George Will Asks This Week Panel: Can Congress Require Obese People to Sign Up for Weight Watchers?

July 3rd, 2011 3:37 PM

As NewsBusters previously noted, ABC's "This Week" began its Independence Day weekend program disparaging the Founding Fathers as guys who didn't let women vote and allowed slavery.

What followed was a Roundtable discussion about the Constitution which got quite interesting when the host brought up ObamaCare and George Will marvelously asked the group, "Does Congress have the constitutional power to require obese people to sign up for Weight Watchers? If not, why not?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: We touched briefly on health care. The whole debate about President Obama's health care act is being called unconstitutional in some quarters. So is that going to be challenged at the Supreme Court?

GEORGE WILL: 26 states, more or less, (inaudible) 26 are in various courts around the country in a case absolutely certain to be decided by the Supreme Court.

The question is, has the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce been so loosely construed that now Congress can do anything at all, that there is nothing it cannot do.

Let me ask the three of you. Obviously, obesity and its costs affect interstate commerce. Does Congress have the constitutional power to require obese people to sign up for Weight Watchers? If not, why not?

Fabulous question. After all, if the entire premise of the individual mandate is that everyone has to have health insurance for their own good - and that it's not right that some people opt not to and therefore use emergency rooms that end up costing everyone else money - shouldn't it be constitutional to require people to lose weight?

Will clearly stumped the liberal panelists:

RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: Justice Vincent's opinion about Obamacare, saying that the government can't regulate inactivity and that we're stretching the Commerce Clause too far. I mean, I think it's kind of silly. Everything having to do with healthcare does cross state boundaries. Even that notion of the Commerce Clause as regulating among the states is a kind of antiquarian idea. The government can ask you to do things. It asks us to --

WILL: It's not asking us, it's mandating.

STENGEL: It asks us to pay our taxes. It asks us to register for the draft. It asks us to buy car insurance if we want to drive our car around.


WILL: If you choose to buy a car.

Exactly. This is a point it seems everyone on the Left - especially in the media - doesn't seem to understand.

The states that require citizens to purchase auto insurance only require it of those that own cars. They don't require people to purchase cars, though, which means there is no mandate to have auto insurance.

In addition, this is a state requirement not governed by the Commerce Clause because it is not interstate. But Stengel wasn't done making a fool of himself:

STENGEL: If something is unconstitutional, people out there tend to think like some alarm will go off if something is unconstitutional. It's unconstitutional if the Supreme Court decides it's unconstitutional. And by the way, this can go to the Supreme Court, and we can see whether that happens.

Well, that's not necessarily true. It could be constitutional or unconstitutional for the time being as the Court has been known to overturn its previous rulings.

As such, what one group of nine jurists thinks does not necessarily mean they've definitively decided the constitutionality of an issue. But Will wasn't done pressing this one:

WILL: Well, does Congress have the power to mandate that obese people sign up for -- do they have the power to do this?

STENGEL: I don't know the answer to that.

WILL: You don't know.

No, he doesn't know. Yet, like most in the press, he believes Congress has the power to require people to buy health insurance.

Interesting hypocrisy that Will's next victim obviously shares:

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, the beauty of that is, the not knowing -- and we can predict that Rick would say that because he's saying that's the color of the curtain. The basic foundation is set.

WILL: Is that a yes, Congress does have the power to mandate?

DYSON: It's open. If they decide that they will, they will have the power to do so.

"If they decide that they will, they will have the power to do so."

Heaven help us.