Unasked, Unanswered


During the next few weeks we will have the opportunity to subject ourselves to broadcast debates between political candidates. These rituals, every bit as exciting and meaningful as the Academy Awards, provide the candidates the opportunity to disagree as to the best methods to limit, control, and regulate (i.e., "govern"), not to mention plunder and cheat, us.

At the end of the debate, there is usually a period during which those members of the audience still awake can pose questions of the candidates. The really good questions, it seems to me, are never asked, except in my imagination, wherein an exchange takes place between a candidate (C) and a pesky troublemaker (TM).

C: (wrapping up his speech) And so, my friends, the future beckons. What will we do with it? I ask you to join me in my fight for a better America: an American where no child goes hungry or unschooled, no sick person is without medical assistance, no one is homeless, or unable to find work. I see an America where every man and woman can live with dignity, and self-worth!! And it is possible, my friends. Together, you and I can bring it to fruition! All it requires is your vote! Thank you, and God bless you and this great country!!! (Applause, whistling, stomping of feet, waving of banners, as is customary whenever this speech, or variant thereof, has been delivered in the past fifty or sixty years.) Are there any questions?

TM: Sir, if you are elected, you will, upon your inauguration, swear an oath of fealty to the U.S. Constitution, will you not?

C: Yes indeed.

TM: Do you intend to take that oath seriously?

C: (bristling) Of course! Absolutely!

TM: Then you will, as one of your first official acts, introduce legislation to remove legal tender status from Federal Reserve notes?

C: Eh? What?

TM: Well, the Constitution, to which you swore adherence, requires the states to use nothing but gold and silver coin as a legal tender. But it also prohibits them from coining money, while granting that power to Congress. So constitutional, or legal, money can only be gold and silver coin, minted by Congress, correct? How can it be legal to tender anything else?

C: Er, well, this issue was settled long ago with the so-called legal-tender cases. The Supreme Court has settled this issue you raise, I believe.

TM: Does a Supreme Court decision carry more weight than the Constitution?

C: No, of course not, but Supreme Court decisions, as you should know, are considered the Law of the Land!

TM: Where in the Constitution does it say that?

C: I didn’t come here this evening to debate the fine points of constitutional law, sir. In any event, the states are free to use what they choose as a legal tender.

TM: The Constitution, as I’ve just remarked, clearly states otherwise!

C: Are there any other questions? I think we’ve exhausted this subject.

TM: If elected, will you introduce a bill to declare war on Iraq?

C: We’re already at war in Iraq.

TM: But the Constitution, to which you’ll swear allegiance, gives Congress, and only Congress, power to declare war. The fighting in Iraq, therefore, either isn’t a war, or isn’t legitimate. If you won’t move to declare war on Iraq, will you move to remove our troops from that country?

C: That is a decision for our military leaders. I would not presume to overrule them.

TM: So if the generals decided to stop fighting in the Middle East, and bring the troops home, you wouldn’t object? The military is not under civilian control?

C: Well, we’ll worry about that when it happens. (Laughter) Does anyone else have any questions?

TM: Just one more question, sir. Will you move to abolish the various welfare programs now in place, such as Medicare, Social Security, or any of the others? (gasp of horror from the audience, now wide-awake)

C: No! Never! That is unthinkable. Our neediest and most deserving citizens depend on such programs.

TM: But what provision of the Constitution to which you’ll have sworn allegiance provides for such programs?

C: I suggest you refer to that great document, sir. You will find in it the mandate that the U.S. government provide for the general welfare.

TM: Yes, I know about that, but in a democracy, certainly, the general welfare would be the welfare of the majority of the citizens, wouldn’t it?

C: (uneasy) Well, yes, I guess you could say that.

TM: How does the majority benefit by having its funds seized for the benefit of a minority, such as in the Medicare scheme?

C: Well, I admit that Medicare is not perfect, but —

TM: My question doesn’t concern the fact that it’s imperfect, sir, but that it’s blatantly unconstitutional, and you are prepared to swear an oath in support of that Constitution.

C: Well, I-

TM: Moreover, monies will be taken from those who can barely keep their heads above water, financially, so as to provide benefits for those much wealthier. That’s simply unjust. What will you do about it? And why, in the richest country on earth, are people who’ve worked for a lifetime unable to pay their own medical bills?

C: Sir, it seems to me that you have been attacking the very bedrock of our government! (murmur of approval from the audience) At a time when America is under attack you should be supporting this great country, not trying to tear it down! (Scattered applause) What you are doing is giving encouragement to those very forces trying to destroy this great republic!! (Audience roars assent, several move toward TM threateningly)

TM: But I —

C: You, sir, are a domestic terrorist! Will the ushers kindly remove this gentleman?

The unfortunate TroubleMaker was never seen again. There are rumors that he is languishing in a semi-tropical climate, and learning Spanish.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.