The Universal Notebook: Bad news for Boehner, Beck, bishop

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Happily celebrating a daughter’s wedding in a lovely little village up in the White Mountains, I blessedly missed much of the rancorous congressional health-care debate.

I got home Sunday evening just in time to see House Minority Leader John Boehner screaming and spewing “Hell, no you can’t!” all over the airways as Democrats passed the historic reform bill while Republicans slid further into irrationality and irrelevance.

Despite the fact that Obamacare is essentially the same health-care reform package that Senate Republicans proposed in 1993, not a single Republican voted for the bill. In fact, the lone GOP vote for health-care reform in the entire sorry legislative session was cast by our own Sen. Olympia Snowe, who then chickened out and joined her Party of No in opposition to anything and everything.

Obamacare is a major step forward in health-care reform, but it certainly is not the government takeover of the health-care system portrayed by Republicans. Progressives such as myself would have preferred a single-payer universal health-insurance system, or at the very least a public option, but those options were taken off the table.

Republicans could have simply declared victory, pointing out that they had killed the public option and that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance, prohibiting insurers from canceling coverage or denying coverage for pre-existing condition, and establishing state-based exchanges were all Republican ideas in 1993. They could have voted on the right side of history, but instead, in their myopic, self-centered negativism, they opted to become history’s biggest losers. RIP, GOP.

What’s happened to the Republican Party since 1993 is pitiful. It has become the redoubt of right-wingers such as Turd Blossom (a.k.a Karl Rove) and Cheney, screwball Sarah Palin and crazy lady Michelle Bachman, Tea Party rowdies and on-air hate-mongers Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Beck, too, slid further into irrationality last week when he inveighed against churches that work for social justice.

“Here’s my definition of social justice,” Beck said in one of his patented perversions of the truth. “Forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility toward individual property rights, under the guise of charity and/or justice.”

Beck then cited the Rev. John Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio rabble-rouser of the 1930s and the founder of the National Union for Social Justice, as a prime example of religious evildoers using “social justice” as a cover. What Beck failed to recognize, of course, is that, as chief spokesman for the Violent Minority, he is the Father Coughlin of the 21st century.

Finally last week, in a local example of blind dogmatists marching off the cliff of irrationality into the chasm of irrelevance, we had the sad spectacle of Bishop Richard Malone and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland withdrawing financial support from the Preble Street Resource Center’s Homeless Voices for Justice project and demanding its money back. Why? Because the homeless advocacy group had the temerity to support Maine’s marriage equality law. Heresy! Perhaps the homeless, too, should be forced to adhere to Catholic orthodoxy as a precondition of aid.

Bishop Malone alienated many Mainers, including many in his own flock, when he led the charge against same-sex marriage. He has now alienated many more by vindictively penalizing the most committed and effective social service organization in Portland. I will be sending a donation to Preble Street to help offset the loss of revenue. I know many others will do so as well. We all need to atone for the sins of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, as well as those of conservative talk show bullies and the extremists of the Republican Party.

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The Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s personal look at the world around him.