important part - even if they become an impediment, there are rules and procedures for changing them other than the whim of rulers, or even the public at large. Our tolerance for bending or breaking the law when we feel that's warranted or required can lead us to some very bad places, all in the name of the greater good. So as much as the slog that was enacting health care got on my nerves (Is it just me, or can Democrats barely lead a horse to water?), if they have to through it again to get it right, so be it.

So fight on, Mister Attorney General. I don't know that I'm in your camp, but I applaud you for standing up for the rules.