from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
June 16, 2002
This issue marks the 400th offering of this newsletter, an endeavor that began in July, 1994. Much about our nation has changed in the intervening eight years, and much of that for the better. But there is much that has not changed, and much that has gone from bad to worse. Eight years ago both houses of Congress and the Presidency were controlled by big-government democrats, to whom Constitutional (and every other form of) restraint was abhorrent. In 1994 voters elected republican majorities to both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The so-called "republican revolution" began with the promise of moving the country back toward the Founders' ideals of a national government strictly limited and constrained by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
After years of republican majorities, however, it cannot be said that promise is even close to being fulfilled. Perhaps the best that can be said is that when republicans ignore the Constitution, at least some of them tend to feel guilty about doing so; and at least there a few members of Congress, calling themselves republicans, who recognize that the majority of what our federal government does violates the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The same cannot be said of most democrats. But our liberties continue to be eviscerated nonetheless because, as Thomas Jefferson knew, "The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield."
The wonderful political philosopher Peggy Noonan recently wrote about the failures of our national institutions, failures which seem to have become startlingly apparent since September 11. "One has a sense of a quickening of history, of a gathering of its forces, of things hurtling toward some unknown end." But our institutions do not make up the sum of, and increasingly do not fairly represent, the character of who and what we are as a nation.
Our national government has grown so unwieldy that it is paralyzed by its own bulk, the only thing it seems capable of doing is showcasing its quintessentially hollow men and women who grandstand and pontificate as though they are still relevant to anything beyond their own self-aggrandizing egos. At a time of national emergency when bold and swift action is called for, all Congress can offer is moral preening, partisan obstruction, investigatory second-guessing, and petty territorial squabbles. Intelligence agencies cannot be streamlined and made more effective because members of Congress don't want to give up their committee fiefdoms. Budgets for national defense and intelligence are held hostage to pork-laden add-ons having nothing whatsoever to do with national defense or intelligence. Security on our borders is still a dangerous farce. But our government is not representative of our Constitution.
Our system of education, from our failing public schools to our most prestigious private institutions of higher learning, seem to revel in ignorance and to perpetuate nothing beyond their own monopolistic incompetence. The totalitarians earlier in this century knew that the best way to solidify and perpetuate their power was to indoctrinate the children. Our education establishment has failed miserably in what James Madison described as the purpose of public education, "…that the true doctrines of liberty, as exemplified in our Political System, should be inculcated on those who are to sustain and may administer it." But our education establishment has done a masterful job of inculcating the doctrines of big-government collectivism, victimology, and entitlement into future leaders of the nation, while wiping the minds of the young clean of the real meaning of those true doctrines of liberty. But our schools are not knowledge.
Our media institutions are filled with arrogant and self-serving elitists, pretending to dispense wisdom and insight along with the information they disburse. But even that information is suspect. Distortion and bias have become their stock in trade. When our Constitutional liberties are subverted the media can usually be counted among the vanguard of the assault. Even when the nation faces grave danger the press still can't rise above their childish "gotcha" games. When a terrorist is arrested in the act of plotting attacks against America, the biggest concern of the cackling crows in the media is whether he had sufficient access to a lawyer. But our media does not represent enlightenment.
Our legal system has degenerated from an endeavor designed to safeguard individual rights, a system providing the framework of a Rule of Law within which a free society operates; into a dysfunctional spoils system for the personal enrichment of its practitioners and the decimation of free markets. But our legal system is not justice.
The Church has come to resemble the timbers and stones of a magnificent ancient castle, presenting an imposing fašade while in reality the insides of its timbers are rotten and termite-eaten, its massive stones would crumble at a touch from the wear of age, and the slightest pressure would cause the whole imposing edifice to crash into dust. Eternal truths and ageless moral verities are circumscribed to suit current fashion. There is a terrible loss of moral direction by those who should be society's moral exemplars. But our churches are not faith.
Even our legendary American hard-headed common sense and can-do determination have become subsumed under a stifling blanket of uncertainty. Where is that philosophical purity that overcame the world's pre-eminent military power to create a nation that became a beacon to the world's oppressed, that stoic resolve that conquered a continent and built the freest nation the world has even known, that homespun courage that battled history's most formidable totalitarian regimes and brought light back to the world, that calm determination that faced down history's most evil empire? We no longer stride with stoic purpose, we now shuffle with hesitant timidity. But the public face that we present to the world, the public face that we present even to ourselves, is not our true American character.
The crux of the problem is not with our institutions, but with a portion of our society itself. Specifically, the segment that holds such an abiding hatred for this nation and all that it stands for, that their own agendas are more important to them than our national security. We cannot focus investigations or security on those most likely to pose a threat for fear of being accused of profiling. Law enforcement cannot use legitimate investigatory tools because some fear law enforcement more than future attack. Terrorists who infiltrate our nation to commit acts of war won't be executed as the spies they are because we are too civilized for that. Pre-emptive actions to save thousands of lives are paralyzed by concerns over the rights of terrorists. Enemies caught in combat are fawned over by human rights advocates and civil libertarians offended by the conditions of their imprisonment.
Here's something for the rights advocates to ponder — the man said to be plotting to explode a radiological bomb was reportedly caught as a result of leads provided by al Qaeda big-shot Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan and is being held overseas. Does anyone think he would be spilling the goods if he was held in a U.S. prison, his every fabricated complaint trumpeted by those who believe there is no such thing as evil in this world? Would it be preferable if he were held under conditions more acceptable to our tender sensitivities and that half of an American city had been irradiated as a consequence? Already legalists demand that the would-be bomber be set free because, after all, he hasn't actually done anything yet. Have our institutions grown so dysfunctional that we have to wait until after thousands die before we can act? Have we become so soft and so fixated on our own priorities that we are willing to see our cities burn and our society and economy collapse, rather than take even modest steps for self-preservation? Have we lost all sense of priority? All common sense? And why is it that the rights activists only voice their complaints when the rights of criminals and terrorists are involved? Why is there no outrage when the rights of law abiding American citizens are infringed on a daily basis by our Congress and the Judiciary, when the First Amendment is gutted by campaign finance reform, the Second Amendment is shredded by arbitrary gun laws, the Fifth Amendment butchered by environmental laws, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments ignored by an out of control and ever expanding federal government, and when judges simply invent new laws from the bench?
Thomas Sowell recently addressed the issue of rights: "The protections of the Geneva Convention's rules of war are for those who play by those rules. … Rights are not things plucked out of thin air. They are products of particular arrangements, and apply only to those who are subject to those arrangements and who respect those arrangements." Why should those whose overriding objective is to destroy our freedom and our Constitution and all that it stands for, be able to use the protections of that Constitution to advance their goal? In the past decade alone foreign Islamic extremists have launched at least nine separate successful attacks against us, have killed thousands of Americans, and show every sign of trying to escalate their war against us as far as possible. They use the very openness of our society against us, yet many among us insist on granting them the very Constitutional protections they would destroy for all of us if they succeed. Far too many Americans think there is something noble about committing national suicide.
When a man was arrested planning to explode a radiological bomb, some were surprised to learn that he is a U.S. citizen. Why? Look at the rabid hatred of America expressed by certain segments of our own population, those who perennially denounce America as representing nothing more than oppression, those who blame America for every evil in the world and thereby give justification to the enemy, those who proclaim that we got exactly what we deserved on 9-11. Many of our own people spew nothing but loathing for this country, consider patriotism a form of fascism, see love of country as self-delusion. They occupy positions of power and prestige, they influence our young, they refuse to see any good and magnify every bad and pretend that's all there is. They glory in their hatred and they preen about the exercise of their right to speak freely (a right that is nowhere as well protected as by the nation that they loathe), but they refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences of what they say and the deceptions they perpetuate. Our Constitution protects their freedom to spew their hate, their lies, and their ignorance, but words have consequences. Why are we surprised that some Americans who hate this country and want to destroy what we are, would now begin to align themselves with foreign terrorists who also hate this country and want to destroy what we are?
Several years before his death, Thomas Jefferson lamented,
Nearly two centuries after Jefferson's lament we are still striving to maintain self-government and to achieve happiness, against those, both foreign and domestic, who would rob us of both. We still battle to overcome the unwise and unworthy passions of those, both foreign and domestic, who would destroy both individual liberty and self-government; and in these uncertain days we struggle to balance essential individual liberty with the need to provide the necessary degree of security. There is indeed a sense that we are hurtling toward some unknown end, and that end may be to join history's junkyard of failed philosophies. The biggest threat to our survival as free people comes not from foreign despots, not from foreign or domestic terrorists. That threat comes from our own abandonment of the fundamental Constitutional principle of a government deriving its just powers solely from the consent of the governed.
The above article is the property of
Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Our Decaying Society
16 jun 2002