Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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George W. Bush – East Coast Liberal? Clintonian?

Steve Hayward has praised George W. Bush for the Lincolnian desire to expand the borders of liberty on the basis of universal principles, namely those of the Declaration of Independence. These principles are self-evidently true for everyone, and therefore, apparently, everyone must be free, whether they want to be or not.

Is this really Lincolnian? Must universal principle be applied universally? I would have thought, rather, that this was Clintonian, the endless domestic campaign and the endless foreign campaign having one common cause. I would have thought that George W. Bush had more important things to do than revolutionize. On the other hand, perhaps Bush’s Christianity is of the sort that believes that unless the world is made universally free and moral, Chirst will not come again. This would be a difference from Clinton, who appeared to be a Christian of convenience. Remember during the Lewinsky scandal the pictures of him leaving church, a bible in one hand, his wife’s hand in the other, two things he had probably not touched for years? But if Hayward is right, as a practical matter, this does not seem to make a difference. Reign of Reason, all hail!

Discussions - 4 Comments

"On the other hand, perhaps Bush’s Christianity is of the sort that believes that unless the world is made universally free and moral, Chirst will not come again."

Whether or not this is Bush’s belief, it is incorrect. So long as Christ is not here, the world is never "universally free and moral," else St. Paul would have made a distinction between the slave and a "free man," which he refused to do. Both are seen equally before God, now, not at some point in the furture.

The Christian is, as the Bible simply says:

"For so the Lord has commanded us, ’I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’ " (Acts 13:47)

That Madison’s "freedom of conscience" plays a central role in a Christian’s ability to practise Christianity, does not preclude the power of the Holy Spirit to work where Madison has never been heard of, nor does it preclude that power working in a human life that is deprived of freedom. On the contrary, this slavery may enhance it via suffering.

While Bush may have noble intentions, as we all might, let us not forget that the central theme of the Bible is not man, but God. And his power, via Christ, to reach a man’s heart. This transcends everything, lest God be less than God.

Making this distinction between universal principle and universal application is, I believe, not as helpful as it might seem prima facie. First, a universal principle insists that it must be believed universally. We are "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Believing this, however, does not mean that we are to go around "forcing people to be free" (Rousseau said something to that effect). It does dictate a certain moral code or set of boundaries. It demands that we view all people as free and equal. This demand is that "there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free..." This is a Biblically based moral code. We ought not treat any group of people as subhuman or unequal. Practice does not demand that we make people free, whether they want to be or not. Application may be different according to circumstances. However, we must allow people to be free to the best of our ability. In our foreign and domestic policies, we may shift to avoid problems in practice, but must have in mind liberty.

Clinton’s idea was to create a national atmosphere in which his power was preeminent. He stood aloof from both parties so as to create a separate power base for himself which was for his own benefit to the robbing of others’ liberty. We saw this earlier with Clinton’s obsessive desire to keep ruling and his seemingly uncontrollable lust to fulfill personal desires. He was not a public servant in any sense of the word. Instead, he used the public’s opinion for his own good in getting reelected and maintaining popularity. A true statesman would "stoop to conquer" as Bush has done. Bush has not gained as much personal credit for his successes as Clinton took for all the successes of his administration. Bush’s rhetoric of principle alienates many, but it’s attraction is in that it has been acted on in foreign policy, not compromised to fulfill short-term popularity goals. It shows a soul of servitude rather than a tyrannical one.

Having stated that making the distinction between a universal principal and its universal application is not helpful, Alan Huntington then makes the distinction and shows why it is importatnt. I suppose this means that we should not necessarily apply our universal principles universally. Why then should we try to spread democracy universally? Trying to do so was, by the way, the foreign policy of Reagan, as well as of George W. Bush and Clinton.

Perhaps my point was lost. We all know that there is are differences between principle and practice. There are also differences between motives for certain types of practice. I am making the argument that "Clintonian" practice was centered around Clinton’s own lust for power. I don’t think we should "try to spread democracy universally," even if we believe it is the best form of government. It’s way too big an attempt. But I admire Bush’s attempts to do both what is in the national interest and in the interest of this principle. This is what I admire about his willingness to "stoop to conquer" and to do what is best for the national interest in a serving mode.

I was not maintaining that all distinctions between principle and practice are not useful or constructive. In answer to your question: "Must universal principle be applied universally?" I say no, but it must be believed universally. Your assertion that it is "Clintonian" ignores motives, and motives are the central things Bush is concerned with. The Christian code affects how we do what we do, but does not force us to do anything. Thus, principle versus practice.

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