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[VIDEO] Freedom 101 

ronald-reagan-malcom-x

A video crash-up covering the political landscape of the 1960’s, featuring MLK, RFK, JFK, Malcom X, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater.

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The Slow Decline of America Since LBJ Launched the Great Society

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May 16, 2014George F. Will writes: Standing on his presidential limousine, Lyndon Johnson, campaigning in Providence, R.I., in September 1964, bellowed through a bullhorn: “We’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” This was a synopsis of what he had said four months earlier.

“In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.”

Fifty years ago this Thursday, at the University of Michigan, Johnson had proposed legislating into existence a Great Society. It would end poverty and racial injustice, “but that is just the beginning.” It would “rebuild the entire urban United States” while fending off “boredom and restlessness,” slaking “the hunger for community” and enhancing “the meaning of our lives” — all by assembling “the best thought and the broadest knowledge.”

In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.

[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]

Barry Goldwater, Johnson’s 1964 opponent who assumed that Americans would vote to have a third president in 14 months, suffered a landslide defeat. After voters rebuked FDR in 1938 for attempting to 41npsm-1StL._SL250_“pack” the Supreme Court, Republicans and Southern Democrats prevented any liberal legislating majority in Congress until 1965. That year, however, when 68 senators and 295 representatives were Democrats, Johnson was unfettered.

[Order the book “The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy” from Amazon.com]

He remains, regarding government’s role, much the most consequential 20th-century president. Indeed, the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt, in his measured new booklet The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy,” says LBJ, more than FDR, “profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance.”

When Johnson became president in 1963, Social Security was America’s only nationwide social program. His programs and those they subsequently legitimated put the nation on the path to the present, in which changed social norms — dependency on government has been destigmatized — have changed America’s national character.

Between 1959 and 1966 — before the War on Poverty was implemented — the percentage of Americans living in poverty plunged by about one-third, from 22.4 to 14.7, slightly lower than in 2012. But, Eberstadt cautions, the poverty rate is “incorrigibly misleading” because government transfer payments have made income levels and consumption levels significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: Is it Time for Civil Disobedience of Kludgeocratic Bureaucracy?

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Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Is there any way to reverse the trend to ever more intrusive, bossy government? Things have gotten to such a pass, argues Charles Murray, that only civil disobedience might — might — work. But the chances are good enough, he says, that he’s written a book about it: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

“The Progressive push to give politically insulated bureaucrats power to impose detailed and often incomprehensible rules was a product of the industrial era, a time when it was supposed that experts with stopwatches could design maximally productive assembly lines.”

Murray has a track record of making seemingly outlandish proposals that turn out to be widely accepted public policy. His 1984 book Losing Ground recommended the radical 51j9hLRFPVL._SL250_step of abolishing all welfare payments. A dozen years later the federal welfare reform act took a long step in that direction.

[Order Charles Murray’s book “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” from Amazon.com]

Murray was prompted to write By the People, he says, when a friend who owns a small business was confronted by OSHA inspectors and had an experience similar to one recounted in Philip Howard’s The Death of Common Sense.

[Read the full text of Michael Barone’s article here, at WashingtonExaminer.com]

The inspector found violations. Railings in his factory were 40 inches high, not 42; there was no automatic shutoff on a conveyor belt cordoned off from workers; a worker with a beard was allowed to use a non-close-fitting dust mask. Picayune stuff. But unless changes were made, the inspector said, we’ll put you out of business.

“What is to be done? Citizens, says Murray, should be willing to violate laws that the ordinary person would instantly recognize as ridiculous. And deep-pocketed citizens should set up a Madison Fund, to subsidize their legal defense and pay their fines.”

How had things come to this pass? Murray ascribes it to the abandonment of effective limits on government embedded in the Constitution by its prime architect James Madison. That started with the early twentieth century Progressives, who passed laws setting up independent and supposedly expert bureaucrats in charge of regulation, and furthered by New Deal Supreme Court decisions.

“The cultural uniformity that people remember from the post-World War II decades is the exception rather than the rule in American history. We were a religiously, ethnically and regionally diverse nation in James Madison’s time, Murray says, and we are once again. The uniformity temporarily imposed by shared wartime and postwar experiences is no more.”

Murray argues that these mistakes cannot be reversed by the political or judicial processes. The Court won’t abandon longstanding doctrines on which millions of people have relied. Congress, even a Republican Congress working with a Republican president, won’t repeal vaguely worded statutes that give regulators wide-ranging discretion. Read the rest of this entry »


Kate Scanlon: Barry Goldwater’s Lasting Impact on American Politics

Goldwater

Barry Goldwater Ran 50 Years Ago

Kate Scanlon writes: It was 50 years ago this month that then-Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., suffered one of the most lopsided defeats in the history of presidential elections.

He carried just six states and received only 38 percent of the popular vote. Not only had Democrats worked against him, but many in his own party disavowed him because he was true to his conservative principles.

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“The mere idea that ‘Barry might make it’ is enough to give the Establishment the galloping colleywobbles,” wrote the Saturday Evening Post at the time.

And when he lost, the New York Times wrote that Goldwater “not only lost the presidential election yesterday but the conservative cause as well.”

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Yet 16 years later, Ronald Reagan, his political heir, won the presidency in a landslide.

He had not lost the conservative cause. Columnist George Will argued that Goldwater “lost 44 states but won the future.”

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[Heritage Event: The Barry Goldwater 1964 Campaign 50th Anniversary Forum]

In fact, Lee Edwards, who worked as director of information for the Goldwater campaign and serves as a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, has called Goldwater “the most consequential loser in American politics.” Read the rest of this entry »


The Loneliest President Since Nixon

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Facing adversity, Obama has no idea how to respond

Peggy Noonan writes: Seven years ago I was talking to a longtime Democratic operative on Capitol Hill about a politician who was in trouble. The pol was likely finished, he said. I was surprised. Can’t he change things and dig himself out? No. “People do what they know how to do.” Politicians don’t have a vast repertoire. When they get in a jam they just do what they’ve always done, even if it’s not working anymore.

This came to mind when contemplating President Obama. After a devastating election, he is presenting himself as if he won. The people were not saying no to his policies, he explained, they would in fact like it if Republicans do what he tells them.

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You don’t begin a new relationship with a threat, but that is what he gave Congress: Get me an immigration bill I like or I’ll change U.S. immigration law on my own.

“He had family challenges and an unusual childhood, but as an adult and a professional he never faced fierce, concentrated resistance. He was always magic. Life never came in and gave it to him hard on the jaw. So he really doesn’t know how to get up from the mat. He doesn’t know how to struggle to his feet and regain his balance. He only knows how to throw punches. But you can’t punch from the mat.”

Mr. Obama is doing what he knows how to do—stare them down and face them off. But his circumstances have changed. He used to be a conquering hero, now he’s not. On the other hand he used to have to worry about public support. Now, with no more elections before him, he has the special power of the man who doesn’t care.

“In the meantime he is killing his party. Gallup this week found that the Republicans for the first time in three years beat the Democrats on favorability, and also that respondents would rather have Congress lead the White House than the White House lead Congress.”

I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone. He’s got no one with him now. Read the rest of this entry »


History: 50th Anniversary of ‘The Speech’

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“Government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people.”

— Ronald Reagan, 1964

For the LA TimesCraig Shirley and Laura Ingram write:

Today marks the 50th anniversary of private citizen Ronald Reagan’s landmark speech in behalf of Barry Goldwater‘s presidential candidacy in 1964. Reagan’s remarks gave meaning to a campaign the establishment had said was a fool’s errand, and offered a response to those who said conservatism was not sophisticated or viable as a governing force.

The facts have proved otherwise, and that speech made Reagan the leading conservative in America. Years after his passing, he still holds that title. Who calls himself a Nixon Republican or a Bush Republican? Most call themselves Reagan Republicans, even if they don’t know the true meaning of Reaganism….(read more) LA Times

“I’ve spent most of my adult life as a Democrat. I’ve recently seen fit to follow another course”

For NROJohn Fund writes:

Today marks the 50th anniversary of what has become known as simply “The Speech.” The actual title Ronald Reagan gave to the address with which he electrified a nation during a 30-minute broadcast for the failing Goldwater campaign was “A Time for Choosing.” Goldwater lost a week later to Lyndon Johnson, but conservative presidential politics had a North Star in Reagan after that. “It defined conservatism for 50 years,” Reagan biographer Craig Shirley concluded.

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“This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that the night of Reagan’s address represented “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan” and his “Cross of Gold” speech in 1896. “I didn’t know it then,” Reagan wrote in his 1991 autobiography, “but that speech was one of the most important milestones of my life.”

Barry Goldwater's conservatism was doomed in 1964, but it may have planted seeds for the future election of Ronald Reagan. They are seen together in 1981.

Barry Goldwater’s conservatism was doomed in 1964, but it may have planted seeds for the future election of Ronald Reagan. They are seen together in 1981.

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.”

Financially, it raised a stunning $8 million (over $60 million in today’s money) for the flailing Goldwater campaign, most of which couldn’t be spent in those days when checks were delivered by regular mail. But as former Reagan aide Jeffrey Lord reminds us, “the real importance of the speech was that Reagan had looked Americans in the eye and stood for something.”nbc-crash-reagan-gold-buck

“If government planning and welfare had the answer, shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while?” Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? But the reverse is true.”

It was a different Ronald Reagan than the one many Americans remember as president who gave “The Speech” that night. As historian Steven Hayward noted in the Washington Post on Sunday, it “was not the avuncular, optimistic Reagan of his film roles, or of his subsequent political career that emphasized ‘morning in America’ and the ‘shining city on a hill,’ but a comparatively angry and serious Reagan, serving up partisan red meat against liberalism and the Democrats” (whose party he had been a member of only two years before). Read the rest of this entry »


Mona Charen: The Inconvenient Truth

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The unsinkable Representative Charles B. Rangel appeared on C-SPAN over the weekend. Why unsinkable? Well, in 2010 the House of Representatives censured the New York Democrat by a vote of 333 to 79 (when the body was still majority-Democratic) for violating 11 ethics rules and “bringing discredit to the House.” The New York Times called it a “staggering fall” for the senior Democrat. But fall/shmall, he’s since been reelected and will retire at his leisure.myth-sq

While chatting with Brian Lamb, Rangel dropped a few falsehoods as casually as cigar ash. This isn’t to pick on Rangel; he’s just illustrative. His assertion — that the Republican and Democratic parties “changed sides” in the 1960s on civil rights, with white racists leaving the Democratic party to join the Republicans — has become conventional wisdom. It’s utterly false and should be rebutted at every opportunity.

It’s true that a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, shepherded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to passage. But who voted for it? Eighty percent of Republicans in the House voted aye, as against 61 percent of Democrats. In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans favored the law, but only 69 percent of Democrats. Among the Democrats voting nay were Albert Gore Sr., Robert Byrd, and J. William Fulbright. Read the rest of this entry »


The shutdown fight within the GOP was over tactics and power, not ideology

Budget Battle

The Tea Party’s Wasted Energy

‘We’ve got to get the Rockefeller Republicans out of the party,” a fellow told me in Minnesota recently. Or was it Arizona? Or Wilkes-Barre, Pa.? Actually, I think it was all three. I hear it all the time as I travel around the country speaking to conservative groups.

For those of you who don’t know, the Rockefeller Republicans — named after the former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller — were the liberal, mostly Northeastern wing of the Republican party.

Liberal Republican sounds like a contradiction in terms today, particularly for young people who grew up in the age of strictly ideological parties. But for most of American history, the parties weren’t strongly ideological institutions so much as coalitions of interests. There were very liberal Republicans and very conservative Democrats. Occasionally parties were defined — or indeed created — over single issues (the GOP was created to fight slavery, for instance), but the idea that you can guess someone is a conservative or liberal just by their party ID is a fairly recent development.

Read the rest of this entry »


Society is to Blame: When Liberalism Lost its Way, Dallas, 1963

kennedyThis item by George Will is notable because it bypasses the current political drama and looks into the history of 20th Century Liberalism with a wider lens, and sweeps into a moment in time that bears thoughtful reflection. It’s an event that continues to influence post 20th-Century liberal thought, in ways that we have to live with, like it or not, every day.

If you don’t read anything else this week, read this one.

I also found it timely because I found myself listening to news on NPR yesterday, something I only do when I’m in my car, and was shocked to be reminded of a strain of Liberal thought that’s always troubled me: the theory of ‘collective’ crime, or collective guilt. Collective repentance. Collective salvation. But until this NPR segment, I hadn’t connected it the contemporary grievance culture all the way back to 1963.

I learned, contrary to common sense and written history, that President Kennedy wasn’t killed by an assassin with a rifle. Turns out (according to NPR) he was killed by a “climate”.  Dallas did it.  Society murdered JFK. It was the ‘climate of hate” that permeated Dallas Texas, in 1963. Apparently, this ‘stew’ (as the NPR reporter called it) of “hyper-patriotism, anti-semitism, racism”, etc., that was simmering in Dallas, reached a boiling point. The invisible brain-waves of anti-Kennedy hatred moved through the air in Texas, affecting anyone in that climate-stew, and concentrated itself in Dealy plaza, until President Kennedy’s head exploded, spontaneously, just from the pressure of all that collective hatred.

There goes the single bullet theory.

Liberals really believe this, too. Not that JFK’s head exploded spontaneously. But that Dallas killed Kennedy. That the city was so full of hatred for the President, so full of bitterness and bad thoughts, that the concentrated hatred assembled itself in the person of one unhinged individual, Lee Harvey Oswald (leaving aside conspiracist’s claims of additional gunmen) who acted upon this pent-up rage. The unavoidable fate–the Kennedy-death wish–had to be unleashed, and realized.

So, shots were fired. Resulting in the ghastly murder of the President, executed on society’s behalf.  According to this narrative, the collective dark urge had to find expression. It was wound too tightly, had to be released. It wasn’t Owsald’s fault. It was Dallas’ fault. It was society’s fault. It was America’s fault.

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How potent was this Kennedy vitriol, in Dallas? Well, you can clearly see, in photos, and newsreels, all those people waving and smiling as the motorcade passes. The moms with their babies, the kids with American flags, the civilians, soldiers, policemen. The crowds with cameras, eager to glimpse the President. Don’t let their happy expressions fool you. Those smiles and waves? They were masking deep, murderous, collective hatred.

Update: Tim Graham at PA Pundits has a much more informed report on NPR’s original segment (of which I caught the tail end of, or the following day’s listener mail) and quotes sections of the NPR interview with author Bill Minutaglio, who peddles this “right wing hysteria” fantasy:

BLOCK: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, a new book dives deep into the city where the murder took place. “Dallas, 1963″ explores the swirling forces of right wing fanaticism at work in the city during the three years leading up to JFK’s assassination. By this account, Dallas in the early ’60s was a stew of super-patriotism, fueled by anti-communist paranoia, fierce racism and anti-Semitism.

Reading Tim’s account, it appears that historians and authors on the Left not only still dust off and promote this toxic mythology, they’re doubling down on it. Or at least Bill Minutaglio is, in his new book. And, I’m sure, ties it to the Tea Party, casually and dishonestly mislabeling it as a racist, radical pro-white, ‘hate’ group. Identical to those “right wing fanatics” in Dallas who collectively killed Kennedy, dragging America with it. Good grief. Who is the paranoid one here?

Besides George Will, I hope other rational reviewers take Minutaglio’s book apart, and expose it for what it is. Paranoid Left Wing Fantasy. Reason-free, heartfelt, self-affirming propaganda. Other historians are sure to agree. It hits all the right notes, in harmony.

As Tim notes:

Among the book blurbs for Minutaglio is one of the liberal media’s favorite historians/hysterians, Douglas Brinkley:

“Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis’s DALLAS 1963 is a brilliantly written, haunting eulogy to John F. Kennedy. By exposing the hatred aimed at our 35th president, the authors demonstrates that America–not just Lee Harvey Oswald–was ultimately responsible for his death. Every page is an eye opener. Highly recommended!”

I really thought that by 2013 the “mass-Dallas-fanatic-hysteria” narrative would have withered under the bright light of contrary evidence. (as most of the other muddled assassination conspiracy theories inevitably have) It appears the narrative is even stronger than I realized, like a virus that’s mutating, adapting, poised to inform new generations of readers.

There’s so much to say about this. About the conflict between those who accept individual sovereignty, individual morality, individual responsibility, individual accountability, individual salvation, vs. those who believe in collective morality, group rights, group entitlements, tribalism, class-warfare, social justice debts, and collective guilt. The dreamlike romantic notion that we’re all part of an invisible web of interconnected thoughts and feelings, and the actions of an individual are really nothing more than a necessary expression of a larger unspoken wish. These are drastically different world views. And from this tainted collectivist narrative came the post-1960s Liberal grievance culture.  As George Will explores in the following article.

Make no mistake, I do believe that a climate of hatred can afflict a culture. And that a society that tolerates crime and violence, tends to breed more crime, invite more violence.  And that a system that enables corruption to flourish, reaps what it sews. And so forth. Yes, these things can have a corrosive effect on individuals in society.

UnknownBut the notion of collective guilt that emerged from this historic miscarriage signaled a complete change of direction for the post-war Liberal project. And the sour, scolding, reactionary tone of postmodern Liberalism can be traced back to the aftermath of the events in Dealy Plaza, and the Left’s efforts to reconcile them.

From this poisoned well sprang the liberal historians’ deranged lie that “right-wing fanaticism” killed America’s beloved President. Even Barry Goldwater was somehow implicated. Why? Because for the Left, the truth was too disturbing to confront. That Kennedy was murdered, not from the right, not from random invisible hate-brain-waves, not by shadowy, clandestine, fanatical forces, but from the left.

Stripped from all the mythology, the uncomfortable truth remains: A radicalized Marxist crackpot with a cheap Italian rifle, acting–almost certainly–in solitude, completely disinterested in the social “climate” in Dallas that day, shot JFK. For his own reasons. Not society’s.

–the Butcher

Next: George Will’s column:

Read the rest of this entry »


Note to GOP: Get Better Storytellers

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan aboard an Ameri...

Who’s a better Storyteller. This guy…? Or that guy —->

English: Photograph shows head-and-shoulders p...By Jonah Goldberg

Effective politicians communicate ideas through tales of heroism and sacrifice.

It’s no secret that the Right is going through what some call a healthy debate and others see as an identity crisis.

For some, the solution to what ails conservatism requires a sudden philosophical shift leftward to win back the last Rockefeller Republicans, presumably hanging on in nursing homes like stranded Japanese fighters who haven’t gotten word World War II is over. Others argue that Republicans must shake off the heresies of moderation and compromise and accept the unalloyed true faith of 100 percent conservatism.

Those are hardly the only choices, of course. For instance, some make a very good case for fighting fire with better fire and offering a slew of policies and reforms superior to what the Democrats have tacked up on the wall in recent years.

While I have my sympathies and positions in all of these fights, I’ve long argued that regardless of what policies Republicans should offer or what philosophical North Star they might follow, one thing the GOP could definitely use is better politicians.

Read the rest of this entry »


What Frederick Douglass Stood For

Congress is erecting a monument to him, but they’d be better off remembering his ideals.

By  Michael Tanner

Wednesday, Congress will dedicate a statue of Frederick Douglass in the Capitol Rotunda. The dedication ceremony has unfortunately become wrapped up in the politics surrounding the District of Columbia’s lack of representation in Congress, but that controversy aside, it is hard to think of a man more deserving of the honor.

An escaped slave and leading abolitionist, orator and newspaper publisher, diplomat and adviser to presidents, Douglass was without a doubt one of the great voices for human freedom. Going far beyond opposition to slavery, Douglass was a relentless advocate for individual rights, whether speaking of blacks, women, Native Americans, or immigrants. Equally important, Douglass knew that government power posed a threat to those rights.

Douglass understood that the proper role of government was to protect individual rights and guarantee equality before the law, not to dispense favors to this group or that. For example, in his famous April 1865 speech, “What the Black Man Wants,” Douglass declared, “The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! If the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

Douglass’s message was not just about African Americans. Rather, it offers a stinging rebuke to all those who believe that men and women cannot be the masters of their own fates.The freedom that Douglass agitated for was not the freedom of the welfare state. Simply providing for people’s material needs was not a substitute for giving them their freedom. Besides, “doing for” all too easily morphed into “doing to,” an opportunity to do “mischief,” as he put it. He knew that, as President Gerald Ford once said (in a quote often misattributed to Barry Goldwater), “a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

He strongly believed in limited government, claiming there was no “governmental authority to pass laws, nor compel obedience to any laws that are against the natural rights and happiness of men.”

Read the rest of this entry »