Budowsky: Joe Kennedy’s big truth

Budowsky: Joe Kennedy’s big truth
© Greg Nash

During the recent debates about the cruel, unusual and ill-fated attempt by Trump Republicans to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) challenged House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRepublicans won't vote on ObamaCare repeal bill this week Overnight Finance: Dems explore lawsuit against Trump | Full-court press for Trump tax plan | Clock ticks down to spending deadline Senate's No. 2 Republican: Border tax 'probably dead' MORE (R-Wis.) with words so true, noble and powerful that I quote them here.

Ryan had said that Republicans are “doing an act of mercy” by repealing ObamaCare. Kennedy answered Ryan with this: “I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill ‘an act of mercy.’ With all due respect to our Speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture.”

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“The one I read” Kennedy continued, “calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. 

“There is no mercy in a system that makes healthcare a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick and the suffering. 

“There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. This is not an act of mercy. It is an act of malice.”

I suspect that after Kennedy spoke these words, somewhere in heaven, there was a standing ovation from four gentlemen named Jack, Bobby, Martin and Ted; and somewhere near Rome, there was a warm smile from one of the greatest men on Earth, the Holy Father named Francis.

For those who didn’t vote in 2016 and believe it doesn’t matter who is elected, there is an epic battle unfolding in America and throughout the world for the heart, soul and spirit of democracy.

It is a battle between those who wave the Bible but mock the teachings of great religions through their deeds, against those who believe that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own. 

It is a battle between those who wave the flag but believe that those who govern great nations should exploit bigotry and glorify greed against those who champion justice, ask what we can do for our country, and seek to build a rising tide that lifts all boats and not only luxurious yachts.

I will soon write at greater length about why Jack Kennedy remains alive today. 

For now, beginning with the big truths that Joseph Kennedy spoke to answer Ryan, there is no better issue than healthcare to dramatize the clash of values and ideas between the Kennedy Democratic way and the Trump Republican way.

It is incredible, and politically self-destructive, that after the fiasco of the first TrumpCare plan, Republicans are doubling down on policies of cruelty and ideology as the GOP right meets with the GOP far right to brew a new TrumpCare on steroids.

What have mothers done to Republicans to deserve the coming GOP attack against maternity care? What have insurers done for Republicans, and what have seniors, the poor, coal miners, and working men and women done to Republicans to deserve more GOP attacks against Medicaid and programs to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including those purchased by voters who supported Trump in 2016?

What Scripture would Trump and Ryan cite to justify their coming cruel and unusual attack against citizens with pre-existing conditions and those seeking care for mental health?

The reason public approval of Trump has fallen to such low levels is that after he promised to make America great, he delivered a Gilded Age presidency drenched in greed, bathed in vanity and promoted with falsehoods. Soon the words “lock her up” may soon be turned against those who spoke them.

The big truth Kennedy told to Ryan defines why Democrats are Democrats, why Americans are Americans, and why our body politic is rejecting Trump and what he represents.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.