Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Family

The Real Inequality Problem

It's not income inequality. James Q. Wilson clarifies in today's WaPo: "Reducing poverty, rather than inequality, is also a difficult task, but at least the end is clearer." Obama's policies will perpetuate poverty and possibly even increase inequality.
Categories > The Family


"Embarassment" of Debates (update)

The current Republican exchanges? Besides those, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, according to the popularizing Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. He responded to Newt Gingrich's call for Lincoln-Douglas debates against Obama. Holzer, however, reassures us that "Rather than inspiring memorable words, they proved for the most part an embarrassment." In fact, in his view, they show Lincoln's racial bigotry: 

"I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races," he declared in Charleston, Ill., to robust cheers, "nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them to marry with white people." It was not the future emancipator's finest hour.

This is mediocre historian shallowness, which ignores what Lincoln might do in the future--shown clearly by the Emancipation Proclamation, his allowing blacks to fight in the Union army, and his early policies for reintegrating the South. Lincoln had no reason to speak of such civil and political equality, when most blacks were slaves. This superficiality breeds ignorant Lincoln haters and other cyncial leftists who despise their country. Though Holzer describes well the excitement of the debates, he, like most historians, simply doesn't see the principles involved. Ultimately, he does not understand the subjects as they understood themselves.

Read Harry Jaffa, author of the best book on political science since The Federalist. Crisis of the House Divided is also available via google books.  Ashbrook has a pdf as well, but I can't find it. In the meantime here are some short essays by real Lincoln scholars.


Our friend Jack Pitney is skeptical of Newt's debating skills.


Categories > Presidency


I Wouldn't Put It Past Him

With all this talk of unfair tax rates, might President Obama propose a flat tax? Of course his version would be loaded with exemptions and cut-outs for his base, but it will force Republican cooperation and, incidentally, likely win him reelection.
Categories > Presidency


Your Tax Dollars at Work

Former Democratic MC Jane Harman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center, appraises the SOTU. She knows which side her bread is buttered on.

Broken link now fixed, h/t JL.

Categories > Progressivism


Self-Destructive GOP

I'm not talking about Newt and Mitt, but about the "class warfare" complaint hurled against Obama. This attack in fact affirms Obama's point--that there are classes, two (or three) Americas, as it were. Such rhetoric reflects the victory of the Progressive mentality, which was to reject the individual rights and limited government language of the American Founding, in favor of talk about the progress of history and a ruling class of civil servants--nonpartisan, scientific administrators. That is the real "class warfare" that needs to be fought, but Republicans flunked American history. In fact Progressivism got its political start under the popular president TR.

Theodore Roosevelt supplied the rhetoric for this swindle, Woodrow Wilson (and Calhoun) the political science, and now Obama a potential coup de grace. The liberal version of Mt. Rushmore--what might this be? we need a Howard Roark for this purpose--would feature Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Obama.


Categories > Presidency

Reviewing the SOTU

I can't bear to reread it right now, so I'll let Wheat&Weeds whack it. Buffett's secretary? Caligula's horse.

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

From Spengler:

"Egypt's crisis was the easiest market call since Moses warned Pharaoh about the frogs."

Categories > Quote of the Day


The Postmodern Media

For the Postmodern Presidency. Headline on the first page of today's Wall Street Journal: "Obama Makes Populist Pitch."  The news is his strategy, not what he said.
Categories > Journalism

Health Care

Bureaucratic Efficiency

In Liberty Fund's new blog Michael Greve points out how powerful and efficient bureaucracies can be when they have determined leaders. The issue here is HHS rules requiring religious organizations to provide contraception coverage in their employee health plans. In sum:

Follow the progression: first comes a statutory text of sufficient ambiguity ["Obamacare"] to keep the Catholic Health Association, representing Catholic hospitals, on board in support of the ACA. (Now that it's been had, one hopes the association has learned its lesson.) Then comes an administrative creep forward and a de facto delegation to a private organization of known disposition, whose perceived authority and expertise provide cover for the bureaucracy. Then comes the wholesale, underhanded adoption of the interim rule.

Categories > Health Care


Roe v. Wade and Equal Opportunity

Obama on Roe:  "And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams." So does he oppose sex-selection abortions? 

The entire statement below:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman's health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Categories > Bioethics


Squirrel Appreciation Day

...was Saturday. I'm mortified to have missed the event and hereby make amends for my unconscionable oversight. However, I believe that I've aptly expressed my appreciation for the little critters over the years. Here's a snapshot of the flower pot outside our house in Georgia on a typical day last summer.

Flower Pot.jpg

The invasion quickly escalated into a full Occupy Casa Paulette Movement, as evidenced from this view of our back yard.


Of course, we may have been partly to blame for encouraging them.

Nut House.jpg 

My realtor, a savvy local conservative, saw what we were encouraging in the back yard and warned us that Georgia squirrels are Democrats. They'd soon feel entitled to the food, housing and quality of life to which they'd become accustomed and expect us to continue paying for their leisure long after we'd moved away.

The difference between squirrels and Democrats, of course, is that squirrels are really cute.

Categories > Leisure

Foreign Affairs

Chinese New Year

Since we're observing the Lunar New Year, the situation in China merits a few remarks. Gary Locke is a bit of a rock star in China. Not only is he the first U.S. Ambassador to China of Chinese ancestry, but his non-rock-star persona strikes a chord with the Chinese people.

Locke's popularity here among ordinary Chinese ... has as much to do with his unassuming nature -- his ordinariness -- as his Chinese looks and background. Even before he arrived, Locke was photographed with his daughter at the Seattle airport, sporting a backpack and trying to pay for his coffee with a coupon.

Since then, Locke "sightings" have included the ambassador flying in economy class, buying ice cream with his daughter in the Sanlitun neighborhood of Beijing, and waiting in line with his family alongside tourists for a seat on a cable car descending from the Great Wall.

The reason for the fascination, many here posit, is that when Chinese look at this backpack-toting American envoy with a Chinese face, they see everything their own leaders are not -- leaving authorities struggling for how best to respond to his increasingly evident popularity

"Struggling" Chinese authorities are unlikely to be further enamored with Locke for his most recent statements describing China's political structure as "very, very delicate." While Locke notes that "calls earlier this year for a Jasmine Revolution" ultimately came to nothing, the people are increasingly willign to demonstrate and oppose the government - and a "significant, internal" event could have the power to spark an upheaval.

Locke said that since he took over the ambassadorship from former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, he has become aware of public demonstrations large and small throughout China that ordinary people were using to pressure the government to address their grievances. He singled out a recent protest in the southern Chinese city of Wukan over the confiscation of land without reasonable compensation.

"[The people] basically prevented anybody from the outside from coming in and brought the city to a halt and forced the Chinese government communist leaders to send people to address their grievances," Locke said.

Of course, this growing unrest has been accompanied by a steep decline in China's commitments to human rights and the rule of law. Hope and courage - the promises for 2012, the Year of the Dragon - may be absolutely necessary for the Chinese in the months to ahead.

P.S. All of the above may seem more relevant in light of Peter Kiernan new book, "Becoming China's Bitch." Kiernan was recently interviewed by Foreign Policy - the intro is below.

The year 2012 will see a stream of new books in the patented Thomas Friedman "Oh My God the Chinese Are Eating Our Lunch with Environmentally Friendly Chopsticks" mold. Some will be more worthwhile than others. One book in particular, however, is sure to stand out, if only for the title: "Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now." 

The author, Peter D. Kiernan, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, explains in the introduction that "it's not a book about China exactly. It's about how America got diverted and lost momentum, and a dragon leapt into the breach. It's also about getting our mojo back."

Perhaps a must read for 2012.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Lunar New Year

Korean Lunar New Year.jpg

Korea is celebrating Seollal, the Lunar New Year, today. It is a very traditional holiday marked by a mass migration out of the cities toward ancient homelands in the surrounding rural hills. The Koreans pay homage to their ancestors and spend the day with their elders. Some still wear traditional garb and the country is practically swimming in a traditional rice cake soup called Tteokguk. They are a wonderfully traditional people.

Also, according to my Korean friends - and to the dismay of many local Western females - today is our lunar birthday and we have all turned one year older. Luckily, westerners are not required to age again on our biological birthdays! (Korean age reckoning is interesting, by and by. They count conception as the beginning of life - newborns are thus considered to be one year old.)

2012 is the Year of the Dragon and hence promises hope and courage. (Fortune and superstition are also important to Koreans.) So, in the customary manner, I say: saehae bok mani badeuseyo - Receive many New Year blessings.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Rethinking an Old Issue

The science columnist for the Wall Street Journal writes about sex-selection abortion and how it might be curbed. The case against this practice leads one to question the morality of abortion altogether.

Another approach, quite suitable to young adults, is presented in the Newbery award-winning novel The Giver. In the dystopian world young Jonas inhabits, he discovers that his father, a doctor, kills those deemed unfit. Progressive Montgomery County, MD assigns this as an eighth-grade text (along with other dystopian fiction such as Animal Farm and Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron.")

Categories > Bioethics

Men and Women

"Women and children first"

It doesn't make sense to berate the captain of the Costa Concodria to be one of the first on the beach in an egalitarian age that decries the notion of hierarchy, difference, and duty. Taking off from Mark Steyn,  The Sage of Mt. Airy emphasizes that point, taking off on "women and children first:"

What [Steyn] leaves out is that it's become instead, and sadly so, an increasingly accurate descriptive phrase that captures perfectly a class of people who do go first, whether they should or not. (If, that is, it's even possible to use words like should or ought in a properly multicultural society.) "Women and children" is now descriptive of, well, descriptive of almost everyone, male and female, young and old, able and infirm, etc.. We're all equal after all and that's exactly as it should be. (Here's one place where should is not only allowed, but demanded.)

Steyn on the origins of "women and children first:"

In fact, "women and children first" can be dated very precisely. On Feb. 26, 1852, HMS Birkenhead was wrecked off the coast of Cape Town while transporting British troops to South Africa. There were, as on the Titanic, insufficient lifeboats. The women and children were escorted to the ship's cutter. The men mustered on deck. They were ordered not to dive in the water lest they risk endangering the ladies and their young charges by swamping the boats. So they stood stiffly at their posts as the ship disappeared beneath the waves. As Kipling wrote:

We're most of us liars, we're 'arf of us thieves, an' the rest of us rank as can be, But once in a while we can finish in style (which I 'ope it won't 'appen to me).

Categories > Men and Women


Etta James

Etta James has died.  She was 73 years old.  She once said: "A lot of people think the blues is depressing, but that's not the blues I'm singing.  When I'm singing the blues, I'm singing life.  people that can't stand to listen to the blues, they've got to be phonies."  Her best song was At Last.  RIP.
Categories > Leisure

Foreign Affairs

Churchill Center in DC

A National Churchill Library and Center will open at George Washington University, beginning in 2013. They'd better have that bust that Obama returned. It claims to be the first American research center devoted to Sir Winston (ignoring claims The Claremont Institute might care to make)..
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Pipeline Politics

Of course it should be built, but I disagree with Republicans who think the politics of this are bad for the President--e.g., our friends at Powerline. Obama's premise is that he has either lost the economy/jobs issue, or it can be at least neutralized by improving unemployment numbers. In any case, he absolutely must have the enviros with him. Once again Obama shows he is much more clever at politics than his decent but often impulsive opponents.

Update: Joel Kotkin's two economies (regulatory NIMBY and dirty manufacturing) analysis supports my point.

Categories > Politics


The 84%

of those polled disapprove of Congress, according to a recent poll. But surely some poll has broken down the stats in following ways:  Do you disapprove of Congress because it is too Republican, too Democrat, blocking Obama, ignoring the deficit, etc. Those numbers should be added to the total who approve of Congress, perhaps considerably improving the figures.  (Occasionally there are polls showing disapproval of the Tea Party, etc.) Those results would be more important for the congressional elections, though of course reapportionment slashes the effects of general disapproval. Has anyone drilled down to get these numbers?

Has anyone polled Congress on the approval/disapproval numbers they give to themselves? Bet it's not far from the public figures.

Categories > Congress

Political Philosophy

Law and Liberty

Let me bring to your attention Liberty Fund's latest effort on behalf of the good cause: The Library of Law and LibertyThis impressive site's focus is on the content, status, and development of law in republican and limited government and the ways that liberty and law and law and liberty mutually reinforce the other. This site brings together serious debate, commentary, essays, book reviews, interviews, and educational material in a commitment to the first principles of law in a free society. Law and Liberty considers a range of foundational and contemporary legal issues, legal and political philosophy, and pedagogy.  There is much here, including a blog, Liberty Law Blog with Michael Greve and Michael Rappaport, et al.  Also note the Liberty Forum
which is a platform for debate, and you will note that some thoughtful folks are already involved in a good conversation--Hamburger, Stoner, Watson--and more will follow.  This is altogether good stuff and there is more. Do check it out.

Foreign Affairs

George Kennan Faces the Music

One of the most insightful books I read as a student is George Kennan's Memoirs. Now we have quite possibly the definitive biography.  Jim Piereson reviews John Lewis Gaddis. His thoughtful conclusion: Kennan was "an independent thinker of the first order who, at a critical moment in history, saw something clearly that others saw but through a haze, and by an act of singular intellectual courage earned absolution for any misjudgments he may have subsequently committed."

I prefer the late Bill Rood's harsher formulation, in "The Naivete of George Kennan".  His last two paragraphs:

George Kennan's apparent intention in writing his book, The Fateful Alliance, is to demonstrate through historical reference the necessity to avoid conflict. One's judgment of the book should turn less, then, on its value as history, than upon George Kennan's value as a guide through the intricacies of international politics.

If you read The Fateful Alliance, think of the Czech Jew going out "to face the music," of Comrade Litvinov forced by the circumstances of his birth to be foreign minister of the Soviet Union instead of a librarian, and judge whether Professor Kennan is a suitable guide to the cataclysmic struggle that is in progress around the world, the "struggle between two world systems." It seems George Kennan would urge us to be tolerant of those who lead the Soviet Union while they make the best of the circumstances into which they were born; and we in our turn may have the opportunity to go out and face the music.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Preemptive Politics

Good advice from Paul Rahe:

The Republicans should start right now -- pitching their campaign against "the do-nothing Democratic Senate." If they do so -- in, say, cheap radio advertisements all over the country -- it will throw a very large monkey wrench into the Democratic plan, and it will lay the foundation for their taking a large number of seats in the Senate.

Categories > Elections


William F. Buckley on Dr. King (Update)

We honor King when we try to apply his example to our times. William F. Buckley on Martin Luther King:

We read the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate while tending to ignore the essence of his beliefs, acclaimed by him (as by Abraham Lincoln) as the ground of his idealism.  A bizarre paradox in the new secular order is the celebration of Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday acclaimed as the heartbeat of articulated idealism in race relations, conscientiously observed in our schools [think of all the colleges and public schools that ignore national holidays such as Veterans Day--but recognize the King holiday] with, however, scant thought given to Dr. King's own faith. What is largely overlooked, in the matter of Dr. King, is his Christian training and explicitly Christian commitment.  Every student is familiar with the incantation, "I have a dream." Not many are familiar with the peroration.  The closing words were "... and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." [speech honoring the Heritage Foundation, Oct. 20, 1999, p. 472]

The speech, from collected Buckley speeches, is available via google books.

Teaming with secular media, the Obama Administration is clearly hostile toward organized religion, in particular the Catholic Church.  Would King have stood for the churches or the Obama program?  Would he have joined the March for Life?

Update:  The Buckley speech can also be found here, with some added commentary, as Michelle notes in the comments below.  Please read Lucas Morel's comment as well--an excerpt from his MLK Day remarks.

Categories > Religion

The Founding

Hungarian Revolution for us

We need our Hungarian (Constitutional) Revolution here. In the last moments of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution the rebel radio broadcast the Gettysburg Address in seven languages, before the Soviets extinguished the freedom movement. Now a free Hungary is giving America some inspiration.
Categories > The Founding


Going South

Are the Republicans degenerating or just revealing their true selves?  With his latest charge that M. Mitt speaks French (Newt does too), it must be speculated that Newt is indulging in (self-)caricature. Of course it can always get worse--someone can appeal to states' rights.  Here's a good explanation of why conservatives should speak of federalism instead--plus a few other New Year's political resolutions.

Categories > Conservatism


A Conversation Between Entertainers

This clip of Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye singing "When The Saints Go Marching In" from 1959's Five Pennies is one of my favorite videos to watch; it's a type that turns a poor day into a good one. The enjoyment that the two entertainers have as they sing to each other of the great musical artists is catching. Even more fitting is the very American character of the two men singing, who both came from nothing and despite hardships in their past were able to exhibit such joy and fun and beauty with their music that it helped reveal them as great. Good stuff.
Categories > Leisure


Tea Party at the Supreme Court (Update)

The EPA faced tough questioning at SCOTUS.  Justice Alito to counsel for the government/EPA:  "If you related the facts of this case . . . to an ordinary homeowner, don't you think most ordinary homeowners would say this kind of thing can't happen in the United States?"  The case involved an alleged wetlands protection violation and whether the owners had a right to a judicial hearing.  Chief Justice Roberts to counsel for the government:  "What would you do, Mr. Stewart, if you received this compliance order? You don't think your property has wetlands on it and you get this compliance order from the EPA. What would you do?"  Counsel responded meekly about obeying the law. See pp. 36-37 of the transcript of the oral argument. See pp. 42-44 for the government's reasoning for not granting hearings to those being prosecuted by the EPA. This is not mere Tocquevillean soft despotism! Even the liberal justices expressed sympathy for the landowners.

The Pacific Legal Foundation argued for the plaintiff landowners, the Sacketts. It will put up the audio later in the week. Someone who attended the oral argument told me that Mrs.Sackett had to restrain her husband from doing fist pumps when they heard the hostile questioning from the justices. 

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that the President paid a surprise visit to the EPA yesterday, bucking up the staff and cheering them on. "When we clean up our nation's waterways, we generate more tourists for our local communities."  In the Sacketts' backyard? Of course Obama allowed, in one of his typical throwaway lines, "we have an obligation every single day to think about how can we do our business a little bit better."

Categories > Courts


An Old Berliner

"Oh, they've always liked the Americans. Especially the Berliners, ever since the young president gave that speech."
Sitting in a room aptly-named the Churchill Lounge, a cigar in one hand and glass of port in the other, I had the opportunity to spend some time probing the mind of an old man from Berlin. He was orphaned during the war, and told stories of the sirens sounding during bombing raids, and how all the kids in the orphanage would need to run for shelter. When asked if that was tough, he shrugged his shoulders. "It became no different than running inside from a rain storm."

He told tales of living in a city divided by that Iron Curtain. As a young man he was in want of cigarettes, and it was late and the stores in West Berlin were shut down, but he heard that a store on the other side was often open late. He had not been to East Berlin since the war, but he knew he had a grandmother on that side, so he thought nothing of it and drove over (the Wall was not yet up). After all, he was just a guy looking for some cigarettes in the town he grew up in. Within moments he was stopped and had guns pointed at him, angry guards shouting at him. The old man said that his younger self was absolutely terrified and tried telling them he was just looking for cigarettes. After being held for several hours, he was finally released and allowed back into the West--he said he never stepped foot into East Berlin again until the reunification of Germany decades later.

The old man said that Americans are still loved in that country, but most especially in that city. They remember our magnanimity in victory, and our help against the Soviet Empire through Kennedy and Reagan. This is all worthy of retelling for two reasons. The first is to remind us of some of the virtues for which the United States are respected and even loved around the world. The second is to remind us that our current peace is a new and fragile thing; the scars of Hitler and Stalin are still fresh. It has been only a few decades since bombs fell on one of Europe's great cities and men made it impossible to roam freely. How these men rose to power, and the costs and sacrifices it took to stop their wickedness, should not be forgotten.
Categories > History

Literature, Poetry, and Books

No Nobel for Tolkien

We know how amazing and well-considered the Nobel peace prize choices are. If you've ever wondered how the Nobel prizes in literature are awarded, note the discovery that J.R.R. Tolkien was blackballed, despite a recommendation by C.S. Lewis.  Tolkien was denied even a nomination for consideration, because his work "has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality."


The Real Class Elite

I think of all the couples with advanced degrees who have remarkably successful children, and I wonder how other kids can enjoy such success.  Charles Murray has long made this a theme of his. The full account can be found in The New Criterion.  "Many [in the new elite] have never worked at a job that caused a body part to hurt at the end of the day, never had a conversation with an evangelical Christian, never seen a factory floor, never had a friend who didn't have a college degree, never hunted or fished." Here is the excerpt from today's WSJ:

The members of America's new upper class tend not to watch the same movies and television shows that the rest of America watches, don't go to kinds of restaurants the rest of America frequents, tend to buy different kinds of automobiles, and have passions for being green, maintaining the proper degree of body fat, and supporting gay marriage that most Americans don't share. Their child-raising practices are distinctive, and they typically take care to enroll their children in schools dominated by the offspring of the upper middle class--or, better yet, of the new upper class. They take their vacations in different kinds of places than other Americans go and are often indifferent to the professional sports that are so popular among other Americans. Few have served in the military, and few of their children either.

Worst of all, a growing proportion of the people who run the institutions of our country have never known any other culture. They are the children of upper-middle-class parents, have always lived in upper-middle-class neighborhoods and gone to upper-middle-class schools. Many have never worked at a job that caused a body part to hurt at the end of the day, never had a conversation with an evangelical Christian, never seen a factory floor, never had a friend who didn't have a college degree, never hunted or fished. They are likely to know that Garrison Keillor's monologue on Prairie Home Companion is the source of the phrase "all of the children are above average," but they have never walked on a prairie and never known someone well whose IQ actually was below average.

From the full article, his conclusion:

The upper middle class in general, and the new upper class in particular, will continue to do well. But they will no longer be living any resemblance of what used to be called the American Way of Life. They will be the class on top in the same way that all complex societies have had a class on top, with nothing exceptional about it. We are perilously close to being in that world already....

Categories > Education


Obama's Risky Defense Policy

Naval War College Professor Mac Owens reminds us in the WSJ today that "any war plan that depends on the cooperation of the enemy is likely to fail."  The Obama Administraton's defense spending cuts assume principal threats from Asia.  This departure from the "strategic pluralism" designed to account for uncertainty of threats instead invites enemies to exploit our weaknesses.
Categories > Military


Civil Liberties Betrayed?

Joel Mathis has had it with Barack Obama. Mathis voted for Obama to end torture, Guantanamo detentions, and warrantless wiretapping. Not only has the Obama administration tabled those agenda items, but the president's decision to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week was, for Mathis, "the final betrayal." After threatening to veto the bill, President Obama signed it into law, despite warnings from fellow Democrats that it would "essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges." The New York Times editorialized against its "terrible new measures that will make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law."

Mathis has company, then, in feeling that Obama has "actively betrayed," with this decision and others, 2008's hopes for "a new dawn for civil liberties and due process rights." As he notes, however, most of the American political spectrum feels differently. A liberal Democratic president has taken a position on correctly calibrating civil liberties in light of national security imperatives that affirms more than it repudiates his conservative Republican predecessor's policies. Mathis notes that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell voted for NDAA - as did Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

An alternative interpretation of this quasi-consensus in favor of giving the government the power to circumvent normal criminal procedure and circumscribe peacetime civil liberties is that national security is a hard, grave business. Candidates who spoke as glibly as bloggers and editorialists about respecting boundaries regardless of the consequences become far less categorical when they're in important positions of national power and must confront just how horrific those consequences might be.

Drawing the lines and rightly understanding the nation's exigencies is not merely a post-9/11 problem. The most famous example is Abraham Lincoln suspending the writ of habeus corpus - first by executive order, later according to congressional enactment - as secession and civil war consumed the nation in 1861. He defended his actions in a message to Congress: "The whole of the laws which were required to be faithfully executed, were being resisted, and failing of execution, in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear, that by the use of the means necessary to their execution, some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen's liberty, that practically, it relieves more of the guilty, than of the innocent, should, to a very limited extent, be violated? To state the question more directly, are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated? Even in such a case, would not the [president's] official oath [of office] be broken, if the government should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding the single law, would tend to preserve it?"

This argument has always struck me as an application of a basic principle of Thomistic metaphysics: The first attribute of essence is existence. Before an entity can be this or be that it must, first, be. Preserving attributes in ways that jeopardize the entity's existence is, as a result, indefensible. As Lincoln put the point in 1864: "My oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government--that nation--of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation."

Of course, a president may mistakenly or cynically claim that the preservation of the nation mandates otherwise unconstitutional government actions. In 1944 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sending over 100,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps after Pearl Harbor, a policy implemented by two of the great liberal heroes of the last century, President Franklin Roosevelt and Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but at the time the governor of California. Eight years later, however, the Court ruled that President Harry Truman had exceeded his constitutional and statutory authority when, during the Korean War, he issued orders nationalizing the steel industry to prevent a strike by the United Steelworkers from shutting down the mills.

There is, obviously, no tidy formula that defines the circumstances under which otherwise unconstitutional may be rendered permissible. In the absence of such a formula, the position of civil libertarian absolutists is that the only way to avoid a slippery slope is to insist that there are no circumstances, ever, where grave national threats legitimate ordinarily unconstitutional government actions. This may not be Representative Ron Paul's belief, exactly, but does seem to animate some of his supporters. A more holistic but less clear-cut position is that the idea of eternal vigilance being the price of liberty works two ways: First, we must be vigilant against all enemies, foreign and domestic, whose threats may sometimes require the government to preserve the nation by taking actions that would ordinarily be impermissible. Second, we must be vigilant against the government, especially when it claims that grave dangers justify extraordinary actions. There are no guarantees, but the continuous exercise of both kinds of vigilance gives us our best hope for preserving our freedoms, and the political order in which they are embedded.
Categories > Presidency



Even though the outcome doesn't seem surprising because the polls
started revealing the likely outcome a few weeks ago, yet we should be
surprised that Romney won.  We should also be surprised that Santorum rose so high,
but in my opinion, he is just picking up left-over votes in
Iowa. No one expected this outcome, including Romney's people, a month ago.
Romney's campaign was, rightly in my mind, until about four or five weeks
ago, willing to give up Iowa. Then they saw an opening, in part
created by the Gingrich decline, and moved into it whole hog, a great
tactical move that will allow him to take New Hampshire by storm. And he should continue to grow in strength from now on. His last real battle will be in South Carolina, where Santorum will give him a bit of a run, but he then will fade, for he can only get so far
picking up Huckabee voters. And Ron Paul will fall into his more or
less natural 10 to 15 percent. The only surprise now will be if Romney
doesn't become the Republican nominee.  I also do not think it is a wise
argument to assert that Romney has a low ceiling problem. That ceiling will 
be overcome as the focus turns to him and he is allowed to make the case that he is a conservative; because he is, that shouldn't be difficult.  If I were him I would now focus entirely on Obama and how he differs.  The only real problem in his rhetoric is health care.  He should come out squarely against Obamacare, explain why he wants to repeal it, and stay away from talking about his Massachusetts program.

There is plenty of good commentary on the Iowa outcome and what it means. Go to NRO and 
Categories > Elections


Dave Barry's 2011 Year in Review

I sincerely hope he needs no introduction (since his glorious "God is a Republican; Santa is a Democrat" exegesis), so here's Dave on 2011.
Categories > History


The Power of the Declaration

Don't forget or underestimate the appeal of the Declaration of Independence.  Romney wins over Ms. Poe, an evangelical minister fearful of his Mormonism.  See the last two paragraphs:

"This is an election not just about replacing President Obama, it's an election about the soul of America," Romney said, as Poe gingerly climbed a chair to get a better view. As Romney cited the Declaration of Independence, Poe nodded in agreement. "They said that we had been endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. And as you know, those rights came not from the state, not from the government, but from our creator."

"He did great," Poe said as Romney walked around the room shaking hands. "If he were the chosen candidate, I could support him, yes."

Categories > Politics


2011's Major Media Malfeasance

Poking the left-wing mainstream media is a hobby of many conservatives - myself included - though it's so easy to find examples of liberal bias that the effort could easily become a full time job. PJ Media has done us all a service by assembling a top ten list of 2011's most extreme examples of major media malfeasance.

Beyond the list itself, PJ Media provides context and rationale for 2011's increasing "malfeasance" as compared to 2010.

In 2011 ... the leftist legacy media seemed to almost completely abandon any pretense of objectivity or fairness left over from its disgraceful collective performance in 2010.

Why did this happen? Beyond the normal factors, 2011 saw White House thuggery directed at a press corps already inclined to reflexively parrot its positions reach previously unseen heights.

To name just three examples:

  • In March, Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers, sent to cover a fundraiser involving Vice President Joe Biden and Florida Senator Bill Nelson, was confined in a closet "to keep him from mingling with high-powered guests." Sentinel editors "dropped the story."
  • In April, the White House banished San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci "for using a video camera to capture an event." The paper was "threatened with more punishment if they reported on it." Chronicle Editor at Large Phil Bronstein called the White House's subsequent attempt to deny it all "a pants-on-fire moment." Press coverage elsewhere was scant.
  • In May, the White House Press Office "refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama's Boston fund-raiser" because it objected "to the newspaper's front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed." The shutout was virtually ignored.

In a mid-May editorial, Investor's Business Daily called out the press for failing to stand up for it own, and correctly characterized the White House's actions as baby steps "toward state control of the media, using the carrot of access against the stick of exile."

Nothing has changed. In December, a Washington Post item noted that "when a reporter gets something wrong or is perceived as being too aggressive, the pushback is often swift and sometimes at top volume" (including heavy doses of profanity). What do you guys expect when you just sit there and take it -- something you would never do under a conservative or Republican administration?

The list is a walk down memory lane for conservatives - and likely an eye-opening revelation for anyone depending upon MSNBC and the like for information. And, in case you're thinking it can't get any worse, the prognostication is grim.

As bad as this past year was, there's every reason to believe that 2012 will be worse. The press has to figure out a way to drag a president who is very unpopular despite their best efforts to date across the November finish line while the White House continues its "oversight."

Categories > Journalism