When he began his still-brilliant show a few years ago, Stephen Colbert said, "Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." And there's nobody who feels the news quite like Peggy Noonan, America's most unintentionally hilarious columnist. Pretty much every time she writes a column or goes on television, Noonan can be counted on to tell us about a feeling out there in the land. It's seldom a powerful feeling; instead, it's more often a stirring, an inchoate emotion still in the process of crystallizing. It might be a yearning, or an unease, or a doubt or a fear, but it lingers just out of our perception until Peggy Noonan comes along and perceives it for us.
Did you think the impact of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling was that millions of uninsured Americans will now be able to get health insurance, and after 2014 none of us will ever need to fear the words "pre-existing condition" again? Nay, good-hearted Americans:
The ruling strikes me as very bad for the atmosphere of freedom in our country, the sense of freeness and lazy, sloppy liberty we've long maintained with some hiccups along the way. Those hiccups seem to come more and more now, and closer and closer together. From the dissent of Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito: "If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power or, in Hamilton's words, 'the hideous monster whose devouring jaws . . . spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.' " They were quoting Federalist No. 33. The language is dramatic, but the thought applies.
Do you feel that change in atmosphere? Can you feel the diminution of that sense of freeness and lazy, sloppy liberty? If you can't, that's probably because your antennae aren't tuned in to the national mood the way Peggy Noonan's are. And after offering the striking insight that "For the first time in months, the president looks like he's on the Uppalator, not the Downalator," Noonan steps almost by accident into some substance, quoting the statement Obama made after the decision:
He stressed what he said were the program's benefits. Those already insured will find their coverage "more secure and more affordable," insurance companies will provide "free preventive care like checkups and mammograms," "seniors" and "young adults" will receive benefits, those with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage. Also, the insurance companies "won't be able to charge you more just because you're a woman."
It was a targeted base-greaser.
Indeed, because who but a silly liberal hippie could care about things like people with pre-existing conditions no longer being denied coverage, or preventive care, or the elimination of the prescription drug "donut hole," or ending sex discrimination in insurance premiums? Stupid hippies.
You may have noticed that almost without exception, everyone who believes that the mandate to carry health insurance constitutes socialist tyranny already has insurance. Of course, if you think that you won't ever have to worry about things like getting tossed off your coverage, then that frees you up to consider just how sloppy our liberty is. And Peggy Noonan will tell you exactly what you're feeling, even if you don't quite feel it yet.