We meet today in defense of the freedom of religion that gave rise to America in the first place, the freedom of thought that enables us to choose our political leaders, and the freedom of speech that makes possible an industry like yours and a forum like this one.
Can a good Muslim be a good American? Brian, a constitutional scholar, put the question to Michael, a national security expert, as we passed the Washington office of Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim to serve there. Ellison’s decision to be sworn in on the Quran still echoes controversially.
Freedom of religion settles it as far as building the Ground Zero mosque is concerned, says Susan Barnes-Gelt in the August round of Head On TV debates; so ignore the "dittohead" opposition and build it. Absolutely not, says John Andrews. "To erect a Muslim shrine on a Muslim killing field is just wrong." John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Colorado races for senator and governor, a trio of tax-cutting ballot issues, and the Denver mayor's animus toward autos. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for August: 1. GROUND ZERO MOSQUE
Susan: This country is defined by commitment to freedom of religion. Siting of a Muslim community center two full blocks and around the corner from the 9/ll site in Lower Manhattan is a tempest in a teapot brewed by ditto-heads. You can’t even see Ground Zero from the proposed Cordoba House.
John: The Ground Zero Mosque should not be built. Muslim holy warriors attacked on 9/11 in hope of destroying America. Muslim peacemakers, if they care about America, will join the vast majority of us who oppose this jihadist victory shrine on New York’s hallowed ground. This isn’t religious, it’s a political provocation.
Susan: John, you are too smart and too reasoned to mau-mau the dittoheads on this tough and emotional issue. There are no ‘but fors’ in the de facto motto of these United States is‘e pluribus unum’ - out of many, one. That means my people, your people and their people.
John: The Ground Zero mosque should not be built. Most New Yorkers and most Americans overwhelmingly agree. No one who understands America or loves America would set out to erect a Muslim shrine on a Muslim killing field. The sponsorship isn't identical, but the symbolism is just wrong. Put the mosque somewhere else.
2. THAT WILD GOVERNOR’S RACE
John: Bill Ritter and the Democrats have really failed Colorado. Bad show on the economy, the budget, energy. John Hickenlooper, Mr. Tax Increase, Mr. Sanctuary City, would be no better. Voters are fed up. Hence the Tea Party candidacy of Dan Maes and the maverick move by Tom Tancredo. This is wild.
Susan: Wild? It’s ridiculous. Tom-I’ll quit/you quit Tancredo v. Dan-stranger-to-the-truth Maes are a joke and the very public Hickenlooper endorsement by fiscal conservative Repub’s Mizel, Maffei and Hamilton, is just a drip of the coming deluge. I’m betting Hick wins by 20 points.
John: Colorado is a big diverse state. Coloradans politically tend to be in the center or to the right. A limousine liberal from downtown Denver is the wrong fit for governor. Hickenlooper is defined by tax increases and evasive about his hard-left past. Tancredo will fade. Maes might surprise everyone.
Susan: Operative word – might – Not a chance the guy with a record of failed business enterprises who can’t keep his campaign books straight, who borrows money to pay his mortgage is going to be Colorado’s next guv. Maes, mights, WON’T!
3. BUCK OR BENNET FOR US SENATE?
Susan: Mid-term elections typically favor the out-of-power party – for 2010 that’s the R’s. However Colorado is fundamentally moderate, and independent voters will be turned off by Ken Buck’s flip flops and Tea Party sympathies and murky record of integrity. It’ll be close, but Bennet wins.
John: Appointed Senator Michael Bennet has voted in lockstep with Barack Obama and Harry Reid on one awful bill after another – taxes, spending, socialized medicine, and the list goes on. Bennet’s money saved him in the primary, but the revulsion of swing voters toward all things Democratic will doom him in November.
Susan: Michael Bennet is a lot of things: smart, thoughtful, disciplined and experienced. A quick look at his record confirms that he’s neither ultra-liberal – which is why the uber-progressives supported Romanoff – or a knee-jerk follower.
John: Bennet supported Obama on the huge wasteful stimulus. It failed. He supported Obama’s health care takeover. It’s become an embarrassment. Wrong man, wrong message, wrong moment. Ken Buck is tough, principled, sensible, and real. He’s exactly the right man to take on the mess in Washington.
4. HICKENLOOPER VS. THE AUTOMOBILE?
John: The automobile is the greatest freedom machine ever invented. Mayor Hickenlooper’s wacky vision to replace our personal cars and trucks with government transit and bicycles is one more reason he shouldn’t be governor. Colorado doesn’t need fewer roads as the mayor believes. Nor do we need the fatally flawed Fastracks plan.
Susan: Please don’t tell me you agree with Repub candidate Dan Maes belief that Hick’s support of alternative transportation is part of a wacky international left-wing communist scheme. And when did the Mayor say the state needs fewer roads? It’s both and, not either or.
John: According to John Hickenlooper, the mo-ped mayor who wants to be our next green governor, the big question is, quote, “How do we wean ourselves off automobiles?” That’s the same Hickenlooper who already led the metro area into a fiscal sinkhole called Fastracks. I wonder if this guy can even spell “mobility.”
Susan: Hick – is he a limousine liberal, a moped-mayor, a fast-track fanatic or a bike-lane louie? Regardless, he is on the move. Republican candidate Dan Maes can’t get his foot out of his mouth or his campaign in first gear.
5. BALLOT ISSUES 60, 61 & 101
Susan: Colorado voters must vote NO on ballot issues 60, 61 and 101. Deceptive, job killing proposals, devastating to small business and guaranteeing increased K-12 class sizes by halving the amount of property tax allocated to schools. Bi-partisan economists estimate Prop 101 will cut state revenues by $2Billion.
John: Those three tax cut proposals look pretty good to me at a time when ordinary Coloradans could use some relief. 60, 61, and 101 simply restore the fiscal guardrails of TABOR that liberal judges and politicians have pulled down. State replacement is guaranteed for local education dollars. This helps small business.
Susan: And the replacement is . . .? Monopoly money? Are your son, the Denver policeman. These initiatives guarantee job losses, negative business growth, higher unemployment, dismantled higher ed and degraded roads, highways, state parks and public safety. Perhaps access to medical marijuana is too easy?
John: The world economy is gravely threatened by taxes, spending, and mountains of government debt. Colorado is right in the path of that. Those three tax relief measures, 60, 61, and 101, are strong medicine to fight an epidemic that could run our state bankrupt. The fiscal madness has to stop. I’m voting yes.
We have been repeatedly and forcefully instructed to believe that, when the Left expounds the Muslims' right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, it's only about religious freedom. Those who want to build that mosque really don't seek to offend Americans nor to hurt the families of the thousands whom their Muslim brethren murdered there only nine years ago. It's only about religious freedom, see. Okay, then I have a suggestion. To demonstrate their dedication to religious freedom, perhaps those mosque-builders could instead erect a non-denominational shrine where worshippers of all religions could celebrate their faith Muslims, Jews, Christians, Unitarian/Universalists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists, Animists, Nihilists (do Nihilists celebrate?), everyone.
How about it, guys? What could more wholeheartedly reflect your fervor for religious freedom? Show us.
RNC Chair Michael Steele’s recent comments on Afghanistan – which he derisively called “Obama’s war” while questioning the potential for victory – found pockets of support across the political spectrum. On the left, those who oppose the war on ideological grounds agreed with Steele’s conclusions (if not his logic) that this is not a war we should be fighting. On the more libertarian right, many who believe that America’s foreign policy is “extraconstitutional” -- overly aggressive, idealistic and beyond what the Founder’s intended -- view the Afghan campaign as a case study in federal government overreach. If it is true that politics make strange bedfellows, Steel’s unscripted comments found a nexus of agreement from elements on the left and the right: This is a war poorly conceived, without legitimacy, and with little chance of success. I disagree with this. While I recognize fully the difficulty of the mission, and understand that Afghanistan has been the “graveyard of empires” for a millennium or more, I also believe that Barack Obama was correct in 2008 when he called Afghanistan a war “of necessity”. Afghanistan was the birthplace of the 9/11 attacks; the Taliban regime provided sanctuary and material support to Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and its global network of Jihadists. The initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was a critical blow to this network, and provided the United States with both a measure of revenge and security after 9/11. It also replaced the Taliban, a brutal fundamentalist Islamic regime that demanded strict fealty to Islamic law with a secular, Western-facing government. To be sure, the government of Hamid Karzai is no model of Jeffersonian democracy. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this case – and Karzai is quite good when compared to the rule of his predecessor, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar.
More importantly, I reject the position taken by many libertarian-oriented conservatives that the war in Afghanistan is an example of government overreach and an unconstitutional exercise of executive power. To be sure, there are ample grounds for a substantive debate on presidential war powers and the Constitution – a debate that has heated up significantly since 9/11. Those who take a “strict constructionist” view see Congress’ power to declare war in Article I, Section 8 as a clear limit on the use of force: without a formal declaration of war against a defined enemy, the commitment of the U.S. military to combat is essentially proscribed. However, the case for this is not as clear as it may seem. During the debate on this topic at the Constitutional Convention, the Founders clearly intended for the executive as Commander in Chief to have the power to “repel sudden attacks” and, in the process of providing for the “common defense”, would be able to act swiftly and decisively in the case of a national emergency. The Founders instinctively understood that while a check on the president’s ability to unilaterally wage war was desirable, it should not prohibit decisive action when the nation’s security was under threat.
It is my belief that not only does the executive have the power to wage war in Afghanistan without a formal declaration of war, he has the constitutional responsibility to do so. The most important aspect of the president’s job description as found in Article II of the Constitution is in Section 2: his role as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As such, he is principally responsible for ensuring the nation’s security, and enjoys wide latitude in utilizing the military in the prosecution of U.S. foreign policy. This has been particularly true in the latter half of the 20th century, where the U.S. has waged full-scale war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf without a formal declaration of war. Today, the rise of transnational terror networks and so-called “asymmetrical” warfare which targets civilians without warning has made traditional forms of extended debate on foreign policy increasingly impractical. Terrorism and global Jihad has made traditional declarations of war truly a relic of an earlier age.
Because of this new reality, the nature of Congressional consent to military action has changed. While presidents are waging war without formal declarations, they do so also with the consent (and political cover) of Congressional approval. Recall that on September 14, 2001 – just days after the attacks on 9/11 – the Congress passed S.J. Res. 23, which authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001”. Later, in 2002, the Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution, which gave Congressional approval for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. While short of formal declarations of war, both of these resolutions provide ample authority for the president to wage war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Contrary to the opinion of Michael Steele, this is not Obama’s war. It is America’s war. And the stakes could not be higher. The elimination of a sanctuary for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a central national security issue for our future. One of the few correct decisions that President Obama has made since taking office is recommitting the nation to the war in Afghanistan. His recent appointment of General David Petraeus to take command is a good step in the right direction. Now he must renounce any time tables for withdrawal and allow the U.S. military to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban once and for all.
The Constitution requires the federal government to provide for the common defense of the nation and its interests – principally the protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It is hard to imagine pursuing much happiness in the aftermath of a nuclear or biological attack in Times Square carried out by radical Islamists from a base in Afghanistan.