"Best Keepers of the People's Liberties?"

James Madison, the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, asked, "Who are the Best Keepers of the People's Liberties?" in a 1792 article in the National Gazette, a Republican newspaper critical of the ruling Federalist party. The question is always relevant. For nearly a century, so-called "progressives" have insisted that they are entitled to public confidence for all they have done to improve people’s lives. Equality of condition has been the guiding principle of policies that curbed the powers of the business class, reined in the armed forces, provided social services, promoted world peace, redistributed income and protected minorities.

But if we take seriously Madison’s choice of terms, we can see that he was not committed to changing anyone’s conditions so much as securing their right to change their condition for themselves. Liberty is the condition we should be protecting, not government’s power to rearrange people’s lives.

It is not surprising that we should believe or expect the government to be benevolent, despite the numerous checks and balances which the Framers of the Constitution wisely wove into the document. For we must in the final analysis be governed by virtuous human beings.

The question, again, always is, who are we to trust? The progressives’ claim appears quite strong, for who can quarrel with a desire to make things better for people? But, again, that depends on what actually makes us better.

There is an alternative the progressives’ claims, the sheepdog narrative, one that I had the pleasure of reading lately. According to this account, there are wolves and sheep in the world and the former are bound to make life miserable for the latter. But, there are also sheepdogs in the world who are as ferocious as the wolves but are dedicated to protecting the sheep. Because of many sheep’s defeatist attitude (and wolves’ guile), the situation appears hopeless.

Too often the sheep hope that the wolves can be persuaded to stop terrorizing them by appealing to their reason and decency. But as often as this appeasement policy has been tried it has failed, as the victims of German and Japanese aggression can attest.

Granted, government is a kind of gamble because the very qualities of the sheepdogs that are useful in protecting the sheep can be turned against them. But if care is taken to ensure the sheepdogs’ loyalty to the herd, this problem is not insoluble.

Most Americans have little or no difficulty appreciating the sacrifices made on their behalf by our warriors, and even believe that they genuinely possess the requisite moral virtue for this purpose. But our nation’s military defenders have their detractors, who resent both the warriors and the huge reservoir of goodwill they has earned from their fellow citizens.

Progressives spend an inordinate amount of time maligning the motives of those who they feel are a threat to millions of victims. They are right to believe that human psychology has more to do with politics and society than is generally believed. Their mistake consists in exempting themselves from the analysis.

People with an academic background, such as Barack Obama, deeply resent the fact that business men and women are a lot better at providing goods and services than they are. They feel no less resentful that warriors contribute more tangibly to national safety than they do. So it is not surprising that breaking the hold of entrepreneurs and soldiers on the public mind is foremost on their list of objectives.

Imposing onerous rules and taxes on business enterprises is a great way to show their owners who’s boss. And cutting back on defense spending and holding endless (and pointless) negotiations with hostile nations is equally useful for putting military personnel in their place.

Those with overweening ambitions will always seek ways to elevate themselves over others. Pretending to be the friend of the "common people" happens to be the favored strategy of those who are left behind in the marketplace competition or cannot win wars.

Among the signals that President Obama is sending with his dithering in Afghanistan is his manifest discomfort with having to turn to the armed forces to achieve his objectives. Placing his faith in the spoken and written word, as academics are inclined to do, he cannot abide men of action. For, Abraham Lincoln once said, "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Of course, when Lincoln honored the soldiers’ sacrifice, he established himself as a true keeper of the people’s liberties.

For Dems, it’s always ‘butter’ over ‘guns’

In the wake of the Obama Administration’s looming failure with its government health insurance and possibly its cap-and-trade proposals, it has made a grand splash on the international stage–at the United Nations in New York and the G-20 (formerly G-7) meeting in Pittsburgh. No one could fairly call Obama a tyrant, for he lacks a tyrant’s power, and he is certainly not acting like one (except for Honduras). When a tyrant runs into difficulties at home, he diverts attention by stirring up troubles abroad. But Obama is apparently contemplating reversing course in Afghanistan.

Like previous Democrats, President Obama’s international strategy seems rather to diminish than enlarge our world role. When he is not denigrating the previous administration or apologizing for his country, Obama is determined to build up the power and prestige of international organizations. Ostensibly aimed at curbing the aggressive designs of rogue nations like North Korea and Iran, the President’s real objective is to check the supposedly imperial ambitions of the United States.

Like failed presidential candidate George McGovern, Obama wants America to "come home" from its international responsibilities, dropped into its lap by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and kept there by the Soviet Union’s drive for world domination. Liberal Democrats believe that almost all international "tensions" arise from either misunderstandings or America’s own failings.

When one puts this together with the pressures from domestic politics, we get retreat from international leadership. As liberal Democrats in Congress indicate their displeasure with Obama’s attempts to rescue its health care "reform" by reducing or masking its socialistic features, Obama may have found the tactic that will placate them.

Early on, Obama seemed to make good on his promise to give our efforts in Afghanistan the priority they have long deserved by a commitment of 40,000 troops with a new commander. However, liberal Democrats in Congress made it clear that they did not wish to continue our efforts there.

So when someone in the Beltway leaked to the Washington Post that the commanding general wants to ratchet up the total numbers to 100,000, the President suddenly announced that, until we have settled on our strategy and tactics, he cannot approve the request without more study. Friends, this was the "good war" that the bad Bush neglected for nation building in Iraq. Why the abrupt change?

I submit that, however forcefully Obama declared that he would prosecute the war in Afghanistan, his heart was never really in it. The truth is, the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were fought against the same enemy, often working in tandem with each other and always against the United States and the Western world. As Bin Laden is a terrorist without a government, Saddam Hussein was a terrorist with a government.

It was clever and useful for Obama to distinguish between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for it gave a patina of truth to his claim that his quarrel with Bush was tactical, not strategic. Obama needed only to accept the windup of the American campaign in Iraq, but Afghanistan turned out to be more difficult than he thought.

So now that the left wing of his political party (Obama’s wing) shows signs of restiveness over his domestic policy, that faction’s zealotry for socialism and indifference to the plight of other nations is combining to cause the biggest disaster for America since the fall of southeast Asia to Communism. That defeat, too, was a direct result of the left’s hostility to political freedom abroad and its disrespect for American honor.

Just as our retreat in Vietnam made meaningless the sacrifices of our fighting men in that long conflict, so those brave men and women who have served and continue to serve in harm’s way in Afghanistan face a similar prospect.

Lyndon Johnson was determined not to follow the example of his hero, Franklin Roosevelt, who shelved the New Deal in order to give priority to saving America from German and Japanese imperialism. The war in Vietnam was the "bitch" that Johnson felt he was cursed with but which he would not permit to delay his cherished Great Society.

Like LBJ, Obama would rather "transform" American society than attend to the common defense. Placing its faith in international organizations, this administration imagines that foreign threats will go away as long as our nation takes the socialistic course. We will pay for this folly.

Why Obama isn't trusted

Dear Mr. President: I believe I can help you understand why the American people are rejecting your efforts at health care reform and why you have lost the trust of so many. The following quote comes from a letter you wrote to me on February 26, 2009; “Michelle joins me in remembering Staff Sergeant Hager, who we lost on February 23, 2007, and honoring him and all the men and women in uniform who carry forward his brave mission.”

Mr. President, you did not lose Staff Sergeant Hager, his mother and I did. In fact, my son played a significant role in what became the turning point in Iraq, the Anbar Awakening. Every time you were asked about the surge you opposed the effort and claimed they would fail. My son gave his life and our forces saw great success. Throughout your campaign I sought to have a meeting with you and offered to arrange a meeting with 25 Gold Star Dads, “any where, any time.” My efforts were rejected by you and your staff.

Mr. President, it is my belief we have but one true possession as human beings, that is our personal word. When a person speaks they either speak honestly or falsely. There is no middle ground. You own everything you say. We all own our words.

Sir, you change your words to meet your needs as you see those needs in the moment. Americans know they cannot, they dare not, trust your words. It is that lack of trust that makes me angry when I hear you claim this fact is true or this law will work for everyone. Your words are neither honest or trustworthy, based upon results.

Mr. President, if you desire a better American I suggest the following simple correction to your presentation. First, stop claiming 47 million Americans are uninsured. There may be 47 million persons in the United States without medical insurance, but many millions of those are illegal aliens. Giving that group equal status with hard working American citizens may make political sense for some in your party, but that is a glaring example of your false words. We know you know the truth, and yet you would rather make false claims than be honest with us all.

Second, and most importantly, stand before the American people and make the following pledge. And having made the pledge, ask every member of Congress to join you.

“I believe the major legislation I am about to sign will improve our country and our future. It will not increase the national debt nor will the middle class face any increase in fees or taxes directly or indirectly caused by this bill. Health care will improve for all and no American will see a reduction in quality or availability of care. If these facts prove to be wrong and this legislation fails to deliver as I claim, I will resign my office as will my Vice President and the Speaker of the House. We will turn over control to those who opposed us as they were in fact right.”

Mr. President take responsibility for your words. And having taken that responsibility, act on the behalf of all Americans, not just those with whom you agree. The anger in America comes not from racial animus or ideology. It comes from being worn out by lies and spin. I am tired of asking for a five minute call from any Democratic leader in Congress or from you. America is waking up and you may not like the music we have selected. You can either start being honest or keep wasting your words, the only possession you really have.

Sincerely, Kris Hager, Gold Star Dad.

The meaning of American independence

The national holiday we celebrate today is more often referred to as the Fourth of July than Independence Day, but at least that makes clear what date we are marking. We should, however, commemorate the historical event and all that it symbolizes, for the common world calendar ensures that the whole world has a July 4th just we like do. American independence has transcendent constitutional significance. No other nation in the world before 1776 had ever established (constituted) itself in the world on the basis of political principles which are true for all times and places. The most famous part of the Declaration of Independence is "all men are created equal," rather than merely all Americans, or all whites or even all males.

Cynics are fond of ridiculing the language of the Declaration because they think they really know that its authors didn’t mean to include everybody. After all, the pre-revolutionary institution of slavery was not immediately abolished, women were not generally regarded as equal in rights to men, and the vote was not even extended to all males. So it was all a pretense, right?

Wrong. Northern states prohibited slavery by the time the Constitution was ratified, women had the right to vote in several states, north and south, and the voting franchise was extended to most white males within a generation or two.

Of course, we had no power to "secure these rights" anywhere else but on our own soil, and that was hard enough, as the Civil War and the long struggle for civil rights attest. But the meaning of independence, in the first place, is that the American people, through their chosen representatives, were free to throw off ancient shackles as soon as possible, however much they might disagree about the timing or even the wisdom of that welcome change.

In other words, no European nation, however powerful or influential, could impede the progress of the American people toward their fullest security for equality and liberty. America would long remain the only country so free, as Europeans underwent a cycle of violent revolutions and even world wars before that greatest of all battles was won. And the rest of the world took even longer, with a decidedly mixed record of success.

For much of our history we have been a beacon to other nations and peoples, drawing millions to our shores and inspiring revolutions abroad. An almost inevitable consequence of the influence was that the growing power of the United States has spared the world some of its greatest evils.

Depending on their agenda or what part of the Constitution they are talking about, both liberals and conservatives like to argue that the American government is severely restricted in its power and authority in order to ensure our freedoms against infringement. But they fail to understand what Alexander Hamilton, for example, understood, which was that "the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; [and] that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated . . . "

The most fundamental obligations of the government of the United States are to "provide for the common defense" and "promote the general welfare." In the midst of revolution without a national government, the Continental Congress had to find a way to fulfill these obligations, and barely succeeded. The object of the Constitution was not to give us a weak government but rather a powerful one.

Living in a world of monarchical governments, hostile Indian tribes and fierce pirates, the government needed to be, in Hamilton’s words, "energetic," not lethargic. The world is a dangerous place always, the only difference at any time being the nature and scope of the dangers. Had the national government not possessed the requisite power, the authority of the Union would not have been upheld against secession.

A united America is a boon to the world. Consider if our nation had not been united under one energetic government when in 1916 German submarines began to sink our ships and patrol our Atlantic and Gulf coastlines, not to mention block our shipping lines overseas. Only a strong American government could have kept the Gulf of Mexico from becoming a German lake.

More ominously still, consider the horrendous consequences if we had not had the means to keep Great Britain in the war against Nazi Germany until such time as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and brought us into a two-front war. Our military, industrial and financial power was critical.

In both world wars, American power was decisive. In the earlier conflict, Germany defeated Czarist Russia at about the same time as America entered the war on the side of the Allies.  Absent American intervention, how does the thought of a Prussian dictatorship all over Europe strike you?

In the later war, an even more tyrannical German regime left unchecked would have held sway all over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and perhaps farther, doubtless putting an end to liberty for decades, if not centuries.

The superpower status of the United States kept most of the world safe from Soviet domination and ultimately proved too much for that evil empire to survive its own inherent weakness and inferiority. Today our government is the primary check on the world's despots and their blood brothers, the Islamist fanatics plotting against our freedom.

In sum, American independence means that we Americans alone decide how we are to be governed, and our formidable power has blocked or ended the rule of overbearing empires. This great good we celebrate today is a blessing for all mankind.

Obama's first 48: Do you feel safer yet?

Barack Obama has been president for all of 48 hours, and I already feel less safe. In one of his first official acts as president, Obama ordered the detention facility at Guantanamo closed "within a year", and officially outlawed any "enhanced interrogation" techniques that fall outside of the U.S. Army Field Manual. In a signing ceremony attended by all the usual liberal suspects, the new president said that we would confront global violence without sacrificing "our values or our ideals".  After years of criticizing the Bush Administration, Obama and the Democrats will now have a chance to do it "their way". Democrats, of course, have always put a premium on high minded ideals -- preferring things to look good, sound good and feel good -- even if they don't work well (or at all) in practice.   The notion of fighting a war against a brutal enemy -- that decapitates its prisoners and seeks to wipe us from the face of the earth -- with the high ideals of our democratic laws and rules is both naive and dangerous. It reflects the fact that most on the left have never seen the fight against Islamic extremism as a real war, but rather as a difficult issue that can be dealt with through diplomacy, so-called "soft power" and conventional law enforcement techniques. In this upside down view of the world, Miranda rights, Habeus corpus and all other protections for terrorist detainees makes perfect sense.

The immediate result of closing Guantanamo is that it will now fall on the U.S. justice system to figure out what to do with the 250 detainees that remain there. For many on the left, this presents something of an academic question; there is a common narrative among opponents of Guantanamo that those imprisoned there are mostly innocent sheep herders and others caught up in the net of American power, and thus unjustly held without trial. Nothing could be further than the truth: the majority of prisoners at Guantanamo are hardened killers who if released will take up terrorism against us again, and present a real and pressing threat to the United States.

Obama's move to close Guantanamo comes as no surprise, of course, having been a central theme of his campaign. In fact, Obama has been on record as favoring a conventional legal remedy for terrorists ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Boumediene v Bush that Guantanamo terrorists should be granted access to the U.S. courts:

“I mean, you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday”.

Now, as president, Obama is acting to put his view of "terrorist rights" into effect.  In ruling that interrogation techniques be limited to the U.S. Army Field Manual, which limits questioning to "please" and "thank you" kind of questions, Obama has effectively tied the hands of CIA and other interrogators who seek vital intelligence about Al Qaeda and other terrorists in the field. Unlike the salons of Paris, London or now Washington, D.C., the CIA and U.S. military operate in the real world, where innocent lives may depend on extracting information from evil doers intent on destroying us.

But that apparently doesn't matter to Obama, who with a swipe of his pen, has decided that he and the other liberals now in charge of our national security apparatus know more about security than does the current head of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, who has testified repeatedly in front of Congress that enhanced interrogation techniques are critically important to our security. Rather than study the issue from the inside and take some time to make the right decision on this important issue, Obama has placed politics over public safety in unilaterally disarming our intelligence officials as a grand act of political theater.

The left believes that some quid pro quo will exist between us and our enemies; that somehow us living up to our ideals will make a difference with those who seek our destruction and are willing to go to any lengths to ensure it. It is hard to believe that smart people can be so naive as to the real nature of the threats arrayed against us.

I've said many times that the left lives in a fantasy world of their own making, and this is further proof that with the Democrats in charge we will be in greater danger because of it.