Ramesh Ponnuru wrote these few lines over at NRO this morning on David Brooks column on the Bush speech I noted below. I bring it to your attention because it is not only wrong but revealing, if not snippy. Why would Ponnuru go out of his way to beat up on Brooks use of the Declaration of Independence to justify the right of self government? It is a reflex of a conservative (that is, a paleo?) who doesnt understand the basis of popular government. That is not to say that Brooks has it exactly right, but it seems to me to be close enough for a column. Here is Ponnuru:
"[I]n David Brookss column today fairly leaps off the page: [Bush] began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens. I see two problems with this formulation: God has manifestly not endowed all human beings with . . . the ability to function as democratic citizens, and the Declaration of Independence says no such thing."
Now look. The Declaration does say such a thing. It is the axiom of all political reasoning and the central idea of our political tradition (Ramesh should glance at Lincoln from time to time) and the thing on which self government, (popular government, even democracy, if you like) constitutional government depends. Men are born equal and free, hence they can only justly rule one another through consent. No man has a right to rule another man the way I rule my dog, for example. Lincoln: "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy...." And that consent shows itself through a constitutional scheme that limits the power of the people even though they have the right to rule. My point here is not to lecture Mr. Ponnuru, but to show my regret that a well thought of conservative could have such a knee-jerk reaction to a perfectly sensible statement by a relatively thoughtful columnist who happens to support both the Presidents actions in Iraq as well as the final reason for that action, the final cause of which--the proper ground of human rights--happens to be the same as that put forth by both Jefferson and Lincoln, and Bush.