The Madison Paradox and Obama’s Constitution Day Stealth Comment: Referring to Our Constitutional Rights as ‘Privileges’Posted: September 18, 2014
Maybe James Madison was right. Maybe the Bill of Rights wasn’t just unnecessary, it was a bad idea, destined to be viewed in the distant future exactly the wrong way
For United Liberty, Jason Pye catches Obama’s shaded wording, and writes a welcome blast of corrective historical clarity. Though I can’t resist including my own comments in the margins, the piece stands as testament to the power of word choices. Pye writes:
…In his presidential proclamation marking Constitution Day, President Barack Obama offered some insight into how he views the Bill of Rights. “Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society,” Obama said in the release. “It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
“It secures the
rights privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
Given that this White House is known for its expansive view of executive power, the assertion that the rights guaranteed and protected under the Bill of Rights, the fact that President Obama views these fundamental liberties to be “privileges” isn’t too terribly surprising. After all, President Obama treats the legislative branch — which, again, is supposed to be a co-equal branch of the federal government — as an afterthought as it arbitrarily changes statues and even refuses to enforce laws.
But words matter. To say the rights secured by the Constitution are “privileges” implies that they can be revoked. Let’s put this another way: a high school-aged kid is given the privilege of taking their father’s car out to go hang out with friends, that is until they abuse it by getting caught speeding or into a car accident. The disappointed father would, no doubt, take away the privilege.
Rights and liberties, however, are based on a solid foundation. They can’t be taken away by some paternalistic president. The view of the framers was that the rights protected under the Bill of Rights existed before the formation of the federal government under the Constitution. In short, they were natural rights.
In fact, James Madison believed that a list of specific rights was unnecessary.
Though we celebrate the ratification of the Bill of Rights, I can’t help but interrupt to expand on Jason Pye‘s oversimplification — Madison didn’t believe that a list of specific rights was unnecessary, Madison and others believed listing individual rights would set a dangerous precedent. As illustrated in my half-remembered reading of Joseph J. Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” the dissenters wisely understood that making a special top-ten list of rights could lead to a troubling misperception that individual rights are limited, reducible to a specific list. Which could then be used to mislead future generations into accepting false limits.
It’s federal powers that are finite, narrow, and limited. So limited you could number them. (enumerated powers) Individual rights, as conceived by the founders–aren’t limited, they’re virtually infinite. Not reducible to a list. Enshrining some of them in a list would lead to, well, exactly the misunderstanding that persists to this day. The argument resisting an enumerated “Bill of Rights” wasn’t perfect, but it had merit. It showed foresight.
Jason Pye continues:
Thankfully, George Mason and others, to ensure ratification, convinced Madison to come up with proposals, ten of which were passed by Congress and approved by at least three-fifths of the states. Read the rest of this entry »
“Effective today, the president? A photo-op? or something in between?” Susteren asked.
“Photo-op. Complete photo-op. This indicative of a global failure of his foreign policy.”
Higbie explained. “He has toted that he is behind the troops before and he stands in front of these guys, gets a photo-op, everything like that, while saying he’s going to send 3,000 guys to combat Ebola, but I’m not going to send any to combat an actual enemy that’s really threatening America.”
“What do you think they think? I mean, I suppose it’s kind of a mixed bag?” Susteren pressed.
“I’d say most of the troops. Probably over 90 percent, do not support the president.”
Susteren then asked Higbie about his time as a Navy SEAL, “As a Navy SEAL, you have trained foreign troops? Right? How many times? More than one trip to Iraq?”
“Absolutely, we did two deployments,” Higbie said. Read the rest of this entry »
Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere Gambles His Sanity on a 4000-word Article About Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Predictable FlameoutPosted: September 17, 2014
She’s become a liability to the Democratic National Committee, and even to her own prospects, critics say
This news isn’t surprising, to anyone but hard-core Wasserman supporters (they must exist, somewhere, not counting her immediate family) but what is surprising is that Edward-Isaac Dovere could actually write (or Politico would publish) a 4000 word article about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, without achieving spontaneous composition, acute nausea and raging headaches, or having the urge to hurl the keyboard out the window, and then follow it, head first. Though, to be fair, perhaps it’s premature to suggest Dovere gambled his sanity.
Third-rate Palace Intrigue involving a failed administration and its loyal-but-doomed messengers is like black-tie Shakespearean drama for the insider class. In Washington D.C., surviving an assignment like this can get you promoted. If there’s a national journalism award for sheer endurance, Dovere should be nominated for the newly-minted “Debbie Wasserman Schultz” award.
If Politico thinks this merits a New Yorker-length expose (4000 words, yes, really) who are we to disagree? it’s not written for readers, mind you, but for other media people and fellow insiders. However, if you have an appetite for democratic party politics exceeding that of even the most seasoned Democratic party operatives, you can find the whole ungodly thing here.
Democrats turn on Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Edward-Isaac Dovere writes: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.
“I guess the best way to describe it is, it’s not that she’s losing a duel anywhere, it’s that she seems to keep shooting herself in the foot before she even gets the gun out of the holster.”
Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters. [See Walker gives 'back of his hand']
“One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe.”
The perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win. This includes using meetings with DNC donors to solicit contributions for her own PAC and campaign committee, traveling to uncompetitive districts to court House colleagues for her potential leadership bid and having DNC-paid staff focus on her personal political agenda.
She’s become a liability to the DNC, and even to her own prospects, critics say.
“The Obama team was so serious about replacing her after 2012 that they found a replacement candidate to back before deciding against it, according to people familiar with those discussions.”
“I guess the best way to describe it is, it’s not that she’s losing a duel anywhere, it’s that she seems to keep shooting herself in the foot before she even gets the gun out of the holster,” said John Morgan, a major donor in Wasserman Schultz’s home state of Florida.
“Obama and Wasserman Schultz have rarely even talked since 2011. They don’t meet about strategy or messaging. They don’t talk much on the phone.”
The stakes are high. Wasserman Schultz is a high-profile national figure who helped raise millions of dollars and served as a Democratic messenger to female voters during a presidential election in which Obama needed to exploit the gender gap to win, but November’s already difficult midterms are looming. Read the rest of this entry »
The most revealing part of the Op-Ed isn’t the Op-Ed, it’s this:
“The comments section is closed.”
Just Don’t Expect us to try To Win it or Anything
“There’s frankly a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology.”
In an interview that aired this morning on CBS’s Face the Nation, Kerry addressed the fact that his rejection of the term to describe the U.S. action against the Islamic State was at odds with subsequent statements from the administration.
“if you want to use it, yes we’re at war with ISIL in that sense…But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that.”
This Day in History: Sept. 14, 1901: Theodore Roosevelt is Sworn in as President After William McKinley is AssassinatedPosted: September 14, 2014
On this day in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as President of the United States upon William McKinley’s assassination. Roosevelt was 42 at the time, making him the youngest President until John F. Kennedy.
McKinley, who had been extremely resistant to accepting security measures, was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz about a week earlier in Buffalo, New York. Afterwards, Congress assigned the Secret Service the duty of protecting the President.
[a preview video of McKinley’s assassination from Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts]
Photo: Assassination of President McKinley. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama writes: The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.
The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.
In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.
But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.
The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.
Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government. Read the rest of this entry »
“…I think what you could conclude from this is the United States is at war with ISIL..”
From The Corner, Brendan Bordelon: It looks as though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was on-message Friday when he contradicted secretary of state John Kerry by saying ”we are at war” with the Islamic State, since White House press secretary Josh Earnest echoed his remarks almost word-for-word just minutes later.
“…in the same way that we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its al-Qaeda affiliates all around the globe.”
Shorter Obama administration: We’re not at war with ISIS, we’re at war with the English language
— David A. Graham (@GrahamDavidA) September 11, 2014
David A. Graham’s timely tweet (
is that an original epigram, David? Update: he confirms it is) reminded me of this item from a few years ago, a reference to an ancient figure, before Reagan, before Clinton and Bush, even way back before Lyndon Johnson.
[Also see - John Kerry: America Isn’t at War with ISIS]
From a column by Roger Kimball…
March 27th, 2011, Roger Kimball writes:
…what Obama’s minions are calling our “kinetic military activity” in Libya, I noted that the folks presiding over Orwell’s Newspeak would have liked the phrase “kinetic military activity.” As a mendacious and evasive euphemism for “war” it is hard to beat. But Orwell is not the only important thinker the Obama administration’s assault on the English language brings to mind. There is also Confucius.
…Asked by a disciple how to rule a state properly, Confucius replies that it begins with rectifying the names:
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be conducted successfully. When affairs cannot be conducted successfully, propriety will not flourish. When propriety does not flourish, punishments will not be properly meted out. When punishments are not properly meted out, the people will not know how to conduct themselves.”
That was written about 475 B.C. When will we catch up with its wisdom?
“Facts are stubborn things.”
After Carney had offered a favorable take on his former boss’s speech, Senator McCain took issue with Carney’s claim that the moderate Syrian opposition, which the president tonight proposed to arm, is stronger and more easily identifiable than it had been over the past couple years, during which time McCain had called for arming moderate rebel groups but President Obama had refused.
No serious expert on the matter thinks the moderate rebels are stronger now than they were earlier in the war, McCain pointed out. Read the rest of this entry »
For Defining Ideas, Victor Davis Hanson writes: Will the United States in its near future be hit again in the manner of the 9/11 attacks of thirteen years ago? The destruction of the World Trade Center, the suicide implosions of four passenger airliners, and the attack on the Pentagon unfortunately have become far-off memories. They are now more distant from us than was the Vietnam War was from the Korean War.
“Drone strikes continue at a vastly accelerated pace under President Obama, but they also raise existential hypocrisies about our approach to terrorism.”
Two questions will determine whether radical Islamic terrorists will attack us once more: one, are the post-9/11 anti-terrorism protocols that have so far stopped major terrorist attacks still viable and effective, and, two, is Al-Qaeda or an analogous Islamic terrorist organization now still as capable as were Osama bin Laden’s henchmen in 2001?
Unfortunately, the answers to those two questions should raise great concern. Take the current status of the so-called war on terror in all of its manifestations. The southern border of the United States is less guarded than at anytime since 9/11.
For all practical purposes, enforceable immigration laws simply no longer exist. The result is that we have no idea who is crossing into the United States or for what purposes.
“The President’s six years of concentrated Islamic outreach has not won over the Muslim Middle East.”
Some of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols are still in operation—renditions, preventative detention, the Guantanamo detention center, and the Patriot Act. However, the NSA, IRS, and VA scandals, along with the Edward Snowden and Wikileaks revelations, have created an understandably strong public backlash against government surveillance, which will lead to new protocols limiting our ability to monitor terrorist suspects. Read the rest of this entry »
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 9, 2014
It seems to be an increasingly rare moment in American politics when Left and Right agree, but the poles appear to agree on one thing: President Obama is a cynical politician. Liberal criticism of the president comes on the heels of the president’s announcement that he plans to delay his proposed executive order on immigration until after November’s midterm elections.
“Republicans have long been aware that the president’s policy decisions are dictated by political considerations. It’s nice to see liberals coming to the same realization.”
The political calculation that prompted the decision is obvious: A constitution-bending order that legitimizes millions of illegal immigrants is not a decision red-state Senate Democrats in tight races want to have to defend. A Republican Senate (along with a Republican House) would mark the effective end of the Obama presidency. Read the rest of this entry »
This article is an example of why Michael Barone is considered indispensable among political reporters and media wonks. Even for the blog surfers and unreformed political news junkies like the rest of us, he’s the guy to read this election year. It’s a long one, worth investing time in. In a sweeping but brisk history of a half-century of party evolution, Barone summarizes both Republican and Democratic party transformations over the years. Read a sample below, for more, read it all here.
For the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone writes: America’s two great political parties are constantly transforming themselves, sometimes in small increments, sometimes in sudden lurches. They respond to cues sent to them by voters — which can range from attaboy! to fuhggedaboutit — and to the initiatives of party leaders, especially presidents.
“When you have a rush of hundreds of thousands of previously uninvolved people into electoral politics, you get a certain number of wackos, weirdos and witches. But you also get many new people who turn out to be serious citizens with exceptional political skills.”
But when the other party has held the White House for an extended period, the transformation process can be stormy and chaotic. Which is a pretty apt description of the Republican Party over the past few years. Its two living ex-presidents, the George Bushes, withdrew from active politics immediately after leaving the White House, and its two most recent nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, say they are not running for president again, although they do weigh in on issues. There is no obvious heir apparent and there are many politicians who may seek the 2016 presidential nomination. More than usual, the opposition party is up for grabs.
“Mainstream media will inevitably emphasize the discontentment in the Republican Party that originated in the second Bush term and flashed into prominence soon after Obama took office. It will tend to ignore the discontentment in the Democratic Party that are raging with increasing intensity.”
As the cartoon images of elephant and donkey suggest, our two parties are different kinds of animals. Republicans have generally been more cohesive, with a core made up of politicians and voters who see themselves, and are seen by others,
as typical Americans — white Northern Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians today. But those groups, by themselves, have never been a majority of the nation. The Democratic Party has been made up of disparate groups of people regarded, by themselves and others, as outsiders in some way — Southern whites and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and gentry liberals today. Our electoral system motivates both to amass coalitions larger than 50 percent of voters. Democrats tend to do so by adding additional disparate groups. Republicans tend to do so by coming up with appeals that unite their base and erode Democrats’ support from others. Read the rest of this entry »