Abraham Lincoln, born 202 years ago today, saved the Union and helped Americans closer to realizing the promise of our Declaration of Independence. From my long shelf of books about him, I especially recommend "Vindicating Lincoln" by Krannawitter, "Redeemer President" by Guelzo, "Crisis of the House Divided" and "New Birth of Freedom" by Jaffa, and "Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish" by Trueblood.
('76 Contributor) It hurts me deeply to see good, hard working Americans struggling to find jobs. These Americans don’t want a penny from the government; they want a job. They want to experience the self worth and sense of accomplishment that comes with putting food on the table on one’s own accord, not on the forced benevolence of unknown taxpayers. They want to talk about their kids’ days, a family vacation, or the quintessential football family rivalry but it is apparent that family finances, how are we going to pay the bills, how are we going to send the kids to college, am I going to get laid off, have come to dominate dinner tables around our nation.
Editor: On this 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, we asked young Karthik Venkatraj, son of immigrants, Army officer, and currently a John Jay Fellow working at the Centennial Institute, for his thoughts on the legacy of the 40th president. He filed this heartfelt essay.
Our nation is hurting and her people are shouldering the hurt. Families around the nation are having to make tough choices, cut out any expenses that are not completely essential, hold on to their jobs, or begin the most arduous and taxing task of finding a job. Younger folks are struggling to find jobs after college or after graduate school. Worst of all, our nation’s children and their children are already mired in debt, after years of government spending and profligacy. Folks are hurting and our nation’s leaders are searching for solutions in an almost circuitous fashion.
What has come of our nation? Most Americans are in utter frustration mixed with disbelief to see our nation in this state.
This problem is far larger than conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, or any sort of party or political affiliation. Our nation and her people are crying out for leaders who care about her prosperity and perpetuity over that of their re-election. We are crying for principled leaders to make tough decisions to provide a better future for us and more importantly, our children. Each and everyone of us are making the tough choices, isn’t time for a government indicative of the decisions we have to make? Isn’t that the duty of our generation, to provide a better future for the next generation? I have been able to lead soldiers, who have deployed two or three times to make ends meet in their households. Is that the nation we aspire to be or do we seek to be that “shining city upon a hill”? So we call on our legislators to follow through on their oath. But let us not predicate our hope on select men and women; rather, let us remember that our nation was constructed on the hard work and dedication of Americans moving together as one. As we come together as a nation to honor and celebrate President Reagan and his legacy, let us be reminded of the charge he gave to the American people of an exceptional nation.
Reagan was often referred to as the Great Communicator but in his farewell address, Reagan refuted this claim, stating : “I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries." And within this statement we find the key to our nation’s challenges - - our timeless ideals embodied by the American people. It is why I am convinced that although my generation will face the greatest challenges our nation has witnessed since the post World War II era, we will also find our greatest triumphs.
It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and win one for the Gipper.
On February 11, 1861, Abraham Lincoln began his trip from Illinois to the nation’s capital for his inauguration as the country’s’ 16th President. When he left Illinois, seven southern states had already seceded from the Union, with four more to follow.
Lincoln took a somewhat circuitous route, first going through Indiana, Ohio and western Pennsylvania, before turning north, going to Buffalo, Albany and New York City. Ten days later, on February 21st, he arrived in Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall—where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were ratified.
The following morning, Lincoln left his hotel very early in the morning and rode by carriage to deliver two speeches. The second speech was to honor the raising of a new flag, with 34 stars, the new star marking the inclusion of Kansas into the Union.
Lincoln’s first speech was made at the request of Theodore L. Cuyler, president of the Select Council of Philadelphia at Independence Hall. In his speech, Lincoln reflected on the Founders of ´76, who courageously declared their independence, and asserted the “self-evident truths” upon which our nation was founded.
Just as with the Gettysburg address, Lincoln’s remarks were brief yet timeless. In an earlier speech, he famously stated that everything had a “central idea” from which all else emanates. For Lincoln, the “central idea” of America was the Declaration of Independence. In his February 22, 1861 speech, he returns to this theme of the centrality of the Declaration, both for the nation and for himself.
It is fitting that we reflect on Lincoln’s words again this Independence Day. The following is a transcript of his speech as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:
I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall.
I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men.
This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say, in advance, that there will be no bloodshed unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defence.
My friends, this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was merely to do something toward raising the flag. I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet. (Cries of "No, no") I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.
So President Nobomba has decided he can avoid war by playing nice with our enemies. Now all he needs is Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella to complete the picture. But reliable Leftist Robert Sheer is rejoicing. The president finally is earning his Nobel Prize and “at last, a believable sighting of that peace president many of us thought we had elected," writes Sheer.
Sheer’s applause is not surprising but his reasoning is. The president is right to back away from the use of nuclear weapons in order to repudiate President Truman’s use of the bomb which was, to Sheer, “the most atrocious act of terrorism in world history.” Goodness. The most atrocious? Really, Robert, that honor surely goes to one of your Leftist heroes. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragically killed two hundred thousand civilians. Stalin killed thirty million, Mao sixty million, and Pol Pot’s killing fields annihilated Cambodia’s middle class—about two million more. Surely these would get some mention in Sheer’s “Most Atrocious” category.
But back to Truman. Leftists countenance no use of the military—unless they are murdering the bourgeoisie. Truman’s “act of terrorism” is precisely the kind of life-saving act the military is designed to produce. Consider:
**Truman wasted no time on whether or not to use the bomb. It was tested on July 21 and dropped August 6.
**The death toll for both cities was lower than the number killed in the “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese military in 1937. (300,000—another candidate for worst atrocity.)
**The U.S. military calculated it would lose at least 500,000 men if they were forced to take the Japanese main islands by conventional means. That would have doubled our World War II death toll. Maybe Sheer would like to go to every one of those families and explain the deaths of their sons in order to avoid the “worst atrocity in world history.”
**The U.S. also calculated that the Japanese civilian death toll would have been upwards of 15,000,000 in a conventional siege. More deaths that Sheer is apparently OK with.
**The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave the crazed Japanese military a face-saving device and allowed the Emperor to capitulate.
**The bombs, tragic as they were, showed us how bad nuclear weapons could be and none have been dropped since. That’s why David Drehle of Time Magazine said the real winner of the Nobel Peace prize should be should go to the nukes.
Sheer is a typical Leftist. He has absolutely no sense of perspective. And the American military he despises have allowed him to live comfortably at peace and given him the freedom to spew forth his nonsense.
The bad news is that Nobomba’s foreign policy is based on “sheer” fantasy and has no correlation with the real world. The good news is he has never kept a single promise he has made. I hope he doesn’t keep this one.
('76 Editor) Which big speech best expressed the concerns and hopes of most Americans right now, Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 26, or Sarah Palin's forceful and confident speech at the Tea Party convention tonight? I give it to Palin hands down.
This may be the opening salvo of her presidential campaign for 2012, a campaign that stands a better chance of success with every passing week. It's still very early, but three years from now we just might be getting used to the first woman ever to win the White House -- and recalling that it all got started on Reagan's birthday in Nashville, when American heard its next president give her State of the Palin address.
CNN seems to be the first news organization up with a lengthy text story on the speech (which wrapped up only 45 minutes ago). CSPAN's website is promising a complete video file on the speech shortly.
When praising his own “accomplishments” Barack Obama has an unusual fondness for the word “unprecedented” though invariably his assertions lack any historical validity. In contrast the voters of Massachusetts can now claim an accomplishment that entirely justifies the use of that word. To find an event in American history reasonably comparable in character and impact to the Massachusetts Earthquake we must go all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court. That is the last-perhaps the only- time in our history that a President commanding huge congressional majorities sought with breathtaking arrogance to redesign the constitutional, social and economic foundations of the country and was stunningly defeated by the very people who long had been his party’s staunchest supporters. With a righteousness and sense of invincibility engendered by three consecutive triumphal election cycles that had given him and his party an extraordinary dominance Roosevelt sought to demonize the “nine old men” of the Supreme Court who had the temerity to strike down key elements of the New Deal as unconstitutional. With little consultation outside his inner circle and apparent indifference to how such a radical move would be received in the country Roosevelt advanced sweeping legislation that would increase the membership of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen and replace lifetime appointment with mandatory retirement ages, moves which would enable him to swiftly “pack” the Court with hand-picked minions. It was at this point that ordinary Americans and several key Democratic leaders like Montana’s Senator Burton K. Wheeler decided that Roosevelt’s radical power grab was going too far and actively threatened the nation’s hallowed Constitutional traditions. The Court “packing” scheme was decisively defeated in the Congress and the final political result was the Democratic Party losing seven Senate and 80 House seats in the 1938 mid-term elections. That was America’s last peacetime election before World War II restored the country’s economy, ended the Great Depression, and redeemed the political fortunes and historical reputation of Franklin Roosevelt. Nonetheless 1937 remains a decisive turning point in American history when the overarching ambition of a well-intended but tone deaf President were dramatically rebuffed by a most unlikely combination of opponents who read the national mood far better than he. The week that saw the unbelievably improbable election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts also witnessed the startling collapse of the recently “inevitable” Obamacare legislation, and the absolute implosion of the Democratic Party in a tawdry spectacle of shock, fear, anger, finger-pointing, pseudo-contrition, confusion, chaos, and general cluelessness. Not in living memory has a dominant political party been so devastated, so quickly by a single wildly unpredictable event. It is easier to search the past for perspective on this American melodrama, than to divine its future conclusion. Much will turn on the choices made by the Democratic Party. Will there be a Clintonesque dash to the center, (“the end of big government and welfare as we know it”) by a President in hot pursuit of re-election?
Or, will the Party in certain knowledge that it will never again enjoy such Congressional dominance heed the frenzied howls of its far left and “double-down” on the strategies of bigger government, redistributionist legislation, and intolerable taxation that have so alienated the public? Rational calculation would seem to demand the former direction, but in critical degree today’s Democratic Party is far more radical than the Party that was dethroned in 1994. The dominant Furies that energize and fund the Democrats are of an ideologically obsessed mindset unlike anything that ever before captured control of a major American political party. President Obama’s utterances since the upheaval are suggestive of self-pity and delusion. Excusing his inattentiveness because he was “so busy getting stuff done” and then claiming that both he and Scott Brown were elected by the same anger at George Bush bespeaks a man quite out of touch with reality. His lame attempt at populism-Let’s punish those greedy bankers- is nothing but the class warfare and general assault on capitalism that has been the thinly disguised agenda of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Axis from the beginning. What’s new is that now the American people know it and are determined with their votes to decisively defeat it.Centennial Fellow William Moloney was Colorado Education Commissioner, 1997-2007. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News.
There's a case of Founding Father forgetfulness creeping through the GOP. Sarah Palin recently showed the extent of the infection. But it seems Colorado is not immune, and may be in desperate need of the vaccine.
In a recent interview with Glenn Beck, Palin was asked to name her favorite Founding Father. While visibly scrounging through her mind's historical file cabinet, she bought some time by declaring, “Well, all of them.” Beck fired back: “Bull crap.” Like a young paralegal, she continued to search her files, eventually producing a name: “Of course, George Washington.” The light bulb above her head was almost blinding, the relief in her face embarrassing.
But while Palin's latest hiccup may cause our historical hearts to murmur, she is not alone in her post-antiquity amnesia. In fact, Palin resembles some Republicans in Colorado.
In November, CCU hosted a debate between the top four Republican candidates for Colorado's upcoming U.S. Senate seat (Ken Buck, Jane Norton, Cleve Tidwell, and Tow Wiens). After the questions about health care and national security came a lighthearted question by moderator John Andrews. The query went something like this: “Tell us what President of the United States you would like to travel back in time and have dinner with?”
While one could not expect the Continental Congress to dominate the dinner table, one could at least expect names such as Washington, Adams, or Jefferson to garner an invite. But according to our potential senators, such patriots would go hungry at their dinner party. Instead, Teddy Roosevelt would have to shuffle his schedule, as most picked him for Andrews's imaginary dinner date.
To be clear, Teddy is not a bad choice. But at a debate where the themes of “fixing Washington” and “getting back to our roots” permeated the discussion, one could not help but note the absence of those who got it right in the first place. And in a national conversation dominated by partisan politics, are we asking too much when we ask our leaders to name a favorite statesman from an era when statesmanship, not rhetoric, brought true hope and change?
So what is the cure? I can't say for sure. But the medicine must contain a steady concoction of history, civic duty, and respect. Historians such as David McCullough, with his book John Adams, could offer the perfect prescription. But it's up to our leaders to fill those prescriptions. Otherwise, we may end up with a group of civic servants who no longer esteem those who have created this democracy. Or worse, who just can't remember.
('76 Contributor) During a recent “Meet the Press” the host, with feigned indignation, asked a Senator, “You’re not calling the President a Socialist, are you?” Without waiting for a response, he repeated the question for emphasis. This performance highlights the hijacking of political semantics. “Socialist” was replaced by “Liberal” which, in turn, became a pejorative, and now “Progressive” is preferred, and used in titles of dozens of political and welfare advocacy groups.
Constantly morphing ideas and permutations of definitions make it hard to compartmentalize politicians. An accepted basic view is that Socialism advocates state or collective ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods. That essential hallmark of freedom, private ownership of property, is prohibited. Note how the current abuses of eminent domain stretch the traditional definitions of public use.
Marx called Socialism a transition between capitalism and Communism. As any high school sophomore should be able to recite from Marx’s Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, “To each according to his needs; from each according to his ability.” An advocate of these ideas is indeed a Socialist. To quote National Socialist German Workers’ Party leader, Adolph Hitler, “The needs of society come before the individual’s needs.”
Before labeling Obama and his inventory of actions, we must also note the academic definition of Communism. “All economic activity is controlled by the state, dominated by a single political party.” Further: “A system based on holding all property in common, with actual ownership by the state.” Differences between the categories, reduced to simplest form: Socialism actually takes ownership while Communism totally controls enterprise, which ostensibly could remain private. This administration’s actions overlap both, with the common goal of doing away with Capitalism. Degrees of success are temporarily limited by public resistance. Constitutional protections are rejected as archaic annoyances.
Obama, equipped with glibness and arrogance, was dismissed as a buffoon by serious economists. His experience was largely limited to preaching Alinsky to ACORN volunteers. Without apologies, he surrounded himself with cabinet and advisor appointees, and a cadre of czars with no accountability, most of whom have serious ethical, legal and moral taints. The czars have no Congressional approval. Uniformly visible in that group is the disturbing tendency to demonize the concepts of private property ownership and free markets. The last 18 presidents averaged 46% of their advisers from the private sector. Obama has 8%.
As perennial presidential candidate Norman Thomas, and others, famously said, “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.”
Fabianism (strategy of establishing Socialism by gradual means), used with patience by subversive movements world-wide, is not in vogue with this administration.
To some degree or another, the administration has addressed all the elements of the Socialist or Communist state, with varying degrees and a common thread of shrinking Capitalism with alarming speed. The advice of Obama mouthpiece Rahm Emanuel is, “Never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a crisis.” Tactics of Chicago-style patronage, populism and corruption, unabashedly taken to the national level, have caught many flat-footed.
To correct what he blames his predecessor for, “long years of drift,” Obama is moving to control major industries in Communist fashion. What better start than the showpiece of American industry for a century, automobile manufacture? The President has no desire to own the auto companies, merely to control them. Perhaps he has read of the disastrous Soviet attempts at controlling manufacture with bureaucrats making all decisions.
Obama wants control while allowing experienced management to take care of the details. Bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler certainly were never meant to be loans, but rather a grab of equity. The action instantly took 78.3% of General Motors by the government, followed by a gift of 17.5% to the auto workers union. Bond value was whittled down to maybe 10% of GM equity. Investors without rational recognition of Communist control strategy held out hope for a rebound.
A sidebar of the auto industry takeover was the “Cash for Clunkers” fiasco which, at taxpayer expense, amounted to a marginal cost per car of $24,000. It had an effect of about 32 thousandths-of-one-percent CO2 reduction. It stimulated car purchases at the expense of future business a few months down the road. For example, by the end the year, Colorado new car registrations were 29.8% less than last year.
(Centennial Fellow) Hitting to all fields: (1) Barack Obama may be a far better orator than George W. Bush, but when Bush delivered a message, despite his sometimes mangled syntax, everyone knew what he stood for. Because Obama's elocution is superior, only later do people realize they have no idea what he really meant.
(2) If overhauling the nation's health care system is so urgent that lawmakers can't be afforded time to read the bills before they vote, why does so much of the legislation not take effect until after the 2012 election?
(3) Obama vowed that he wouldn't sign health legislation if it adds "even one dime to our deficit over the next decade — and I mean what I say." The Senate bill costs $900 billion and, we now know, its alleged savings were counted twice and spent elsewhere in the bill. Obama also promised that health "reform" would "cut the average family's premium by about $2,500 per year" and he opposed a requirement that everyone must purchase insurance. The Senate bill is estimated to double or triple premiums for young families and, of course, requires them to buy insurance or pay a fine. What's more alarming — that Obama believes what he says, when so much is demonstrably untrue, or that he thinks most people still believe him?
(4) The test of a politician's commitment to limited government is if he still believes in limited government when his party is in power. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was first elected in 1984. He's seen Republicans win majorities when they focused on limited government, constitutional freedom and economic growth. Yet, Barton wants Congress to require a college football post-season playoff and make it unlawful to call any game the "national championship" unless it is the culmination of a playoff.
(5) Notwithstanding Gov. Bill Ritter's proclamations and ribbon cuttings, the "new energy economy" isn't recession proof. A wind turbine manufacturer in Windsor first announced that 500 employees would be furloughed, then suggested they would be reassigned to other tasks and could face indefinite "long weekends" while production of turbine blades is halted. Once upon a time, politicians understood that a good energy policy produced power from reliable sources at affordable prices. Today, too many lawmakers think it's their job to prefer certain sources of energy — solar, wind and other "renewables" — and to impede others — namely, oil, gas, hydro and nuclear. Anyone who opposes an energy policy that utilizes all available sources is either woefully uninformed or has an ulterior motive for wanting to impose higher costs and fewer choices on everyone else.
(6) Government can't create jobs that contribute to a productive economy because government doesn't produce anything that people want to purchase. That's why government resorts to taxation.
(7) Majority rule can be just as dangerous as a despotic dictator. Consider Social Security, Medicare and the proposed federal takeover of health care: No one in their right mind would look their children or grandchildren in the eye and say, "You must pay two or three times more for health insurance, so I can buy my health insurance at less than half what it really costs." Nor would they saddle their loved ones with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and a future of soaring tax rates and meager economic opportunities. And for what? To support an unsustainable system of health care entitlements and a retirement Ponzi scheme that would be considered fraudulent were it operated by anyone other than government.
(8) If pro-life politics are so unfashionable, then how is it that Democrats — the party that won't even allow pro-life elected officials to speak at their national conventions — couldn't pass their health care bill in either the House or the Senate, despite huge majorities, without accommodating abortion foes?
(9) Just wondering: is dissent still patriotic?
Centennial Fellow Mark Hillman served as senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
The proclamation announcing the Nobel Peace Prize for President Obama states that he “created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”
The Nobel committee has fallen into the same trap that many American commentators have: rather than actually evaluating outcomes and successes, they are rewarding those who express good intentions. From the proclamation, the Nobel Committee actually acknowledges this, disregarding whether or not any of Obama’s “good intentions” will eventually result in policy success. After going through the checklist of “accomplishments,” there is little or no evidence that any of these things have resulted, nor will they result, in making peace. Multilateralism and dialogue about disarmament and the climate are meaningless.
It appears that the only thing Obama has done, which the committee views as an accomplishment, is to weaken the United States’ standing in the world. While the Nobel Committee may view this as an accomplishment, a weaker United States is certainly not consistent with a more peaceful world. America’s strength on display has in fact led to greater peace in the world over the last 70 years, while presidencies such as Jimmy Carter’s, which sought to diminish America’s standing, actually led to greater world conflict.
Good intentions alone, of course, do not necessarily lead to peace. And a naïve belief that good intentions will result in peace is dangerous. Every attempt at appeasement has been laden with good intentions, whether it is Chamberlain’s cowering to Hitler, or Carter’s weakness in light of increasing Soviet expansion. Weakness in the face of great danger does not establish peace.
The Nobel Committee has made a mockery of itself by honoring the hope for peace, rather than an actual accomplishment of it.