“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Real TR: Liberal Progressive, Not Conservative

This past weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal carried a fascinating portrait of the 'real' Teddy Roosevelt.

Ronald Pestritto, the Shipley Professor of the American Constitution at Hillsdale College, as well as Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute, reminds us that extreme liberalism and rewriting of the Constitution seemed to be a Roosevelt family objective and practice.

What is eye-opening is his opening passages, wherein he wonders why John McCain, Bill Kristol and Karl Rove all worship TR.

Pestritto notes,

"Progressives of both parties, including Roosevelt, were the original big-government liberals. They understood full well that the greatest obstacle to their schemes of social justice and equality of material condition was the U.S. Constitution. as it was originally written and understood: as creating a national government of limited, enumerated powers that was dedicated to securing the individual natural rights of its citizens, especially liberty of contract and private property.

It was the Republican TR, who insisted in his 1910 speech on the "New Nationalism" that there was a "general right of the community to regulate" the earning of income and use of private property "to whatever degree the public welfare may require it." He was at one here with Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who had in 1885 condemned Americans' respect for their Constitution as "blind worship," and suggested that his countrymen dedicate themselves to the Declaration of Independence by leaving out its "preface" -- i.e., the part of it that establishes the protection of equal natural rights as the permanent task of government.

In his "Autobiography," Roosevelt wrote that he "declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it." The national government, in TR's view, was not one of enumerated powers but of general powers, and the purpose of the Constitution was merely to state the narrow exceptions to that rule."

Pestritto reminds us that Roosevelt ended up as a progressive, splitting from the Republicans when he ran for President on the Bull Moose ticket.

Pestritto further writes,

"This is a view of government directly opposed by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 84. Hamilton explains there that the fundamental difference between a republican constitution and a monarchic one is that the latter reserves some liberty for the people by stating specific exceptions to the assumed general power of the crown, whereas the former assumes from the beginning that the power of the people is the general rule, and the power of the government the exception.

TR turns this on its head. In his New Nationalism speech he noted how, in aiming to use state power to bring about economic equality, the government should permit a man to earn and keep his property "only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community." The government itself of course would determine what represented a benefit to the community, and whether society would be better off if an individual's wealth was transferred to somebody else.

Some conservatives today are misled by the battle between TR and Wilson in the 1912 presidential election. But Wilson implemented most of TR's program once he took office in 1913, including a progressive income tax and the establishment of several regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission."

This is really scary stuff. It's the sort of message Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano consistently delivers, both on air, and in editorials in the Journal. Commenting on the recent election, Pestritto observes,

"Many who respect individual liberty and the free market believe that the electoral tide has turned, and that an era of big government is inevitable. But recall that John McCain gained traction in the closing days of his campaign only when he attacked Mr. Obama's desire to "spread the wealth" through higher tax rates on the upper-income earners. His attack clearly resonated among the public. But it came too late, and truth be told, his heart wasn't really in it.

Looking ahead, conservatives hardly need to look back to progressives for inspiration. If there is a desire to "conserve" or restore something about our political tradition that has been lost with the rise of modern liberalism, how about the American founding as a model? It is with the founders that we can find the patriotic promotion of America as an exceptionally great nation -- a notion that attracts some conservatives to TR.

The difference is that, with the founders as a model, we get the idea of American greatness, but without the progressives' assault on the very enduring principles that justify America's claim to greatness in the first place."

The reason Pestritto's piece really grabbed me is the current rush to void Americans' sense of responsibility by bailing out anyone who entered into a losing contract involving mortgages. And, in a similar vein, the newly-elected First Rookie's misguided sense of fairness when he spoke to Bill O'Reilly about paying higher taxes so a coffee shop waitress could have more money.

America won't regain and retain its greatness so long as those in government continue to cling to the incorrect notion that everybody in America deserves to become wealthy, have high incomes, retire comfortably, etc.

The country was founded as a meritocracy. The whole point of the national experiment was to let people pursue their own dreams, succeeding or failing on their own merits, without anyone unduly constraining their efforts.

Now, we have a President-elect dedicated to the proposition that nobody should become wealthy unless the least-fortunate American does, too.

That just won't fly. We'll be France in less than a decade at this rate.

Let's be honest here. Not everyone is created equally in terms of mental acuity, common sense, or risk-taking attitude and personality. There will always be the 'less fortunate,' just as some will always be the wealthiest in our society. Ironically, it's the liberals' focus on economic welfare, rather than, as the Declaration of Independence states, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," that has led us into this quagmire.

Study after study shows that happiness is not related to economic success or wealth. But, by attempting to equate the two, liberals insist that we all have to enrich the least-intelligent, least-educated of our society, rather than simply help them be as happy as their talents and circumstances allow.

It's refreshing, in a fashion, to learn that this liberal line of thought began with Wilson, William Jennings Bryan and TR, who apparently were the first to launch concerted assaults on the original intent of our nation's founding principles, as expressed in two of our most sacred texts, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blago Keeps The Heat On Obama

As a conservative, you have to love Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Rather than simply appoint an unremarkable, loyal party member to the First Rookie's now-vacant seat, the governor engaged in antics which may put him in jail for attempting to sell the seat.

But that wasn't all.

No, after calls by the President-elect for Blago to resign, and hold a special general election for the seat, he does neither. Instead, he vows to fight for his office and freedom, then went ahead and appointed a black- naturally- Illinois Democrat, former AG Roland Burris, to fill the vacant Senate seat.

Senate Democrats have already promised not to seat the newly-appointed Senator.

But the best part of this circus, for conservatives, is that it keeps the entire mess alive and visible to the voting public. A constant reminder of how the Chicago Machine does business. Corruptly, and in express and explicit indifference to the people's wishes.

This pay-to-play scandal now hangs like a foul stench over the First Rookie's inaugural and honeymoon with Congress.

There's another facet that is difficult to capture analytically, but makes the mess have greater impact. That is, Blago is such a buffoonish character. It's a reminder, like the hapless Florida Secretary of State during the 2000 recount, that state-level officials who are fine in their role can become awful liabilities when exposed to the harsh glare of national media.

Blago makes Illinois look like a backward, third-world country. He's boyish-looking, goofy, and behaves like the class clown from fourth grade.

Just what the President-elect needs America to realize. This is the caliber of "leadership" that the Cook County Democratic machine turns out.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a rough, but funny ride for the next four- and only four- years.

Monday, December 29, 2008

More Drivel From Peggy Noonan

Last week, Peggy Noonan's weekend column in the Wall Street Journal reached a new low. Marked by her now-typical uneasy segue between various topics like stream of consciousness writing, she alleged that Americans now want a 'non-empty suit' to lead them out of their current troubles.

Citing Bernie Madoff and other failed 'leaders' who were just empty suits, Noonan believes Americans now look to a real leader.

Forgive me for being true to my roots, but I think she's wrong. Americans function best when the leader, as in the style of Ronald Reagan, motivates us to be our own best selves and perform, rather than, as FDR, seizing control and forcibly using government to act.

It's a rare situation in which a single person can omnisciently perform all the tasks necessary to rescue America from some problem. Even JFK simply pointed the country toward the moon, rather than provided the detail of how we would achieve the goal.

That's why I think Noonan is so terribly off base in her rant. Last of all among people Americans should trust is the newly-elected First Rookie Senator from Illinois. With absolutely no experience managing or leading anything, his only hope would be to lead like Reagan.

Instead, he's already messing with details as he tries to re-order economic priorities by government fiat, rather than more-efficient market forces.

In any case, it's a sad day when a former Reagan speechwriter begins calling for more government-detailed actions to rescue a society of 300 million people.

Milestones of 2008

Last on Fox News, as the year drew to a close, Brit Hume's program featured his panel, chaired by Bret Baier, pontificating on the most good and bad political/economic developments of the year.

Among several middling replies was one that, just by the nonchalance of its ennunciator, chilled me.

The panelist said, in reaction to another guests's remark on the historic nature of the First Rookie's election, to paraphrase,

'Well, that's true. And we've also never before in our history had a President-elect already being investigated by a Federal prosecutor before he even takes the oath of office.'

Think about that one.

We've reached a new low. The winner of this year's Presidential election is being questioned in conjunction with a major political scandal, born of the Chicago Democratic machine from which he was spawned.

It's going to be all downhill from here, folks.

At least the silver lining will be those nice GOP seat gains in the mid-term elections now less than 24 months away!