Posts Tagged ‘big government’

Decision Time

November 2, 2010

Today is the day.  Election day.  Finally.  If you have not already voted early, today is the day for you to do so.  To vote.  It is a rare and wonderful right that we possess as citizens of a magnificent and exceptional country.  But in this election it is especially so.  Certainly each individual candidate has his or her own distinctive strengths and weaknesses, his or her own policies they seek to support or oppose.  And while those considerations should be given their due weight, try to put those aside for a moment and think about something much larger.  No matter the personal peculiarities of the contestants, and their specific policy views, the decisions we make about those whom we choose to send to Washington will have far-reaching consequences for the greater future of this country, and for your own future as well.   For this is a time to decide what kind of nation we want America to be. 

The Democrats, and their leader President Obama, have made the choice a very clear one from the start.  They believe that a large and expanding central government offers the best solutions to the problems we face as a nation.  Obama, himself, has repeatedly said that government—and only government—can adequately address the challenges we have before us.  On the other hand most Republicans—at least those who are truly conservative—see things the other way.  That individuals, living and acting for themselves and interacting with one another through free exchange, are best able to make their own decisions about their own lives.  Indeed, government, they argue, has proven itself capable of only getting in the way; and the larger and more intrusive government becomes, the more it gets in the way, or worse.  It is an age-old struggle: the freedom of the individual against the ever-encroaching power of the government. 

The “Progressive” ideology advanced by Obama, and his followers in Congress, maintains that America must always be moving forward—changing, transforming, progressing ever-closer toward becoming something, and that the power and machinery of government are to be fully utilized in that endeavor.   But becoming what?  Becoming what they see as their idea of the ultimate society.  It is a grand vision they have.  One in which the individual, and the choices allowed to the individual about his employment, his compensation, his finances, his health, where he lives, how he moves about, what he eats, what he drinks, the air he breathes, and even the very speech he utters, are all in one way or another, monitored, measured, influenced, controlled or compelled by government.  It is a vision of a nation and society where everyone pulls together in a common purpose and towards a common goal, a goal that is predetermined by government, or specifically by a small elite within government. 

And this goes to the prime difference between the ideology of Liberal-Progressivism, as embraced by the Democrats, and the conservative philosophy of Republicans and the Tea Party groups that are having such an influential role within the Republican Party and in this election.  And that difference is this: Progressives start with a vision—their vision—of what society should be and they seek, through government, to compel individuals to comply with that which is needed to bring about that utopian vision.  Conservatives, on the other hand, start with an understanding of individual human nature—its strengths and its weaknesses, its aspirations and its limitations—and upon that foundational understanding, they craft the rules upon which to build a successful government and society.

The Progressive belief in a common, top-driven, overriding principle of society has been tried before, in many nations and at many times throughout human history.  It has come forward in many guises, under many banners, called many different names, but it is always the same and it has always failed.  Indeed, it has done much worse than fail, it has destroyed; destroyed economies, destroyed societies, destroyed cultures, destroyed families and destroyed lives. 

History has shown us that great civilizations will rise and they will fall.  But to the extent that they have succeeded, it has always been because they have stayed true to their founding principles.  If they have failed, it is because they have strayed from them.  If our founding fathers were alive today, being the men they were, as champions of a limited, judicious and ethical government, knowledgeable as they were about human nature and the tragedies of human history, how do you think they would vote in this election?  How would they decide the question: what kind of nation do we want to be?

Related Posts:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/a-republic-if-you-can-keep-it/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/to-be-american/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/coming-undone/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

 

Coming Undone?

June 11, 2010

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:

And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,

The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,

And men were gather’d round their blazing homes

To look once more into each other’s face…

                           —Lord Byron, from Darkness

 

I.  Introduction

Thomas Hobbes

Long ago, an English philosopher once characterized the natural state of the human condition as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”1  Perhaps Thomas Hobbes had it right.  But considering the everyday lives of most modern Americans and Europeans, you wouldn’t know it.  Until recently, that is.  Over the course of our daily lives, most of us probably never give a second thought to how fortunate we Westerners — particularly Americans — truly are.  How pampered and privileged we’ve grown accustomed to being treated.  Most of us live and work in relative comfort.  We cruise around in our SUVs, or other similarly extravagant vehicles, while listening to the latest songs on our I-pod playlist.  We go to shopping malls (real or virtual) that cater to our every whim and fetish for things gaudy and gadgety.  We chat (or text) away on our cell phones or clatter away on our laptops while sipping gourmet coffee.  We see luxuries as mere conveniences and conveniences as absolute necessities. And we demand all sorts of expensive “rights” from our government leaders who seem more than happy to dole them out to us provided we keep electing them to office.  We’ve become so used to this coddled — albeit humdrum — way of life that we feel cheated if it is ever somehow denied to us.  We see it as no less than our birthright, our inheritance, our legacy.  We feel we are entitled to it.

And yet, most of us don’t seem to have a very clear understanding as to how we even got here; or have even the vaguest idea how entirely new and fragile all this is.  And for those of us that do, it is a trifling thought that signifies very little as we go about our daily routine.  We don’t stop to think that what we call life today in modern Western civilization, never even existed only four or five generations ago.  And we have nary a thought that one day it might all just go away.  Instead, we go on living in our own world enveloped by a kind of bubble of affluence and entitlement which deludes us into believing that Hobbes’s stark observation of man’s true state of existence is just not so.  Or if it is so, then it has little relation to today.  In our comfortable time and place, the realities of that other, much bleaker human condition are kept neatly at bay, tucked far away in other times, in other places.  In short, we take everything we have for granted.

But only five generations ago, everything was completely different.  At the very beginning of the twentieth century, there were of course no I-pods or I-pads or laptop computers.  There were no cell phones (the telephone itself was still a new invention.)  There was no Internet.  There were no televisions, no radios, no air conditioners, no refrigerators, no microwaves, no coffeemakers, not even a pop-up toaster.  In fact, the widespread use of applied electricity, as made available to consumers, was in its infancy.  The newly invented gas-powered automobile would have been a quirky indulgence.  And even basic needs like central heating and running water would have been considered a comfort that only a relative few could afford.  Indeed, a world with all of these amazing things in it would have seemed, to the seventeenth century mind of Thomas Hobbes, entirely fantastical.  And yet still alive today, there are those few very old folks who can actually recall, from childhood, the harder but much simpler times before any of these incredible advancements in the human condition had come into being.  Before the world was utterly transformed.

II.  A Brief History of American Capitalism

But what was responsible for this astonishing transformation of the world?  What was the overall driving force behind the affluence and technological advancements?  Was it government?  No, absolutely not.  And it definitely was not a large, centralized government.  In fact at that time government programs, to the extent they existed at all, were nothing like the costly entitlements of today.  Indeed, outside of waging war, the government’s role at the beginning of the twentieth century was, by today’s standards, a very limited one. 2

So what was responsible?  In a word, it was capitalism. American capitalism. As the nineteenth century drew to an historic close, the premonitory beginnings of the new twentieth century foretold the advent of an even more momentous age.  The decrepit despots and ruling classes of old Europe were on their last legs.  Soon, the First World War would snuff them out completely.  And in the New World, the age of American liberty and American capitalism — of individual freedoms and free enterprise — was well underway.  America had made it through a bitter civil war and survived.  And a nation, “conceived in liberty,” had in fact not perished from the earth. 3  Indeed, it was flourishing.  America as an idea — an idea of freedom — had taken hold.  Liberty, individual liberty, and self-reliance were at work in all spheres, and had become the fulcrum and foundation of the American economy.  And they became embedded in American culture and society.  The young American nation’s industrial revolution was in full swing.  Virtually over night, America went from an agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse.  And the nations of old Europe looked our way with envy and a desire to emulate.  And emulate they did, but they only got so far.  Caught up in class struggles and internecine conflicts, and tied down by the vestiges of their own feudal past, capitalism in the American sense never quite took root in Europe.  The façade of capitalism was erected but deference to the central authority of the state remained.  It would take yet another World War and then a Cold War for European nations to finally try to put misguided ideologies behind them.  Yet even today much of Europe still seems poised to slip back into the false calm of despotism.

Nevertheless, as the new American century moved forward, the power of American capitalism, and the wealth it created, was spreading worldwide anyway it could.  And as the reach of America’s brand of capitalism extended elsewhere, it began to utterly and fundamentally alter the lives and living standards of Americans and Europeans.  Indeed many Europeans, not willing to wait for prosperity to come to them were now emigrating to America’s shores in droves.  Capitalism was lifting off the shade of night and raising America and the world into a bright new realm of limitless possibilities.  Unfettered freedom in the markets, freedom in the exchange of thoughts and ideas, created and still today creates the nurturing environment — the incubator — for individual initiative and innovation and invention to take place.  It was the “pursuit of happiness,” that our founders had so eloquently bequeathed to us, made actual and real.  Individuals, not governments, reliant on no one, other than themselves, armed with freedom and a desire to succeed: that was the simple but beautiful idea — a dream almost — upon which the young American nation was founded and that Americans were actually living.

And, at least until recent times, it was an idea that was lived by Americans without undue interference or “assistance” by government.  Quite the contrary, it was a formula that worked precisely because government was removed from it.  As little government as possible; only that government which is absolutely necessary — these were the things our country’s founders warned us about over and over again.  But somewhere during the past one-hundred years or so, between New Deals and Fair Deals, between Progressive Reforms and Great Societies, between Social Justice and the Nanny State, between Hope and Change, we allowed government to gum up the works.  Big time.  We are now a full-fledged entitlement economy, society, and culture which is something the founders of this country never wanted us to be.  Individual self-reliance and initiative have gone by the wayside.  They have been supplanted by a group mentality of entitlement.  We look to government now, rather than ourselves, for “rights” and other “free” stuff, and we are embittered and angry if ever we are denied our due.  Moreover, we are made to feel justified in these feelings.  Indeed, over the years we have been encouraged and conditioned by weak leaders within governments and by a misguided media culture to see these things — this grand benefits package — as our heritage.

But as we choose to remain an entitlement society, we shall go the way of all entitlement societies: sooner or later, the bubble bursts.  And when it does, that other, cruel Hobbesian world comes rushing in. 

III.  Greece: The Collapse of an Entitlement Society

In Greece, that bubble has burst.  The momentous events in Greece over these past several weeks and months have been a rude awakening for the Western world.  Greece, the epitome of a modern entitlement society, has finally come crashing down.  For decades, Greek citizens have relied on government entitlements and subsidies: unaffordable state jobs, excessive state pensions, government healthcare and other high-priced government programs and, consequently, the country has amassed unsustainable debt.  They’ve simply run out of money.  Now, the government’s long overdue attempts to rein in spending through a variety of austerity measures — a requirement of their multi-billion dollar bailout by the European Union and the largely United States funded IMF — have forced the Greeks to give up the entitled way of life that they had grown accustomed to and accept another, harsher reality.  As a consequence, Greece has erupted.  The Greeks have resorted to looting and rioting and lawlessness, resulting in anarchy and death.

At present, the only thing keeping the Greek economy alive today is the massive infusion of loans from the IMF and the European Union.  The Greek economy and society have simply come undone.  And it is dark days indeed for the Greek people: nasty, brutish and short.  They must now try to start over.  To search for the pieces of their past lives through the dark of starless nights and the sulfurous pall of extinguished days.  To rethink the future and to relearn, perhaps, what they had never really taught themselves in the first place.

Now, comparable calamities are foreseen in the other entitlement nations of Europe: particularly Spain, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain and Ireland.  If one or more of these nations experience similar death throes then the dominos will surely begin to fall.  Some experts suggest that any number of obscure triggers may set things off and send fundamentally profound tremors undulating through all of the industrialized world’s economies. 4

Obviously, this all has potentially dire implications for the United States.  But the Greek example illustrates a larger point: the inevitable predicament that all entitlement societies, including the United States, eventually find themselves in.  As the debt grows, it eventually swallows up the nation’s capacity for production.  Like in Greece, ultimately the nation’s economy is devoured entirely by national debt and becomes no more. Essentially, entitlement economies feed upon and finally consume themselves until there is simply no economy left.  So is present day Greece a glimpse into the future of America?  Are we coming undone too?

IV.  Are We Coming Undone?

Well to start with, we are a nation and government that bears little resemblance to the one that existed just four or five generations ago (to say nothing of the one that the founders envisioned).  We were then a land of immigrants — mostly European immigrants— who fled our respective home countries to come live the promised dream of America.  But the sad irony is that now we have more in common with Europe and European systems than ever before.  A recent study by the Heritage Foundation finds that one in five American households now depend on the government for assistance with basic necessities (e.g., food, housing, etc.) And one in eight households now rely on the government for food-stamps.  This is to say nothing of unemployment subsidies, education subsidies and the advent of subsidized healthcare.  All this, the study finds, while the number of Americans who actually pay the taxes to ostensibly support this government largesse is shrinking.  5

And, all the while, the government continues to grow.  Recent federal government stimulus programs, government bailouts of industries, and now government-run healthcare have been heaped onto an already growing mountain of national debt.  The government has become an enormous and myriad conglomeration— a colossus — of bureaucratic programs, agencies, divisions and departments that siphon billions off the nation’s wealth just to pay for the interest on the debt alone.  While Greece’s debt to GDP ratio is at an unsustainable 110% the United States is now not far behind, with a recent CBO report estimating U.S. debt will rise to a staggering 90% or more of GDP by next year!  6   Continuing down this path, “we can expect a default on government promises (Medicare, Social Security, Healthcare), higher interest rates on U.S. government bonds or even a flight by foreign investors like China to alternative investments, and a drop in the value of the dollar, raising energy and consumer costs and spreading inflation throughout the economy.” 7   All of this resulting in a dramatic decline in American living standards for generations to come.  Eventually, the colossus topples and falls.

The Colossus of Rhodes

So these are all very disturbing statistics.  Numbers shocking enough to provoke any reasonable government official to take action and change course.  Or at least one would think that.  And yet today we have leaders in government who seem not the slightest bit concerned by any of this – on the contrary they are willing to go even further in this direction.  Indeed, our President actually comes right out and says, and seems to truly believe, that government and more government is the only solution for America.  And he is aided and abetted in this view by a complicit mainstream news media that borders on a ministry of propaganda. 

But what’s more is that we, as a people, seem perfectly willing to accept this madness; and that is the real tragedy.  Apart from a few vocal dissenters, today we, the people, look to government for solutions rather than ourselves.  With our dependable entitlements and our reassuring affluence, with our mania for creature comforts, and in our sheer arrogance and complacency, we have moved well beyond mere apathy and into the mindset of dependency.  We have lost our way and drifted far, far away from what we were one hundred years ago, and before, into something that we were never meant to be.  We have allowed ourselves to be cajoled, nudged, and deceived by those in government who would have us depend on government rather than ourselves; so much so that we now feel entitled to our dependency.  But dependency and liberty can never go together.  So we’ve traded in one for the other.  Now we’re left with platitudes from politicians, slogans of hope and change, images on the television, and our own vanities.  We are left with the mere trappings of liberty.  But not liberty itself. 

So how long can America remain on this tragic, catastrophic course?  How much longer can the unsustainable be sustained?  How long before we realize that we have become Greece?  Before we realize the inevitable, tragic collapse?

In a way, Greece is lucky that they are the first.  They are lucky that there are still  solvent institutions like the IMF and EU to come and bail them out.  But what happens next?  What happens to Spain, to Italy, to Portugal, to Great Britain, to Ireland?  Who comes to bail them out?  What happens to California? To New York?  To Michigan? To Louisiana? To Florida? To Pennsylvania?  To the whole of the United States?  What happens when the economy completely shuts down?  When currency becomes worthless paper?  When investments, retirement accounts, savings accounts are completely wiped out?  When there is no longer a monthly check from the government?  When there is no food on the shelves?  No electricity?  No heat?  No running water?  When people have nothing left to lose; when we have finally come undone?  Because sooner or later in an entitlement economy, society and culture, it all comes undone.  And, frighteningly, these sorts of things always seem to happen sooner than anyone expects. 

Darkness falls.  And the night comes swiftly.  

V.  Conclusion:   “We Are Americans”

It was a simple formula that the Founding Fathers gave us.  Individual liberty combined with self-reliance in the pursuit of one’s own happiness.  A simple and beautiful and common-sense formula; not some pricey entitlement and benefits package.  We were given an elegant thing by very courageous, brilliant and generous men, and we threw it away; or rather so abused and neglected it that it is as good as thrown away.

However…   However, individual liberty, self-reliance, free-enterprise, the free exchange of ideas and freedom of speech and expression — these essential ingredients that make up the rare alloy of capitalism — come from America and nowhere else.  They come from our shores.  They may have taken root elsewhere in the world, and thank Heaven for that, but they are American “inventions” if you will and they are what make us unique.  America is the birthplace of these things and they are our true legacy, our real inheritance.  Capitalism, the free-market way, is the unique American way.  It is as American as apple pie or a Norman Rockwell painting.  It is in our blood, so to speak. It is our culture.  And for that reason, so long as we remain Americans, we can always naturally return to it.

And we will return to it.  With the passing of this year’s Memorial Day into night and into day again, and with this week’s remembrance of D-Day and the consequential days that followed it, I am reminded that this country has seen dark days and darker nights before.  This nation has faced formidable — seemingly insurmountable challenges — and has overcome them.  And so I am reminded of this nation’s greatness, its uniqueness.  I am reminded of its tenacity and inner strength.  I am reminded of its love of freedom and individualism.  And I am reminded of its people — our people.  Our people are not the Greeks. We are not the Italians.  Nor are we Spaniards or Portuguese.  We are not English, nor Irish nor Scottish. We are not Germans nor are we French.  We are not Russians. We are not Asians, neither are we Arabs.  We are not Africans, we are not Australians, and we are not South Americans. We are neither Mexicans nor are we Canadians. We are, rather, all of these, and something much more.

We are Americans.  E Pluribus Unum, is the Latin phrase.  Out of many, one.  And as Americans, we shall triumph over the undreamt of troubles that for us Fate has set in store.  We shall change our course and right our faithful ship, as we have done so many times before.  We shall come through this dour darkness to look yet once more into each other’s face, in the bright early light of a newly dawning day.  8

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Notes:

1: The full Thomas Hobbes quote: 

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  –Leviathan, Ch. 13.

2:  Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States national debt as a percentage of GDP was only around 10%.  United States currency was tied to the gold standard.  There was no Federal Reserve Bank.  And there was no Federal income tax — that would have to wait until 1913 with adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  For a great website on the history of U.S. Government, taxation, spending and debt, click here:    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/index.php

3: The full Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” –Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

4: Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052304170.html

5: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=36648

6: Washington Times article:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/26/cbos-2020-vision-debt-will-rise-to-90-of-gdp/

7: Heritage Foundation article:

http://blog.heritage.org/2010/05/10/europe-2010-a-glimpse-of-america%e2%80%99s-economic-future/#more-33298

8: The poem: 

We Are Americans

We are Americans.

E Pluribus Unum,

Is the Latin phrase.

Out of many, one. 

And as Americans,

We shall triumph

Over the undreamt of

Troubles that for us

Fate has set in store.

We shall change our course

And right our faithful ship,

As we have done

So many times before.

We shall come through

This dour darkness

To look yet once more

Into each other’s face,

In the bright early light

Of a newly dawning day.

              – by Elbert Soler

 —————————–

For related posts on this topic, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/america-r-i-p/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/glenn-beck%e2%80%99s-cpac-speech-tiger-woods-and-toilet-bowls-a-blackboard-and-brilliance/

Bill Clinton: Extremist in Chief

April 21, 2010

Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty. —Thomas Jefferson

 

In a speech given last Friday, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in which 168 people were killed and hundreds more injured, former President Bill Clinton said, in part, the following:

“Before the bombing occurred, there was a sort of fever in America… the fabric of American life had been unraveling. More and more people who had a hard time figuring out where they fit in, it is true that we see some of that today. … This Tea Party movement can be a healthy thing if they’re making us justify every penny of taxes we raised and every dollar of public money we spend, but when you get mad, sometimes you wind up producing exactly the reverse result of what you say you are for.”  (Emphasis added.)

Then on Monday, in an article appearing in the New York Times’ Op-Ed section, Clinton drew similar parallels between the conditions leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing and the political climate of today. Here are some excerpts:

“Finally, we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them. On that April 19, the second anniversary of the assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, deeply alienated and disconnected Americans decided murder was a blow for liberty. Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom. Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws.

We are again dealing with difficulties in a contentious, partisan time…. Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City, and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.”  1 (Emphasis added.)

Get it? Get the picture? If you are a member of the Tea Party movement or even just sympathetic to the cause, you better watch out! You better watch what you say or else you may be viewed as an extremist or, if something really bad happens, a facilitator to mass murder! So all you grandmothers, disabled veterans and other radicals better just put down your signs, get back on the bus, and get along back on home before you get yourselves in a real heap of trouble.

Liberal shills and other propagandists in the mainstream media as well as some Democratic members of Congress are saying the same thing. It is the same exact message and in some cases they use the same language: this Tea Party thing is dangerous! A year ago, they were ridiculing them. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s Astroturf jibe where she made the cynical claim that the Tea Partiers were really just the artificially contrived invention of a cabal of Republican operators rather than a legitimate grassroots movement? Well, it seems a few defeats at the ballot box have changed their tune. Now, it’s time to pull out the big guns. To get out that big brush and smear the hell out of these folks for having the temerity to speak up against an overreaching government.  And who bigger than Bill Clinton? 

To say that this is not a coordinated effort to besmirch the Tea Partiers on the part of the White House, the Democratic Party and their enablers in the mainstream media is to deny the obvious. The political wisdom of alienating almost a third of the electorate (by some estimates) is highly questionable but riskier gambits have worked before. And this Administration, I believe, is determined to let nothing stand in the way of its Progressive agenda.

 

But I think there is an even more sinister motive at work here. With regard to the ex-President’s words in particular, on its face it would appear that Bill Clinton is merely stating the axiom that words matter; that inciting extremism is a bad thing. 2  Well, of course words matter. (And no one would know that better than “Mr. Depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is!”) But the words that matter include your words too, Mr. President. Indeed, your words matter more than those of most Americans. One could argue that Mr. Clinton, by these series of statements alone, has done much more damage with his words than any home-made signs at a Tea Party rally could do. As Rush Limbaugh put it, Clinton has effectively set the stage for any nut-job, either on the extreme left or on the extreme right, to go out and commit violence. In effect, it legitimizes the motivations of, and provides an excuse for, any wacko who might want to do violence by permitting them to simply say, “Hey, I’m just agreeing with what them Tea Baggers are saying,” or “You know, like Bill Clinton said, ‘The Tea Party made me do it!’ ” And if this, God forbid, should happen, Rush would be absolutely right: the blame falls squarely on Mr. Clinton. Which, in that case, I think kind of makes Bill Clinton the de facto leader of all the extremists: The Extremist in Chief, one might say.

But maybe Bill Clinton isn’t worried all that much about that. Maybe he’s prepared to have the debate over who’s to blame. In fact, maybe that is the scenario that he and their side really want to come about. So that when something horrible happens, they can point and say, “A-ha! See! This is what we’ve been saying all along! We told you they were extremists!” And then they can take whatever measures they believe are necessary to maintain order.  Maybe start by cracking down on all “anti-government” speech.  Followed by a general move toward “regulating” all free speech and freedom of the press (bye-bye FoxNews and talk radio!) through something like the “Fairness Doctrine.”  Then of course you must outlaw all gun ownership.  And in order to accomplish that, freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures would have to be swept aside.  Etc. etc.  It would be like their own version of the Nazi’s Reichstag fire.   Sound far-fetched? Time will tell.

For now, what gets lost in all this commotion over so-called extremism is the fundamental right of these patriotic Americans to peacefully protest under the protections of the First Amendment.  Doesn’t their right to free speech come into play here? Certainly Mr. Clinton doesn’t seem to be a big fan of it. The First Amendment guaranteeing free speech and expression isn’t there just for porn stars and Howard Stern. Unfettered political speech, especially political speech that vexes the sensitivities of the governmental authority, is precisely what the founders had in mind as the kind of speech most needful of First Amendment protection. That a former President, even one as discredited as Bill Clinton, should publicly declare otherwise, is nothing less than an affront to the very Constitution he once swore to uphold. But why in the case of Mr. Clinton doesn’t that surprise me?

I realize all this sounds like a harsh indictment of the illustrious former President, but believe it or not I actually like Mr. Clinton. He’s just a likeable guy: especially as an ex-President. So therefore, I respectfully suggest if Mr. Clinton truly wishes to put his gift of gab to good use, that he go back to using it where it serves him best: picking up slutty fat chicks. That way, nobody gets hurt.

__________________________

Footnotes:

Fn. 1:  To link to the full New York Times Op-Ed article, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/opinion/19clinton.html?ref=todayspaper

Fn. 2:  Bill Clinton does have one point here: Inciting extremism is a bad thing. In fact, it’s almost as bad as pardoning extremist terrorists during the last months of your Presidency. In August of 1999, just months before his Presidency and under cover of night, Clinton pardoned 16 members of a terrorist group known as the FALN, or Armed Forces of National Liberation, a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group, who were responsible for two bombs that exploded in New York City on New Year’s Eve, 1982. In addition, the FBI linked FALN members to 146 other bombings and a string of armed robberies, resulting in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims. According to the Wall Street Journal, Clinton claimed he granted the 16 pardons because those who were offered the pardons had “sentences that were disproportionate to the crimes.”  Oh, really?  Well, if Clinton wants to have a discussion about promoting or coddling extremism, let’s start with his pardoning of these vile scumbags rather than picking on grandmothers and disabled war vets who are angry over cuts in their Medicare.

 

Fn. 3: For more information on the German Reichstag fire click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_fire

Glenn Beck’s CPAC Speech: Tiger Woods and Toilet bowls, a Blackboard and Brilliance

February 27, 2010
 
Glenn Beck at CPAC

In an America that has grown up in a hurry – some might say too much of a hurry – Glenn Beck is someone saying “hold on just a minute.”  In Beck’s stirring speech before CPAC this past weekend (he was last Saturday’s keynote speaker) the conservative political commentator showcased his brilliance not merely as an orator but as the maestro of a mass movement disaffected toward the present state of American politics and big government.  In his delivery, Beck is at turns funny, flamboyant, histrionic, sarcastic and just plain brilliant.  In an age of teleprompters and cunningly crafted sound bites, Beck at all times speaks from the heart.

Beck is a Constitutional purist: a true believer in the great men who founded this country.  He believes that those men of genius got it right from the start and still have it right today: that America is an idea—an idea that sets people free.  And so Beck is a believer in all the greatness that was and still can be America.  His speech begins with a fond remembrance of Ronald Reagan (himself a former and frequent keynote speaker at CPAC) and the conservative President’s “Morning in America” slogan.  As bad as things seem, Beck assures us that it is still morning in America, albeit one where we are all hung-over and gripping the toilet bowl after the excesses of the previous night’s binge.

Beck is a self-taught student of history and a believer in the lessons it has to teach those who would only seek to learn from it.  In particular, Beck warns time and again about the unfortunate history of Progressives and the Progressive movement in America.  At CPAC, he actually had his trusty blackboard hauled out onto the stage so he could write out the word: Progressives.  “This is the disease!” Beck exclaims.  Progressives and Progressivism are the cancer that is eating away at America and the American Constitution.  It is a big government socialist utopia that must be eradicated.  The two (the Constitution and Progressivism), says Beck, cannot coexist, and the country needs big thinkers and brave people “with spines” to combat the Progressive disease.  But Beck, speaking to his conservative and pro-Republican audience, is not convinced that the Republican Party is even up to that challenge.  Drawing parallels to Tiger Woods, he says he still hasn’t seen a sincere “come to Jesus” style mea culpa from Republican leaders who, like a recovering alcoholic (which Beck himself is), need to admit that they have a problem too (with too much government spending and too little integrity).  It’s not enough, Beck says, “just to not suck as much” as the Democrats.  Beck speaks often and passionately about the need to have leaders who won’t “check their souls at the door” when they take on the privilege and responsibilities of elected office.  In this respect, one could say Beck has taken on the mantle of a modern John the Baptist in search of his country’s messiah, and one wonders if he would ever consider the lead role for himself.

Beck concludes his CPAC speech with a brilliant exposition on the little known back-story connected to the Statue of Liberty.  He explains that the French didn’t simply gift it to the United States as a mere gesture of goodwill between nations.  But rather it was given with the ulterior motive of mocking their fellow Europeans at a time when Europe was in the midst of its own upheavals and soul searching.  Further, it was a statement of admiration, not to say envy, toward a new and dynamic nation that, after its first one-hundred years, was beginning to come into its own.  This is a strong message and counterpoint for today when our own leaders seem to be saying we should become more like Europe!

The true intent and meaning behind the Statue of Liberty becomes evident when one reads (as Beck does) the entire poem that is engraved within the pedestal on which the statue stands.  The full poem reads thus:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

—Emma Lazarus, 1883

The poet and critic James Russell Lowell wrote that the poem gave the Statue of Liberty its “raison d’être.”  Beck would undoubtedly agree, but would add that the poem transforms the statue from a fancy welcome mat for immigrants into a testament to the world of indelible hope and endless possibilities for all who might yearn to breathe free, including even those that the storied nations of Europe, with their old systems and internecine struggles, would discard.

As Glenn Beck and many others would see it, the Statue of Liberty is really what America is all about.  And America is an idea that sets people free.