Wednesday night, Washington, D.C. – American Enterprise Institute & Heritage Foundation scholars, media members, writers, donors, Congressmen gather along with 20 CCU Washington Week students & faculty. The occasion; Arthur Brooks, president of AEI, is speaking about his new book, “The Road to Freedom”. The lecture focused on the battle between conservatives & liberals in the public square. Brooks explained that as president of AEI it is clear that the truth and statistical backing rests within the conservative ideas and policies. Despite this, the left is winning the battle. Brooks believes this quandary is caused by the failure of conservatives to make a strong moral argument for our beliefs and our ignorance of the neuropsychological proof that moral arguments affect human brains in a way far more powerful than solely logical arguments.
To illustrate the failure of strictly logical arguments versus a moral case Brooks tells a joke – ‘Three friends go out golfing; a psychologist, a priest and a free market economist. They find themselves playing behind two incredibly slow golfers. These golfers are painfully slow and are ruining the friends’ day at the golf course. After several holes of impatiently waiting behind these two men who are shooting upwards of 12 strokes per hole, the three ask the caddy to allow them to play through. The caddy replies “you guys are free to play through, but I want you all to be aware of how rude you’ve been… Remember the fire at the schoolhouse last year, and the two firemen who lost their sight while rescuing 13 children from the blaze? Well that’s them and this weekly golf game is their most coveted source of fun since losing their vision, and you three have been heckling them this entire time.” The psychologist replies, “Wow, here I’ve devoted my life to trying to help people and I just learned a valuable lesson today.” The priest says “Oh my, I have a contrite heart and I have been humbled by these two great men.” The free-market economist pauses for a moment, and then says, “It would be more efficient if they were to play at night!”’(Paraphrase Quote)
Clearly the economist in this joke has made a factual and relevant argument, but he has completely failed to address the moral reality of this situation and thus ignored an integral element of human nature. This anecdote masterfully illustrates the climate of political discourse between the right & left today. Brooks went on to show that the right is not devoid of moral substance. Rather he showed that every claim has moral implications, and that we must reach towards those implications in our argumentation in order to reach others with the truth where it so often is overlooked.
My time in D.C. with the CCU and Centennial Institute Washington Week clan began with not the greatest of surprises – after driving 1,670 miles from Denver my car’s fuel pump failed just twenty miles short of our destination. Sparing you further details of the dilemma; I had a very interesting discussion with the driver of the tow truck, Kevin. Kevin made it very clear that he backed Obama for re-election. After unsuccessfully prying into his reasoning for such a stance, I began to lose hope for the discussion. Then Kevin introduced the idea of term limits for Congress. Kevin was highly in favor of a possible limit of service on the Hill for both chambers. This proposition is not foreign at CCU, Centennial Institute, or conservative dialogue in general, and provided a needed common ground between Kevin and myself on our short ride to the garage. This conversation would not be the last time that term limits would be raised during this trip.
On Friday, former Colorado Congressman and Senator, Hank Brown led CCU students on a tour of the Capitol. Senator Brown has extensive knowledge of the Capitol’s art, history, and symbolism. As a former Senator, Hank Brown provided CCU students a nearly unlimited access tour of both chambers. One very special place we found ourselves in was the House Appropriations Committee room. In this room, a portion of the fresco is composed of a painting of the Roman Senator and leader Cincinnatus being called from his plough to defend Rome. Senator Brown told us the significance of this lies not in the fact the Cincinnatus heard the call of duty and went to save Rome, but that he returned to his farm and denied the dictatorship of Rome after completing his service. This historical event was repeated in the life and service of George Washington. Both men loved their country, they left their home to serve and defend but returned when their service was no longer required, turning down dictatorial power.
These two men, Washington more commonly, are cited by those who argue for a Congressional term limit. We have seen a handful of men go to congress and serve valiantly at their posts as Senators of Congressman then return to their homes and occupations, imploring others to do the same. But are these self-imposing term limiters to be compared to Cincinnatus and Washington? To know this we must know the enemy in all three cases. In Cincinnatus’s time the enemy was the attacking Aequi forces. During Washington the threat was the British Empire. But today the greatest fight in front of a conservative congressman or woman is the fight to stop & reverse government growth and defend constitutional government. And while universally imposed term limits would theoretically aid that pursuit, Conservatives are not raising the memory of Cincinnatus or Washington when they leave the government in the hands of the entrenched spenders while patting themselves on the back for showing restraint. I applaud the honorable service of these Senators and Representatives, though I feel this is one area where leading by example hurts our cause. These strong conservative members should fight to the end of the battle; until term limits are instated, then leave their posts with dignity.
(Denver Post, Dec. 27) Remember those times when we thought the world had changed, but it hadn’t? Eight years ago after jihadists attacked the US homeland, and again last year after America elected its first black president, the talk of “forever different” was soon quieted by life’s old patterns. The world does not change, because human nature does not.
But an event that did change the world occurred 2000 years ago in the stable at Bethlehem. Religious differences aside, the earthquake of Jesus’ coming is historical fact. The idea of all persons created equal, all endowed with dignity and liberty, arrived with him and has gained steadily ever since. This makes our seasonal celebrations, both sacred and secular, most fitting.
Among them is the parlor game of tallying up who made a difference in the old year, amid the gusts of forgettable news and fleeting celebrity. In 2009 the very word “change” devolved from a mantra into a punchline. Yet certain individuals had an impact that deserves recognition as the calendar turns. Editors at Time and Sports Illustrated have crowned their national honorees. On behalf of Rocky Mountain conservatives, here’s my award for Coloradan of the Year.
Who would you choose? And by what yardstick would you decide? I took as jurors Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Grant, spiritual fathers under whose wise and brave influence our state was born. We looked for distinguished contributions by fellow citizens in keeping Colorado true to its heritage. The field was broad and bipartisan.
This was the year that Mike Coffman, Iraq veteran twice over, took his war-fighting savvy to Congress. Ken Salazar, son of the San Luis Valley, became steward of all the nation’s public lands. Douglas Bruce left public office but remained a potent force for limited government through his TABOR legacy. Peter Groff, descendant of slaves, took charge of faith-based programs for schoolkids across the country.
None of them, however, made our top-10 finalists. Nor did Jim Tracy, the managerial wizard who electrified Rockies fans, or Michael Bennet, the education wizard who vaulted into the Senate. Nor did leftist campaign financier Tim Gill or Islamist plotter Najibullah Zazi – though jurors sent them backhanded thanks for puncturing the complacency of many.
As finalists for 2009, the jury salutes Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, laughing lancer of liberty; Joe Blake of Colorado State, common-sense businessman turned university president; and Mayor Hickenlooper along with Congressman Salazar, two solid Johns who remind us not all Democrats are loony liberals.
Plus Philip Anschutz, philanthropist, media mogul, and rising GOP rainmaker; Vincent Carroll, senior pundit of the right at the old Rocky and now here at the Post; Dick Wadhams, quarterback of the state’s impending Republican revival; James Dobson, radio hall-of-famer and hero of the American family; and Jane Norton, new voice of women conservatives in the West.
But last and loudest, as Coloradan of the Year, we applaud Archbishop Charles Chaput. He did the state proud as a leading signer of the Manhattan Declaration on sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and defense of religious liberty. His book “Render unto Caesar” is a timely guide to principled citizenship in a nation under God. Four centuries of Americans who pushed westward from the Old World’s exhaustion to the New World’s promise would recognize in Chaput a friend to their souls.
I’m not a Catholic, and some of my ghostly jurors were but hesitant Christians; yet no matter. The good archbishop models self-government and self-giving for Coloradans of all faiths. Tempted to believe we live by bread and circuses rather than by truth and love, our state is continually reminded otherwise by this fearless prelate. Soldier of civilization, man of backbone, Charles Chaput will live in grateful memory many Christmases from now.
If you're on Facebook, see hundreds of great photos from CCU's Washington Week by going to Matt Lenell's page. (Must "friend" him to see the pix.) You can also search for the group he founded, Washington Week 2009, and join that. And if you're not on Facebook, you should be. Get with it. Hat tip to Matt for also serving as our videographer throughout the trip, capturing a complete archive of all the briefings and study sessions.
Zell Miller, the former US Senator and Governor, a principled Democrat who electrified the Republican National Convention with his 2004 keynote speech, is at it again. The ageless Georgian has written another book, his eighth, entitled Purt Nigh Gone: The Old Mountain Ways, and he's on the road selling it. The other day I drove up to the Amazing Grace Christian bookstore in Gainesville, Georgia, and enjoyed the thrill of a lifetime visiting for over an hour with Shirley and Zell Miller after they came on time and as scheduled. Zell had just arrived from a radio interview with Martha Zohller, a well-known talk show conservative with North Georgia media.
Zell and Shirley arrived in their new van with Zell driving. He had been at bookstores in Canton and Winder the previous evening, and after Gainesville, they drove home to Young Harris, only to go out again today headed to Cornelia, Clermont, Toccoa and like destinations this week. Next week they'll be at the famous Betty's Grocery in Helen, Georgia. Very busy and well-loved by Georgians of all stripes.
Two Gainesville educators with decades of experience were there to greet Zell and Shirley almost an hour early after I reached Amazing Grace and had acquainted myself with the excited storeowners, Karen and Roger, who had stacks of Purt Nigh Gone (2009, Stroud & Hall Publishers of Macon Georgia) awaiting his signature. Everything in their spacious Christian bookstore was prepared for Zell, with the table set up and piled-high with his new books as well as his 2007 book entitled The Miracle of Brasstown Valley.
After a short time hailing the waiting and growing group of well-wishers, many of whom brought their signed copies of Zell's prior books to show him, Zell got down to signing. He seemed to know many there, and they were eager to share old stories and remembrances of friends, family, churches and, of course, their worries over the Obama Administration's huge -beyond anything anyone could have imagined - spending and deficits policies. The local press men were there with notepads and cameras. Zell was quizzed by them between signings. But, Zell's focus was his gracious manner of engaging with every person offering him their copy for his signed messages-he always added some personal note or endearment leading in to his signature. Often Zell stood up to shake hands with folks and to greet the ladies. Shirley waited patiently, walking around the beautifully equipped store, stopped often to chat by those who wanted to give her their special attentions. Zell and Shirley were handsomely but modestly dressed - he with his sharp blue-blazer and she in floral dress. Zell mentioned that he was 77 years old - feeling it a bit he said; but his vigor and comfortably warm ways with everyone clearly showed that he was not anywhere near: "Purt Nigh Gone". When one grandfather handed Zell a brand new baseball for Zell's signature destined for a grandson, the pressman asked Zell what kind of pitch he would throw if he were on the mound. Zell came right-back with : "Well, it wouldn't be a curve-ball, 'cause politicians shouldn't be caught throwing that pitch". He agreed with someone in the group that his preference was the fastball. Mention was made of Chris Matthews' sharp encounter with Zell during a recent TV interview; and Zell revealed that he had had his 15 year old grandson with him at the time, and thus didn't want Matthews to get away with any unfair remarks, so Zell elevated his replies to Matthews "on national TV". I was there with two copies of "Purt Nigh Gone" and another of "The Miracle of Brasstown Valley", and when my turn came, I asked Zell to sign all three. He asked about the intended recipients by name, connection and interests. Zell had recalled me by name, recounting our prior friendly exchanges and commented as I brought up to date on my house sale and intentions toward Alabama and New Mexico. On each point Zell added an insight or remark. As with many of his admirers there, Zell and Shirley shared greetings and well-wishes in the manner of mature Christians; faith in God and the Lord Jesus was in witness at this important event. Because my anticipated move out of state might make it unlikely that I would be seeing Zell in person again, or maybe for years, I felt bold enough to show Zell my framed Army decorations from the Vietnam War era. Zell named most of my awards as I recounted a few of my combat duties as an Army Christian Chaplain assigned to an infantry battalion engaging our nation's enemy, the North Vietnamese communist army and their threatening agents the Viet Cong who were infiltrating, terrorizing and killing the peoples of South Vietnam. I also showed Zell and Shirley a framed picture of me in the field of combat giving a Christian worship to my men, the soldiers of Alpha Company, in August 1969 when I was an Army Chaplain (Captain) 26 years old and had been "in country" since April 30, 1969. I was destined to stay out there in combat until March 20, 1970. I departed South Vietnam for "home" after my one year's service on April 30, 1970. Zell and Shirley both showed great interest in our soldiers, the local children and some of the experiences of a chaplain serving our faith far away in the war so long ago, but which carried so much meaning for me and as a ground for my whole life in the 39 years that were to follow. My meeting with Zell and Shirley Miller was and is an event to remember fondly and with profound respect for this loving married couple who have faithfully served the State of Georgia and the United States of America for decade upon decade. Zell started as an elected Legislator to the General Assembly, was elected then as a State Senator, then elected by his peers to be the President of the State Senate, and went on to be elected Georgia's Governor by the people of Georgia. Then later Zell Miller became one of the 100 Senators serving in the United States Senate. Our Great Nation has been served continuously by this wonderful married couple, Zell and Shirley Miller, in ways beyond comprehension, with faithful devotion, loyalty and determined purposes to maintain and preserve the Values upon which our Nation has been built since 1776. Zell and Shirley Miller are the kind of people without which this Nation would not have attained all that it is as the exemplar of Liberty, Representative Democracy and Modeling of a Nationhood of Peoples United For Upholding The Dignity Of Mankind in an otherwise very disoriented and wayward World. All this existed on the backs of worthy people in the mold of Zell and Shirley Miller until January 20, 2009; and there is simply no excuse for any powers-that-be, arrogant and vain-glorious at best, to entertain the pretense that Our Great Nation has any need to be "remade", or "reset" or tritely said to be needing a "rebooting". Forbid such madness ! Our Nation needs people such as the Millers who are ready to give and devote their life's blood and strength to the maintaining, protecting, preserving and, yes, improving our manner of fulfilling the Ideals established in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of 1787, as amended. But Our Nation does not, repeat, not need a president or dominating political party whose policies are "bringing the nation economically to its knees". Or who, most certainly, are committing gloss derelictions of their public duties by "mortgaging our children's and their children's future to an unbearable weight of trillions and trillions of dollars in debt". To that president and dominating party, we, the Rock Solid Productive Americans, and there are at least 60,000,000 of such American Voters, must say and shout-out: "Stop, Stop Your Mad Dash To Ruin, We resist, and We reject; and We Will Not Stand For It Because We Have Been and Will Continue To Build America Together ! "
[Note: Sean Duffy, my old friend and ally from the conservative think tank movement and the Owens administration, published this eulogy in the Denver Post today. I agree with every word. Read, ponder, learn, and emulate!]
In tributes since he succumbed to cancer last week, Jack Kemp has been rightfully called a statesman, patriot and visionary. The architect of a key pillar of the Reagan Revolution. But, as I look back at powerful and memorable encounters with him over the years, I remember boundless energy, constant searching for new ideas and new converts, and most of all, one hell of a guy.
Jack (and it was always “Jack”, not “Congressman”, or “Mr. Secretary”), preached the gospel of true hope, and the politics of the open door. He believed in the power of individuals to change and improve their lives and saw government as one partner in helping spark real opportunity, family by family.
Kemp’s open door and enthusiasm for the future was, and is, a political magnet that helped sparked Republican growth and success. But some liberal observers in recent days have mistook the positive, welcoming philosophy for an absence of governing principles, or an “anything goes” view of public policy.
If you believe that, you don’t know Jack.
There is a difference between a big tent with flaps, and a roof and structure, and a big tarp - a shapeless covering. To Jack, there was a right and wrong to how the American economy was to be organized, and the role government played in it.
The first time I met Jack was in 1996, when he was running for vice president. I was working for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge doing media relations on education issues. Kemp and Bob Dole brought their campaign to Chester, an economically struggling, largely African-American community that was the home of a wide range of education reforms aimed at empowering families. Two aspects of the day still paint a vivid picture, nearly 13 years later.
First, black men and women sought out Kemp, as he did them. In Jack, they saw a leader - and a Republican - who sincerely and personally wanted them to succeed. And he offered a vision not of more of the paternalistic government programs that had already done damage to communities like Chester.
Instead, Jack’s gospel was that of a helping hand that you must grasp to, in Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase “make your life.” Kemp believed that whether is was choosing a better school for your kids, owning your own home or starting a small business, government must open the door and give you the chance, but you must seize it. That’s real freedom.
The second aspect I remember is his energy. At that visit - and I suspect throughout much of that ill-fated campaign - he seemed like a caged tiger, pacing back and forth, ready to get out.
He was standing next to me during a typical campaign small-group meeting for an elite group of supporters, and he kept saying under his breath, “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s get outta here.” He wanted to get outside to the rally of working-class folks with whom Republicans hadn’t closed the deal yet.
When I came to Colorado to join Gov. Bill Owens” administration, I had the chance to be with Jack several times at meetings and retreats for groups he was involved with, most notably Empower America. Each time, his boundless energy, curiosity and passion for ideas was infectious.
In what was consistently a fire hose of words and ideas, he always had a new book to recommend, a new innovative thinker or emerging leader to tout, a new project to discuss. Most of all, he made us understand that in every one of God’s children there exists the potential for a bright, independent and successful future.
Like many conservatives who came of age during the Reagan years, I owe much of my optimistic belief in the future to Jack Kemp, the evangelist of empowerment. He shaped my view of what it means to be a Republican who can offer real, substantive hope and opportunity to Americans, particularly to those at the bottom of the ladder.
Not every Kemp position was right or perfect. But, in the main, his ideas and his memory should provide the GOP with a real, relevant roadmap back to power. In Kemp there is a positive, practical antidote to the currently fashionable but ultimately fatally flawed wave of “government as savior” policies.
America, and particularly the Republican Party, needs more Jack Kemps. And today we miss his energy, solid ideas and infectious hope for the future. I know I do.
Sean Duffy (email@example.com) is a principal at a Denver public relations firm and served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Bill Owens from 2001-2005.