Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month December 1999 Volume 6, No. 12 Editor: Joe Sobran Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications) Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff Subscription Rates (print version): $59.95 per year; $100 for 2 years. Trial subscription available for $19.95 (5 issues). E-mail subscriptions: $75 per year. Payment should be made to The Vere Company. Address: Sobran's, P.O. Box 183, Vienna, VA 22183-1383 Fax: 703-281-6617 Publisher's Office: 703-255-2211 Foreign Subscriptions: Add $1.25 per issue for Canada and Mexico; all other foreign countries, add $1.75 per issue). Credit Card Orders: Call 1-800-493-3348. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery of your first issue. The columns on pages 7-12 are reprinted with permission of the Griffin Internet Syndicate THE MOVING PICTURE (pages 1-2) Al Gore, Tennessee farmer and drawling son of the soil, has hired a fast-talking Jewish feminist, Naomi Wolf, to help hisself project a more manly presence. Her job is to make him come across as an "Alpha male," a leader of the pack, rather than a mere Clinton flunkey. She has written on the need to teach teenagers about masturbation and oral sex, but let's hope she doesn't rush Al into anything he's not ready for. * * * Not long ago Gore let slip that he was donating about $300 a year to charity, apparently on the theory that a selfless public servant like hisself has already given enough at the office. He hired Miss Wolf at $15,000 per *month.* * * * Gore is doing the last thing any candidate should do: making himself a joke among journalists. He has always been a hypocrite, as witness his flipflop on abortion when he decided to seek the presidency; now his hypocrisy gets snickers. * * * If elected, I promise to restore dignity to the vice presidency. And I'll have no qualms about accepting Howard Phillips as my Alpha male. * * * The obsessive attacks on Pat Buchanan continue. The Weekly Standard has accused him of "calumny" for saying that columnist William Safire, a former White House colleague, "has always put Israel a little bit ahead of this country." That's understatement, not calumny; and anyway, Safire had accused Buchanan of anti-Semitism. Zionists resent any usurpation of their right to practice unanswered character assassination. * * * Meanwhile, on the day Buchanan was to announce he was leaving the Republican Party to join the Reform Party, the Wall Street Journal devoted almost its whole editorial page to a hatchet job on him by Norman Podhoretz. Picking through the files, Podhoretz found a handful of Familiar Quotations that might, if malevolently construed, be called anti-Semitic (assuming that criticism of Israel qualifies). * * * Podhoretz accused Buchanan, with his slogan "America First," of reviving "the old canard of 'dual loyalty.'" Canard? What is the pro-Israel lobby in business for, if not to seek the welfare of Israel at the expense of the United States? It's no good pretending the two countries' interests are identical; that would be impossible. In all the years I've been reading such Zionist publications as Commentary, the magazine Podhoretz used to edit, I have never come across an article asking whether what was good for Israel might sometimes be costly to the United States. But I have read several hate-crazed articles blaming the Holocaust on Christianity. * * * A few days later, the Journal featured an article that made Buchanan's point: the Zionist writer Joshua Muravchik called for the United States to support the overthrow of Israel's enemy, Saddam Hussein. In America's interest, of course. * * * The hate campaign against Buchanan is curiously devoid of real nouns and verbs. His accusers don't say Buchanan has done, or *would* do, or has even threatened to do, anything specifically harmful to Jews; only that he "is," in some undefined way, anti-Semitic. Evidently you're now an anti-Semite not if you hate Jews, but if they hate you. * * * The lesson? It's hazardous even to *identify* Jewish interests for the purpose of judging them by Christian interests. The differences between Jewish and Christian culture are profound; but only Jews may take them seriously. Even in this era of multiculturalism, Christians must pretend those cultural differences don't exist and babble happily about "the Judaeo-Christian tradition," which Jews aren't silly enough to believe in. * * * Charges of "anti-Semitism," like those of "racism," "sexism," and (my favorite among these hothouse pseudo-words) "homophobia," exploit the weakening of libel laws (since a 1964 Supreme Court ukase). They are synthetic adjectives that lack definition and specificity; they therefore can't be disproved, and there is no penalty for making them out of sheer spite. All they really tell you is that their target is the object of hatred for opposing a victimhood agenda. * * * And again, the attacks on Buchanan (and Pius XII) continue to avoid any mention of the tens of millions of Christians who were enslaved and persecuted when the Soviet Union, with American assistance, won World War II. The liberal view -- shared by many who think of themselves as conservatives -- is that the United States won because Hitler lost. You wonder whether these folks have ever looked at a map. * * * One result of Hitler's defeat is that it's impossible to discuss ethnic issues frankly in public. If Euclid had lost a war, geometry would probably be taboo. * * * Has everyone forgotten the great Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty? In 1949 he was charged with trying to overthrow the Communist regime of Hungary and, refusing to confess, was imprisoned for 23 years. The phony evidence -- forged letters, full of spelling errors -- was exposed by the two remorseful forgers themselves, a married couple who fled to Paris with microfilms exposing the truth (where the husband died suddenly and mysteriously -- murdered, his wife insisted unavailingly). But this famous case has gone down the Memory Hole, along with other stories of Red persecution of Christians. (For more information, write to the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, P.O. Box 11321, St. Louis, Missouri 63105-0121.) * * * Flash! Liberals have discovered the Tenth Amendment. They find it useful when the state governments, especially the courts, get more progressive than the Republican Congress. Representative John Conyers, a Detroit Bolshevik and noted Clinton defender, opposes a bill to outlaw assisted suicide as recently legalized in Oregon. The Tenth Amendment, he reminds his colleagues, "has reserved to the states those rights" -- it actually says "powers," but let's not quibble -- "not given to the federal government." And of course Conyers and his ilk (and a revolting ilk it is!) have no intention of applying the federal principle except when it serves their pet evil causes. But what the heck. Why shouldn't the Democrats claim the Tenth Amendment? The Republicans aren't using it. Defender of the Faith (pages 3-6) [Breaker: A new defense of the status quo] [Breaker: Government: "necessary evil" or "necessary good"?] [Breaker: The states, Wills says, aren't, and never were, "sovereign."] [Breaker: Wills studiously avoids the language of the Founders.] By one scholar's reckoning, governments in the twentieth century have murdered 200 million people. This is exclusive of wars, in which other tens of millions have perished. Divide these numbers by 20, and you still might reasonably wonder why there has been no mass revolt against the modern state. On the contrary, most people still regard the state as a legitimate and even beneficent institution, meekly obeying it and actually wishing to enlarge its powers. The Founders of the United States, who prided themselves on learning from experience, would be aghast at our submissiveness. But for Garry Wills, author of A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (Simon & Schuster), the question is why so much "anti-government" sentiment persists. He thinks the people who have taken lessons from this bloodiest of centuries are so peculiar as to need 365 pages of explaining. Think of it: even after the experience of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Idi Amin, some folks *still* don't trust their rulers! When will they ever learn? Wills, a journalist and historian, has emerged as a bold reinterpreter of the American political tradition. His acclaimed books on Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and Lincoln challenge the received wisdom on these towering figures, arguing that the authentic American tradition is closer to the liberal left than usually believed. Apart from being a fixture of the American intellectual elite, Wills is the rare leftist who knows and tries to answer conservative arguments. Unfortunately, he has a bad habit of misstating them. In Inventing America (1978) Wills argued that Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence was shaped by the Scottish Enlightenment, rather than (as generally assumed) by John Locke. The ideology of the Declaration, he insisted, was therefore less Lockean -- that is, less individualistic -- and more "communitarian" than anyone had realized. The liberal press welcomed this thesis, but a number of scholars pointed out that Wills took liberties with the evidence: Jefferson had cited Locke as the greatest of political theorists and even copied his wording in the Declaration. Wills's book was an attempt to reclaim Jefferson from the tradition of individualism and limited government. Similarly, Wills's 1992 Pulitzer-winning book, Lincoln at Gettysburg, contended that the Gettysburg Address, by way of "a giant (if benign) swindle" and rhetorical "sleight of hand," had "remade America," giving Americans a whole new understanding of their political tradition. Lincoln's new principle may have been ahistorical, but it had, in Wills's view, improved on the original by virtually demolishing the hoary notion of states' rights (and limited federal government). Thanks to Lincoln (if not Jefferson), we are a "nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," in a sense the Founders would have rejected. So Lincoln himself, in Wills's account, becomes our last (and greatest) Founding Father. The Gettysburg Address, Wills held, has even changed the way we understand the Declaration of Independence. He's right about that: Lincoln conspicuously omitted "the consent of the governed," the principle the South was fighting for. Wills is nothing if not ambitious. But is he reliable? In A Necessary Evil, he tries to show that the traditional American suspicion of government is based on a faulty set of "anti-government values" and "anti-government attitudes." According to Wills, these atavistic values and attitudes link a host of reactionary forces: anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution, Southern secessionists, various rebels and vigilantes, gun-control resisters, and the anti- abortion movement, along with numerous individuals, from Calhoun and Thoreau to Mencken and Albert Jay Nock, along with recent oddballs like David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh. Even Jefferson and Madison have made their contributions to this baneful tradition, which regards government as no more than "a necessary evil." Wills sees the tradition culminating in Ronald Reagan, whom he despises. Wills argues that government is actually "a necessary good," an institution that fosters "social affections" and the good life. Its rules may diminish certain idealized primitive freedoms, but they produce the more essentially human freedoms of civilized society. He scorns the pseudo-Lockean notion that man was born free in the state of nature but surrendered his original liberty for the security of the social contract; in his view, society is an exchange of a lower kind of freedom (the absence of physical restraint) for a higher one (the harmony of cooperation). It follows that we should be grateful for government, not resentful or suspicious. Because Wills is an able and learned polemicist, A Necessary Evil is probably the best defense of the status quo we are likely to see; the status quo being a centralized government of enormous dimensions that reinterprets the Constitution to suit itself, ignoring essential limitations on its powers. But A Necessary Evil is fatally flawed by Wills's failure to define his two key terms, "government" and "anti- government." By reducing so many streams of thought to these crude categories, Wills implies that there are ultimately only two alternatives, ruling out the distinctively American idea of limited federal government. Wills is really writing about the long controversy between "centralizers" and "anti- centralizers," lumping all the latter together with anarchists, radical individualists, eccentrics, and cranks. As one of his villainous examples, Wills cites Jefferson Davis. But Davis -- a U.S. senator, secretary of war (under Franklin Pierce), and president of the Confederate States of America -- can hardly be described as "anti- government." He wanted the state governments to have more power than the federal government. His ideal distribution of power was by no means anarchic; it presupposed more power in the state -- including the power to authorize and sustain slavery -- than Wills himself would probably favor. Wills likewise misrepresents the debate over the ratification of the Constitution. Against all evidence, he contends, with Lincoln, that the states were never truly "sovereign" -- never mind that they consistently claimed to be sovereign, and just as consistently recognized each other as such. If Wills is right, Lincoln's great "swindle" would have been unnecessary; the true American tradition would have been just what Lincoln said it was -- an original Union from which no state could withdraw. In making his case, Wills is forced to falsify the facts. He admits that the Articles of Confederation said that "each state retains its sovereignty," but he deprives the provision of its full force by omitting the rest of the passage: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled." The word "retains" clearly implies that sovereignty was a property the states "already" possessed -- and mutually acknowledged. But Wills treats state sovereignty as a mere legal fiction, and an empty one at that. You wouldn't know it by reading Wills, but the sentence just quoted begins the Articles of Confederation and states the premise of the whole document. Wills likewise scants the Declaration's climactic claim "that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States" -- not, as Lincoln had it, "a [single] new nation," but in the words of Willmoore Kendall, "a baker's dozen of new sovereignties." The states were jealous of their sovereignty. When the Revolution ended, Great Britain recognized the states, naming each one separately, as "free, sovereign, and independent states" -- another passage Wills fails to quote. When the Constitution was adopted, three states ratified on the express reservation of their right to "resume" or "reassume" the powers "delegated" to the federal government -- that is, the right to secede. Wills, of course, doesn't quote these clauses either. He doesn't even quote the Tenth Amendment, which reaffirms the principle of state sovereignty. One of his chief purposes is to discredit the right of secession, which rests on the principle that the states are sovereign and may reclaim the powers they have delegated. But even if the states' right to secede (and resist by arms) is denied, we still have to ask how, then, the states are supposed to protect themselves against violations of their reserved powers. Wills forgets that a "state" was, in the eighteenth century, sovereign by definition. A "confederation" was -- likewise by definition -- a voluntary association of sovereign states, any of which might withdraw at any time. Today, thanks to the linguistic decay that accompanies political corruption, a "state" means a mere subdivision of the central government, while "federal" has become a synonym for its former antonym, "centralized." The United States, under the Articles, was "a firm league of friendship," nothing more -- certainly not a supreme sovereign power *over* the states. Even The Federalist Papers often refer to the Union under the proposed Constitution as "the Confederacy." They never deny the ultimate right of secession; if they had, the anti-Federalists would have leaped on the denial as proof that ratification was a trap from which there was no escape. Not that Wills grasps any of this. Nor does he seem to understand that the word "delegate" can only mean that the entity granting power (the individual state, by ratifying the Constitution) is superior to the recipient (the Union), and that any delegation of power is necessarily limited. To delegate unlimited power would amount to abdication, rendering the delegator inferior to the delegatee. It gets worse. Wills further neglects to quote Madison's assurance (in Federalist No. 45) that federal powers are "few and defined," while those powers that "remain" (again, the word implies prior possession) with the states are "numerous and indefinite." Wills observes that Madison agreed that the states would enjoy a "residual" sovereignty, but here again his artful quotation misleads the unwary reader, making "residual" sound trivial. In fact, Madison's word is "residuary," so Wills misquotes the only word he cites (and omits mention of its source, Federalist No. 39). What Madison actually says is that "[federal] jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and *inviolable* sovereignty over *all other objects*" [emphases mine] -- the Tenth Amendment principle. This is only one of many Federalist assurances that the Constitution not only wouldn't promote but would actually *preclude* "consolidated" government. Madison clearly admits that the polities contemplating ratification are "independent states," each of which is "a sovereign body independent of all others." Wills doesn't explain how the states could defend their reserved powers against "usurpation." The question doesn't interest him, because he favors what Madison's generation called "consolidated" government. But "usurpation," along with "consolidation," was a central concept of the ratification debate. The question was whether the United States was to be ruled by a single, centralized, "consolidated" government. The Federalists assured their opponents that it could never happen, because the states could, if necessary, mount armed resistance -- a live possibility in those pre-nuclear days, which helps to explain the Second Amendment. The point is that *both* sides professed to agree (with some hypocrisy on the Federalist side) that consolidation was an evil. Given Wills's scholarly pretensions (with hundreds of footnotes), it's remarkable that he takes pains to avoid using or quoting the terms in which the Founders debated. But there's a reason for his avoidance. To use the language of the Founders is to be drawn into a way of thinking about government that Wills is intent on ignoring, when he doesn't simply misrepresent it -- a habit of making distinctions between powers: proper and improper, constitutional and unconstitutional, delegated and reserved. For him, these nuances seem to be superfluous, because government power as such is a good thing -- "a necessary good" (though he would admit occasional exceptions). Wills rejoices that, thanks largely to Lincoln, the states have lost any effective means of resistance to federal usurpation, since such usurpation has given us, among other things, legal abortion. But he is never candid enough to say he favors *consolidated* government; he merely professes to favor "government" in the abstract, without definition or limits. Federalists and anti-Federalists debated passionately over the limits and proper powers of the federal government, and over how the states should be protected, or defend themselves, against federal tyranny. None of this interests Wills. For him, to favor *any* limits on "government" -- the federal government in particular -- is to be "anti- government." Continuing his assault on the obvious, Wills contends that the separation of powers was meant to enable the federal government to "*achieve* efficiency" (his emphasis), not to impede it. This ingenious notion forgets a central Federalist contention: that you can make a government efficient for certain purposes, while simultaneously installing strong limits and safeguards against its assumption of powers not granted to it. Moreover, Wills overlooks the many passages in which The Federalist Papers cite, as the patron saint of republican government, "the celebrated Montesquieu," who defined tyranny as the concentration of all powers -- legislative, executive, and judicial -- in one man, or one body of men. Time and again they repeat that these powers of government must be "separate and distinct," "divided and balanced," and so forth, in order to forestall "the encroaching spirit of power," the "assembling all power in the same hands," "those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands," et cetera. In Federalist No. 40, Madison wrote that "the great principles of the Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered less as absolutely new than as the expansion of principles which are found in the Articles of Confederation." He repeated this point in Federalist No. 45, assuring his readers that "the change which it [the Constitution] proposes consists much less in the addition of NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL POWERS" -- i.e., its powers under the Articles of Confederation. Truly constitutional government would look a lot less like today's mammoth warfare-welfare state, and a lot more like the United States under the Articles. Wills follows Lincoln in holding that "it takes all parties to the Constitution to rescind it." No, the usurpation of any state's powers by the federal government might dissolve the confederation between that state and the Union, just as any breach of contract releases the offended party. The seceding states never denied the right of other states to remain in the Union; Lincoln's charge that the seceders sought to "destroy the Union" was nonsense. One secession (or 20) would diminish the Union, but couldn't destroy it. The nonseceding state of Maryland recognized the right of its sister states to secede, so enraging Lincoln that he ordered the arrest of many Maryland legislators. So much for "government of the people, by the people, for the people." (Wills never mentions Lincoln's attempt to arrest Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had accused him of usurping Congress's powers.) "The majority of the people constitute a binding sovereignty," Wills writes; but Lincoln insisted that the Constitution, *not* the will of the majority, required him to crush secession. When dealing with later "anti-government" figures like H.L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock, Wills doesn't bother with refutation. He doesn't so much as mention Nock's masterpiece, Our Enemy the State, in which the "anti- government" Nock argues *for* common-law "government," against the modern "state," a system of pillage and murder. Far from being anti-social, as Wills suggests, Nock preferred "social power" to "state power." Instead of addressing both men's philosophies, Wills quotes their occasional unflattering remarks about women and minorities, as if these were sufficient to discredit them; never mind that both Mencken and Nock spoke far more harshly of the general population than of any minority. Madison (in Federalist No. 53) said the U.S. Constitution would be superior to the British constitution in one crucial respect. England's unwritten constitution could be changed, and fundamental liberties curtailed or abolished, by a simple legislative act of Parliament. But the United States would enjoy a Constitution "established by the people and unalterable by the government." Today, alas, the Constitution is constantly altered by the government, though our rulers naturally prefer not to put it quite that way: they say the Constitution is a "living document," implying that it somehow alters itself. As Wills stresses, Madison secretly *wanted* a consolidated government, armed with a "negative" (veto) over all legislative acts of the states, effectively reducing the states to the status of counties. Before the delegates met in Philadelphia, he told George Washington that such a complete power over the states was "absolutely necessary" to a new constitution. He and Alexander Hamilton were to be bitterly disappointed by the Constitution, but they decided to settle for it and became, ironically, its ablest advocates. Though Madison's veto was quickly shot down by the Philadelphia convention, Wills rightly observes that the federal judiciary has learned to use the Fourteenth Amendment to achieve the same effect, nullifying the states' reserved powers and virtually repealing the Tenth Amendment in the name of individual rights. If the states had retained their sovereignty, such judicial transgressions (foreseen by the anti-Federalists) would have been impossible. Any serious usurpation of the states' powers -- as in Roe v. Wade -- could have provoked secession. But for Wills usurpation is not a problem; it's a desideratum. In a curious twist on the idea of original intent, Wills treats Madison's private unfulfilled wish for consolidation as if it were more authoritative than the actual Constitution; and by his expansive logic, anyone who accepts Madison's public assurances (in The Federalist Papers) that the federal government *can't* and *shouldn't* be consolidated is "anti-government." Presumably Wills considers Madison one more Lincoln-like "benign swindler." Wills closes the book with an eloquent defense of human society itself. He argues that we need each other in order to realize ourselves, which would be impossible in a supposititious state of nature where every man would have to take full responsibility for his own survival and self- defense. True enough, and Nock would agree. (So would Robinson Crusoe.) But he implies that "society" and the modern limitless state are the same thing, which is hardly the case. Rejecting life under Stalin doesn't mean yearning to dwell on a desert island. Intellectuals remain the great carriers of the stubborn twentieth-century faith in the state. A Necessary Evil may stand as a scholarly monument of cognitive dissonance: drawing from history the precise opposite of history's real lessons. If the Founders could see us now, they would probably repent that they'd provided far too few safeguards against the kind of state Garry Wills celebrates. Boxed Copy Farewell, your lordships: Under the prodding of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the British House of Lords has been virtually abolished, with the elimination of hereditary seats for the nobility. Such privilege is undemocratic, don't you see. So the Mother of Parliaments, celebrated by Montesquieu and others for its division of power, takes another step toward monolithic government. My friend Charles, Earl of Burford (a collateral descendant and champion of the Earl of Oxford, alias Shakespeare), has valiantly opposed the change -- so vehemently, in fact, that he was ejected from the House of Lords during a recent debate. As an opportunist, Blair himself has only one peer: his role model Bill Clinton. (page 8) Boys will be boys: In an interview with ABC News, Bill Clinton admitted to a "personal mistake" with you-know-who, but said history will credit him with being "right to stand and fight for my country and my Constitution and its principles." Excuse me, but he was tried for perjury and obstruction, not adultery; has he forgotten that an Arkansas judge fined him $90,000 for lying under oath in her court? He fought for "my Constitution" in the same sense that Cosa Nostra fights for the Fifth Amendment -- except that Cosa Nostra doesn't actually subvert the document it invokes. (page 9) Look! Up in the sky! It's Mr. Campaign Reform! The Washington Post reports: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has traveled extensively for his presidential campaign this year on airplanes provided by several of the large corporations he helps regulate as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee." (page 10) The Rule of Law: In the wake of a federal judge's ruling that Microsoft is, seeks to be, or "could" become an illegal monopoly, the legal profession is drooling. Expect the sort of suits against Microsoft we're now seeing against tobacco companies. "We're looking at it, we're seriously looking at it," says Stanley Chesley (described by the Washington Post as "a prominent class-action tobacco lawyer"). "Millions of people bought Windows, and if the company overcharged consumers, it should be held responsible." Of course the biggest monopolist in America is the constitutionally lawless federal government, which uses its limitless taxing power in the exercise of countless usurped powers; how about a class- action suit on behalf of taxpayers? (page 12) Reprinted columns (pages 7-12) * The Reagan Cult (October 7, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991007.shtml * We the Victors (October 14, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991014.shtml * Altering the Constitution (October 19, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991019.shtml * The State v. Christian Culture (October 21, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991021.shtml * Forbidden Unless Authorized (November 2, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991102.shtml * "Arbiters" of Abortion (November 4, 1999) http://www.sobran.com/columns/991104.shtml All articles are written by Joe Sobran This publication is for private use only. Copyright (c) 1999 by The Vere Company. All rights reserved. Distributed with permission by the Griffin Internet Syndicate (firstname.lastname@example.org).