Defending the Founders

“Rights” of Obamacare

Featured image Abraham Lincoln’s argument with Stephen Douglas came down to a disagreement over the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln articulated this disagreement with special gusto in his critique of Douglas on July 10, 1858. According to Douglas, the teaching of the Declaration had no general applicability beyond the immediate situation that confronted the Founding Fathers. Restating and paraphrasing Douglas’s argument, Lincoln asked “in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, »

Washington vs. Obama

Featured image Earlier today, Scott posted a serious and thoughtful tribute to George Washington. I think Scott hits the bullseye when he says that “[a]t this remove in time, [Washington's greatness is] also the hardest to comprehend.” Our society has degenerated to the point where we hardly can comprehend, let alone expect in our politicians, the sort of integrity and nobility for which Washington constantly strove. To some degree, Washington’s integrity, in »

Remembering the indispensable man

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Of all the great men of the revolutionary era to whom we owe our freedom, Washington’s greatness was the rarest and the most needed. At this remove in time, it is also the hardest to comprehend. Take, for example, Washington’s contribution to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Washington’s mere presence lent the undertaking and its handiwork the legitimacy that resulted »

George Washington resigns

Featured image I believe in celebrating our greatest presidents on the anniversaries of their birth, not some Monday in the vicinity. I therefore celebrated Abraham Lincoln last week and look forward to celebrating George Washington this coming Saturday. Because John has suggested I might have something today, however, let’s kick off the Washington celebration. If only I had the knowledge necessary to do so, I would keep at it all week. We »

David Gelernter: To the Inglewood airheads

Featured image David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale. He is the author of books including Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion, Judaism: A Way of Being, and, most recently, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). Last week he contributed the still timely post “How to talk to liars.” Today Professor Gelernter writes in response to the news that Halloween has been called off »

Harry Jaffa at 95

Featured image Today is Harry V. Jaffa’s 95th birthday.  Happy birthday, Harry.  Just now we’re in need of the understanding and resolve that went behind that most famous line he ever wrote, in service of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the defense of justice is no virtue.” One of his great friends and frequent sparring partners, George Anastaplo, wrote of Jaffa in 1980: »

More Madison on the Budget Fight

Featured image A couple days ago I brought to our attention James Madison’s thoughts on representative deliberation from Federalist #37, and why he wouldn’t be surprised at all about the current standoff in Congress. There’s another reflection of Madison that we should take on board as we watch the scene, but first a brief set up: Harold Pease argues that because all tax bills must originate in the House, per Article I, »

Abraham Lincoln on Thomas Jefferson

Featured image In April 1859, the recently formed Massachusetts Republican Party celebrated the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, a founder of what had become the Democratic Party. For the occasion, Abraham Lincoln sent a letter to the Massachusetts Republicans. Lincoln explained away the irony of Republicans celebrating Jefferson, and then captured the essence of Jefferson’s contribution to our Founding and to our freedom. Here are key excerpts: Bearing in mind that about 70 »

Pauline Maier, RIP

Featured image I tended to enjoy Pauline Maier’s impressive historical scholarship, even though much of the time I thought she reached the wrong conclusions about the meaning of the ideas and events she wrote about, especially the Declaration of Independence.  She seemed to embody a trait found often among historians, of mastering and uncovering important facts, but having no systematic grasp of the wider theoretical implications of the subject matter.  She often »

The Blog as Modern Pamphlet

Featured image I’m re-reading for the first time in many years Bernard Bailyn’s classic Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, which deservedly won both the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes.  An early footnote (yes, I always take in the footnotes) quotes George Orwell from 1948: “At any given moment there is a sort of all-prevailing orthodoxy, a general tacit agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact.”  Orwell thought the remedy to »

We Still Hold These Truths: Happy July 4

Featured image In addition to re-reading the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, it is useful also to recall Calvin Coolidge’s speech on the sesquicentennial of the Declaration in 1926, which sets out why the Declaration remains authoritative in American political life: About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful.  It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we »

High tide of Obamaism

Featured image It may be too optimistic to wonder if commencement speech to the graduating students of Ohio State University (White House video here) might not have represented the high tide of Obamaism. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I wonder if it might not be (bumpily, with the implementation of Obamacare before us) downhill from here: Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as »

Just us

Featured image In one of his routines on the justice system dating back to the early 1970′s, comedian Richard Pryor commented sarcastically (in language rated XXX): “You go down there looking for justice, that’s what you find: Just us.” Pryor was referring to the racial composition of the players involved in the administration of justice. Times have changed substantially in that respect, but reading Ben Shapiro’s account of President Obama’s gun control »

Fundamental transformation, originalist style?

Featured image Over at NRO’s Corner, my daughter Eliana has an interesting preview of coming attractions in the Senate: Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee — the Senate’s rabble-rousing GOP triumvirate – seek nothing less than to fundamentally transform the debate over gun control. As has been reported, they will likely filibuster when Harry Reid brings his gun-control legislation up for a vote. In doing so, according to sources, they hope »

Persecution and the college campus

Featured image James Wagner has found himself in a familiar position and he has dealt with it in the familiar fashion. Speaking as the president of Emory University, he praised one of the constitutional compromises with slavery. Writing in the university’s alumni magazine, Wagner cited the provision counting slaves as three-fifths of the population that determined congressional representation (and electoral votes in presidential elections) as a compromise that should inspire today’s gridlocked »

Remembering the indispensable man

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Of all the great men of the revolutionary era to whom we owe our freedom, Washington’s greatness was the rarest and the most needed. At this remove in time, it is also the hardest to comprehend. Take, for example, Washington’s contribution to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Washington’s mere presence lent the undertaking and its handiwork the legitimacy that resulted »

Remembering Mr. Lincoln

Featured image Today is of course the anniversary of the birth of America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. As a politician and as president, Lincoln was a profound student of the Constitution and constitutional history. Perhaps most important, Lincoln was America’s indispensable teacher of the moral ground of political freedom at the exact moment when the country was on the threshold of abandoning what he called its “ancient faith” that all men are »