Defending the Founders

Chesterton on “The American Creed”

Featured image A lively discussion thread has broken out in response to Paul’s post immediately below about Donna Brazile’s call for scrapping the Constitution to save the country from conservatives. I’ll let that discussion play out there, but introduce here a new angle by way of following on my post invoking G.K. Chesterton several weeks ago that met with approval and calls for regular sequels. As it happens, one of our faithful »

Obama Versus America

Featured image I recall an episode during the Bush years when Vice President Dick Cheney took fire for wearing a parka and a ski cap during a solemn memorial ceremony at Auschwitz in Poland. “The vice president,” the Washington Post complained, “was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.  Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive »

Barron on the administrative state

Featured image Paul has been writing about the nomination of David Barron to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (here and here). I’ve been writing about the questionable status of the administrative state in light of the separation of powers under the Constitution. To the extent of my capacity to understand, Publius has been my guide and authority. Barron stands at the intersection of Paul’s and my interests. »

The Limitations of the Law, Part 2

Featured image In my obituary notice for Gary Becker the other day, I included this observation from Becker: “Government should do much less so they can concentrate on and do better with the tasks they are most needed for, such as police and military, infrastructure, safety nets, and regulation of activities with big externalities. Regrettably, I am not optimistic that much can be achieved quickly in slimming down governments, given the strong »

The Limitations of the Law

Featured image Scott and Paul rightly express skepticism over George Will’s optimism that the Supreme Court will follow the plain language of the Constitution’s “origination clause” when it comes to Obamacare’s “tax.”  I mean, after all this time, why start following the Constitution now? Whether and how the judiciary should be “activist” in defense of liberty is a question that divides conservatives and has a long history, but let’s step back for »

“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 »