Chesterton on “The American Creed”

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 readers has tipped me off to a new development in Chestertoniana that I’ll roll out here in a couple of weeks. Also in my radio conversation with Seth Liebsohn last week we detoured briefly about Chesterton’s book What I Saw in America. And so it seems like the planets have come into line for a reprise.

The opening of What I Saw in America is a wonderful observation on the oddity of the questions a foreign traveler is asked upon entering the United States (it was 1922 when Chesterton made his trip, and he was asked if he was an anarchist). It seemed to him rather like an Inquisition, and he even goes so far as to say “It would be easy to develop the fancy that, as compared with the sultans of Turkey or Egypt, the American Constitution is a thing like the Spanish Inquisition.” But after a long paragraph explaining why this was wrong, he gets to one of his most famous passages:

It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

So a sharp question to ask today is whether liberals like Brazile still believe in the creed behind the Constitution. I’m betting they don’t. Woodrow Wilson rejected it, but he did so openly. Today’s liberals try to disguise their rejection of the Declaration of Independence.

Leading Dem insider: Save America; scrap the Constitution

Harry Reid is a determined radical, intent on limiting freedom, overturning American traditions, and remaking our institutions in the name of crushing the opposition and empowering the left. His attempt to amend the First Amendment to curb free speech is a natural extension of his obliteration of longstanding Senate rules that promote deliberation and minority input.

But Reid seems almost moderate by left-wing Democrat standards. Take Donna Brazile, vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee for voter registration and participation. For her, eviscerating the First Amendment is small potatoes; she wants to scrap the entire U.S. Constitution.

Brazile tweeted: “We need a new constitution.” This, she stated is “how we save American democracy from charlatans, loudmouths and the 1 percent.”

Brazile is no fire-brand outlier. As noted, she holds an important position in the Democratic Party. More than that, she’s a long-time, high-level Dem insider. In 2000, she managed Al Gore’s campaign. In 2011, she briefly served as interim chair of the DNC.

Democrats have viewed the Constitution as an anachronistic barrier to their agenda since the days of Woodrow Wilson who, before entering politics, consistently argued as much. These days, though, their contempt for our founding document is becoming increasingly manifest.

Why? For two reasons. First, the more radical the Democratic agenda, the greater the need to push back against the Constitution. Today’s agenda is more radical than it has ever been in my lifetime.

Second, because public regard for the Constitution probably isn’t what it once was, thanks to the way American History is taught, Democrats can be more open about how they view the founding document.

We have discussed the short shrift given the Constitution in the framework being imposed for the teaching of AP U.S. History. That framework, though newly created, is symptomatic of how history already is taught in many high schools and certainly at the college level.

Even so Brazile’s desire for a new written Constitution is, I think, is fantasy. So too, for now, is Reid’s effort to amend the First Amendment. Those “loudmouth charlatans” on the right will block both moves.

But can the Constitution meaningfully survive under the auspices of a judiciary whose members are selected from a pool consisting in significant measure of lawyers who think like Woodrow Wilson, Harry Reid and Donna Brazile? I have my doubts.

An embarrassment of Democrats: Obama edition

President Obama famously disparaged the Islamic State terrorist group as the terrorist JV to his apostle David Remnick in an interview for the New Yorker late last year (Remnick’s article is here). It sounded good at the time, but reality has intruded and the words have come back to haunt Obama. They mark him indelibly as the jv president.

Asked about it last night by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, Obama passed the buck to his intelligence functionaries. John posted the video here. Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake followed up last night:

Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obama’s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.

But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: “Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.

I think that judgment applies to Obama’s 60 Minutes interview in toto — I have long held Obama to be a sophomoric BS artist — but this was egregious.

An embarrassment of Democrats: Braley edition

Raising money from Texas trial lawyers for his current campaign, Rep. Bruce Braley (D, IA) disparaged Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley as a benighted farmer who had not received the enlightenment afforded by a law school education. Braley conjured the nightmare scenario that would attend a GOP Senate majority: that boob Grassley would chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. Horrors!

The disparagement took place behind closed doors. It wasn’t intended for public consumption as Braley runs for Iowa’s open Senate seat and it hasn’t served Braley well in Iowa. It revealed something (several things) authentically distasteful about him and his ilk.

Debating Republican candidate Joni Ernst last night, Braley demonstrated the temerity of a trial lawyer with a bad case. Asked whom he would first call for advice if he were to win the election, Braley named Senator Grassley (video below).

I’m thinking Braley may not have gotten all he should have out of his law school education. You usually don’t want to remind the jury of one of the weakest features of your case.

Ernst reacted perfectly. She laughed. She also, and more believably, named Senator Grassley as the man she would call first for advice.

James Hohmann reports on the debate for Politico here.

Via Washington Free Beacon.

Kay Hagan’s husband received stimulus cash

Kay Hagan has managed to maintain a lead in the North Carolina Senate race even as her fellow Obama-supporting Southerners Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu have fallen slightly behind. The latest poll, by CNN/Opinion Research, has her leading Republican Thom Tillis 46-43. This is consistent with the Real Clear Politics average in which she leads by 3.5 points.

Why is Hagan ahead in a state President Obama failed to carry in 2012. For one thing, Tillis apparently is not a particularly strong candidate. For another, a Libertarian candidate, Sean Haugh, is attracting voters who, on the whole, would probably favor Tillis in a two-way race. The new CNN poll puts Haugh’s support at 7 percent.

Finally, North Carolina is significantly less Red than Arkansas and Louisiana. In fact, Obama carried the state in 2008.

But Hagan suffered a blow over the weekend when it was revealed that, by virtue of the 2009 Stimulus Bill for which she voted, her husband’s company received nearly $390,000 in federal grants for energy projects and tax credits.

Hagan’s response to this story is that she did not help her husband win the federal funding. She also disputes any suggestion they have profited from the Stimulus.

As to the first claim, it may be true that Hagan did not intervene directly on her husband’s behalf. But soon after voting for the Stimulus, she told a North Carolina newspaper that “there’s a lot of renewable energy-generating capacity in the stimulus package.” Her husband’s company was in the renewable energy business and Hagan knew that it was a potential direct beneficiary of the Stimulus.

As to the second claim, it’s implausible to believe that the husband’s business did not profit from receiving almost $400,000 in federal grants and tax credits. According to Politico, the Hagans’ income from JDC Manufacturing increased from less than $201 in 2008 to nearly $134,000 in 2013.

Unfortunately for Tillis, he too is subject to claims that he benefitted from votes on stimulus legislation. Politico reports that as a state legislator, he voted in 2010 to allow North Carolina to participate in the federal renewable energy tax credit program, which benefited a bank in which he owns at least $50,000 in stock.

Politico acknowledges, however, that Tillis’ vote benefitted him less directly than Hagan’s vote benefitted her family. Tillis does not own the bank and has no control over what projects it invests in.

Will the fact that the Hagans directly benefitted from Kay Hagan’s vote for the Stimulus hurt her reelection prospects? Or will North Carolina voters see this issue as a wash, given the indirect gain Tillis arguably accrued through his vote?

It’s hard to say. But this should be a close race either way, and if the Libertarian third-party candidate fades, Tillis may be able to pull it out. News of the Hagans’ personal benefit from the Stimulus would seem to make this outcome marginally more likely.

Media Alert

I will be on Bill Bennett’s radio show at 8:30 ET, 7:30 CT, tomorrow morning, talking about workplace violence in Oklahoma and related topics. If you don’t know where to get Bill’s show on your radio, you can listen online.

Groundhog day — the coverup was worse than the crime

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has groundhog blood on his hands. Specifically, the blood of “Staten Island Chuck,” New York City’s equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil.

The New York Post reports that a week after the left-wing mayor dropped Staten Island Chuck in front of a crowd of spectators on Ground Hog Day, the winter-weather prognosticator died. The groundhog was found dead at the Staten Island Zoo on Feb. 9.

A necropsy determined that the cause of death was “acute internal injuries.” Being dropped from six feet can do that to a groundhog.

The coverup began immediately. According to the Post:

Instead of revealing the sad loss, the zoo — which gets nearly half of its $3.5 million in annual funding from the city — told the staff to keep the mayor’s office in the dark about the animal’s fate.

They told only a few zoo supporters — but claimed that the groundhog had died of natural causes.

But the coverup ran deeper than that:

The zoo also never revealed the biggest secret of all — that the part of Chuck was being played by Charlotte. Chuck was benched because the zoo feared he could bite de Blasio, as he did Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.

The zoo doesn’t make public that it has stand-in groundhogs to protect the “groundhog brand,” insiders said.

Somehow it doesn’t seem to work out between New York mayors and groundhogs. Even so, the same photo op is scheduled for 2015. This time, the zoo plans to use the daughter of the unfriendly Chuck and the unfortunate Charlotte.

To be clear, de Blasio does not appear to have a party to the coverup. His only sin was bad hands. If he participates next year, he will also be guilty of bad judgment.

Here is the video of de Blasio’s Groundhog’s Day fumble: