Human Exceptionalism

Interview with Nat Hentoff

My pal Nat Hentoff–a self-described “Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, pro lifer”–gave an interview to the Rutherford Institute.  Nat has been around a long time–he was close with the Beat Poets, for example–and as the interviewer states, because he sticks to his principles, Nat steps on everyone’s toes sooner or later.

This Q and A interview gets into things, like the Patriot Act, the economy, the Fourth Amendment, that we don’t deal with here. But I thought I’d present some excerpts of statements relative to our discussions at SHS. First, his opinion of Obamacare.  From the interview:

I try to avoid hyperbole, but I think Obama is possibly the most dangerous and destructive president we have ever had. An example is ObamaCare, which is now embattled in the Senate. If that goes through the way Obama wants, we will have something very much like the British system. If the American people have their health care paid for by the government, depending on their age and their condition, they will be subject to a health commission just like in England which will decide if their lives are worth living much longer.

On the Left becoming a religion:

I am an atheist, although I very much admire and have been influenced by many traditionally religious people. I say this because the Left has taken what passes for their principles as an absolute religion. They don’t think anymore. They just react. When they have somebody like Obama whom they put into office, they believed in the religious sense and, of course, that is a large part of the reason for their silence on these issues.

On the so-called death panels:

That term was used with hyperbole about the parts of the health care bill where doctors are mandated, if people are on Medicare and of a certain age or in serious physical condition, to counsel them on their end-of-life alternatives. I don’t believe that was a death panel. It was done to get the Medicare doctors to not spend too much money on them. The death panel issue arose with Tom Daschle, who was originally going to be the Health Czar. Daschle became enamored with the British system and wrote a book about health care, which influenced President Obama…

Under the British healthcare system, there is a commission that decides whether or not, based on your age and physical condition, the government should continue to pay for your health. That leads to the government not doing it and you gradually or suddenly die. The present Stimulus Bill sets up the equivalent commission in the United States similar to that which is in England. The tipoff was months ago on the ABC network. President Obama was given a full hour to describe and endorse his health plan. A woman in the audience asked Obama about her mother. Her mother was, I believe, 101 years old and was in need of a certain kind of procedure. Her doctor didn’t want to do it because of her age. However, another doctor did and told this woman there is a joy of life in this person. The woman asked President Obama how he would deal with this sort of thing, and Obama said we cannot consider the joy of life in this situation. He said I would advise her to take a pain killer. That is the essence of the President of the United States.

About the media and his optimism for the future:

The media has been very bad about informing us about what is going on. They focus on surface things. They do not focus enough on the fact that the Fourth Amendment is on life support and that we need a return to transparency in government. The media ignores what is really going on.

Agree with Nat or disagree–and I often disagree about issues not dealt with here–he is one of our most venerable and honest public intellectuals. And as icing on the cake, he is also one of the world’s foremost experts on jazz.  You should hear his stories!


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