Monday, January 9, 2017

Citizens, Not Subjects

Back in the 1770s, American colonists had a disagreement with the King of England. The king insisted that he was to rule over them, because it was the right he was born to; and they were to be his subjects and were obligated to submit to his rule.

They believed they were born to be the same things as the king: men. They were not willing to be subject to a king the way a horse would be subject to a man.
Image found here

And they wrote clearly of their disagreements, and their intentions to defend themselves and their God-given rights. The king could have seen things their way and let them separate peacefully; he didn’t. That is why the Revolutionary War happened.

Freedom won.

Some years later the founders set up a system of limited government—so that God-given rights would be protected, and no one would have power to “rule” over another. Slavery took several more decades and a bloody civil war to eliminate—in order to align with the founding principle that all human beings are created equal before the law.

But there has been some forgetting, particularly over the past century, since around 1913.

Then-Congressman Mike Pence spoke at Hillsdale College in September 2010, which became an Imprimis publication the following month. He spoke on “The Presidency and the Constitution”:
Mike Pence
image from here

The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or ruler. He does not command us; we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision. It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law, and beliefs; to appropriate industries; to seize the country, as it were, by the shoulders or by the throat so as to impose by force of theatrical charisma his justice upon 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power of decision away from them, and to him and the acolytes of his choosing.
Is my characterization of unprecedented presumption incorrect? Listen to the words of the leader of President Obama’s transition team and perhaps his next chief-of-staff: “It’s important that President-Elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” Or, more recently, the latest presidential appointment to avoid confirmation by the Senate—the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—who wrote last Friday: “President Obama understands the importance of leveling the playing field again.”
“Take power. . .rule. . .leveling.” Though it is the model now, this has never been and should never again be the model of the presidency or the character of the American president. No one can say this too strongly, and no one can say it enough until it is remedied. We are not subjects; we are citizens. We fought a war so that we do not have to treat even kings like kings, and—if I may remind you—we won that war. Since then, the principle of royalty has, in this country, been inoperative. Who is better suited or more required to exemplify this conviction, in word and deed, than the President of the United States?
I’m comforted, as we come at last to the end of Obama’s rule, that we have a vice-president who understands the constitutional limits of presidential power.

A week or so ago Valarie Jarrett asserted that one thing that can be said for the Obama administration was that it was essentially scandal-free.

Andrew Napolitano takes issue with that. The subheading on his Judge Napolitano Chambers is “Making Sure Government Is Not Our Master.” He takes the opportunity to contradict Valarie Jarrett with a few reminders in this video.

Back in 2013, the list of scandals was so long it was becoming a joke. You couldn’t just refer to the Obama administration scandal; that was too vague, because there were so many. Just to review, I’ll repost a joke from that time:

Multiple Scandals

Bob: "Did you hear about the Obama administration scandal?"
Jim: "You mean the Mexican gun running?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean SEAL Team 6 Extortion 17?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the State Dept. lying about Benghazi?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the voter fraud?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the military not getting their votes counted?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president demoralizing and breaking down the military?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the Boston Bombing?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president wanting to kill Americans with drones in our own country without the benefit of the law?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president arming the Muslim Brotherhood?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The IRS targeting conservatives?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The DOJ spying on the press?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "Sebelius shaking down health insurance executives?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The NSA monitoring our phone calls, e-mails and everything else?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's ordering the release of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from jails and prisons and falsely blaming the sequester?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's threat to impose gun control by Executive Order in order to bypass Congress?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's repeated violation of the law requiring him to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's unconstitutional recess appointments in an attempt to circumvent the Senate's advise-and-consent role?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The State Department interfering with an Inspector General investigation on departmental sexual misconduct?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "HHS employees being given insider information on Medicare Advantage?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "Clinton, the IRS, Clapper and Holder all lying to Congress?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "I give up! ... Oh wait, I think I got it! You mean that 65 million low-information voters stuck us again with the most corrupt administration in American history?"

And now we’ve had three more years.

We could add the purposeful(?) deterioration of race relations under our first black president (the timeline is offered here on The Daily Wire).

Whatever we have to look forward to, at least this administration is ending.

There is some fear and trepidation of what is to come. I share some of that; I was not a Trump supporter (and absolutely wasn’t a Hillary supporter). But much of the worry has been, not that he will be too authoritarian, but that he will be an unstable personality for a ruler.

Keith Olbermann, now a correspondent for fashion magazine GQ, offers a video of a supposed well-considered sane assessment—the irony of which ought to be striking, if you have followed his career. He says that you ought to admit that Trump is crazy and the best end for everyone is to remove him before something bad happens. The lack of self-awareness is amazing.

As I said well before the election (before the primary), we’ve had a narcissistic authoritarian; we don’t need to try that again. But here we are. And, while I still don’t like his style or personality, there is reason to rejoice that at least Trump is not anti-American and pro-socialism.

As Thomas Sowell pointed out recently, Trump has put together perhaps the best cabinet and staff, at this point in the process, of any president within memory. The thing we don’t know is what he will do as president. If he listens to these appointees, we have much reason to be hopeful; if he doesn’t listen and just does what he wants, that won’t be as good for America.

What we do know is that, whenever we hold fast to the Constitution, limiting government to its role of protecting our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property, then we maximize our freedom, and set up the best situation for prosperity and thriving civilization as well.

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