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To Be Great the U.N. Must Defend Democratic Sovereignty

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“I’ve listened to countless speeches in this hall, but I can say this: None were bolder, none more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today” –Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 The wisdom of President Trump’s United Nations speech last week was nothing less than a demonstration to that dubious organization of how it might adopt the timeless political principles of the American founding—and a proclamation, in fact, that the international body must do so if it is to retain any interest at all for Americans. Against the sophism known as international law, Trump advocated the reality of the democratic politics of sovereign nations.

Trump’s stinging political language—e.g., Venezuela’s “socialist dictatorship,” “radical Islamic terrorism,” and of course “Rocket Man”—drew appropriate attention, but Trump went well beyond those jibes to expose the series of misconceptions upon which the U.N. is mistakenly  based.

For decades, the U.N. has presented the spectacle of its member dictatorships claiming to protect human rights or terrorist regimes speaking for supposed shared goals of a common humanity. It is a farce. Trump’s attacks, with his American alternative, exposed the twisted logic that led to these absurdities. They are the creation of Woodrow Wilson, who was both the prominent political scientist of his day and 28th U.S. president, a theorist who—unfortunately—was afforded the opportunity to put his ideas into practice.

In keeping with his distortion of American domestic politics, Wilson is also behind the fault in our foreign policy. The foundation of Wilsonian political science is  a repudiation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and a counter-declaration that the only hope for reforming America is in abandoning equal natural rights. According to Wilson, America had to be deconstructed—a task Wilson assigned to the rule of experts in an administrative state the objective of which was to replace constitutional government.

In foreign policy Wilsonianism attempts to replace low and unexceptional American national interest with the supposedly noble interests of “humanity.” His idea for a League of Nations was advanced to pursue this goal. Lurking behind the push for and support of this object  are the academic musings of the young scholar  Wilson, who argued that socialism was really the perfection of democracy.

Socialism denies that individual rights produce a private sphere safe from the control of government—so private property is always at risk, as is the individual conscience.

This corruption of democracy and lowering of the meaning of humanity sets the stage for the thuggish third world regimes who—without surprising those who understand the corrosive roots of the U.N.—seem to dominate it. This relativism is keeping, too, with Franklin Roosevelt’s conception that the U.N. would make Stalin’s Soviet Union a key member. Progressive political philosophy and economics saw increasing international order—irrespective of the means used to produce that order—as the inescapable goal of world history.

Eventually humanity would see a global administrative state that would produce human security by banishing famine, disease, and war. Of course, the elimination of war by a global entity would mean the snuffing out of “rebellions” (such as that of the Americans against the British Empire)  and the establishment of what amounts to a global tyranny. It would be the sole possessor of weapons and the master of the force required to use them.

In place of this parade of horrors, President Trump’s U.N. remarks recommended America’s unique version of sovereignty, a sovereignty of the people, all created equal, against arbitrary government.

Trump’s proposed reconstituting of the U.N. has the same purpose as his ambition to reconstitute American politics: to prevent tyranny and protect individual freedom. Trump repudiates the Wilson-FDR view of globalist order to reclaim the exceptional character of American sovereignty:

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words.  They are:  “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history.  In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.  I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

Trump thus repudiated the language of the globalist foreign policy elites, both Left and Right, with their talk of “realism” and “idealism” and “the end of history.” Globalism affirms the Hegelian insistence that only the “rational is real,” making transnational rules—independent of citizen consent—the sovereign ones. Such rules, we are told, would serve to replace the “anarchy of freedom”—a power diminishing thing globalists appear to fear much more than straight up tyranny—as we see attempted in socialist dictatorships:

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

Here, Trump was denouncing not only the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela but also the reigning Wilsonianism in the United States.

In place of European distortions of Western Civilization, Trump wants Americans to appreciate the heritage of their revolution, both its religious and philosophic bases, which should be the model of the democratic revolutions throughout the world. One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

In other words, Trump brought to the world stage what he gave to America: blunt speech about political reality that defies the elites who blindly support international order over the national interest.

The U.N. speech makes clear that Trump’s version of sovereignty requires fundamental principles of natural rights in the formation of a social contract among citizens—equality, liberty, consent of the governed, and constitutional government. In deconstructing the administrative state at home, Trump is restoring borders, emphasizing political economy over international economics, and reestablishing American military power. As this promotes the common good, so all nations, each in its diverse ways, can promote the good of all nations by striving to be their own best version of themselves:

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

The “first bond” of a nation, Trump noted, is to its own people: “This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today.” We do not advance the cause of “humanity” by surrendering our sovereignty to the amorphous goals of theoretic politicians governing Utopias that have never and will never exist. A sovereign nation has a duty to its actual citizens in the here and now if it seeks to preserve a future of peace and prosperity going forward. That is what Trump explained, in plain language, to the denizens of the U.N. and to their partisans at home.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

 

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Progression—or Degeneracy? Part One

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Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series.

The American regime that resulted from the American Revolution differs from today’s in size, scope, and character. We do not elaborate the contrasts. Rather, we ask: Whence came these differences between the former’s constitutionally limited pursuits of modest objectives—domestic tranquility, justice, the common defense, the general welfare—and the latter’s unlimited administrative discretion over everything from the planet’s climate to the proper exercise of religion? How could a regime evolve into something so like its own negation?

Specifically: are modern America’s institutions and mores departures from its founding principles, or are they the logical, necessary consequences of those very principles? Did the Founders’ principles undergo corruption, or did they bear the fruits inherent in them? How does the DNA that America’s Founders wrote into our roots relate to our present regime? What is the present regime’s genetic code? Regardless of the founding principles’ influence—restraining or propulsive as they may be—by what mixture of political and cultural mechanism did the changes occur?

Properly, these questions are historical. Too often, however, debate about the character of America’s DNA devolves into abstract exegeses of intellectual and moral principles, as if the Founders’ minds were tracking on one or another set of mutually exclusive views of man and society. We suppose that each track produces competing versions of what those principles were or ought to have been, and that these principles, like great trees’ seeds, predetermined America’s character—either to live by natural law, the Declaration’s “laws of nature and nature’s God,” or to satisfy whatever desires the natural right of selfish autonomy might engender.

Although—as we shall argue—this philosophical dichotomy does not explain everything, it counts for a lot.

If, as Abraham Lincoln argued to Stephen Douglas, the Declaration of Independence defined the new nation in terms of a set of divinely ordained natural laws, then any and all departures from those laws would pervert it.

The laws cited by the Declaration gave meaning to the Constitution. They bound the government and the people. America was not free to become indifferent to, never mind to accept, slavery (and, by implication, to anything else that violated those laws) without ceasing to be itself. But if, as Douglas argued to Lincoln, growth and greatness themselves are the American regime’s “law of life,” then any attempt to restrain the most powerful desires that arise within it must choke it. In that case, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope is correct that the U.S. Constitution is merely “the way by which we argue about our future.” Consequently we—or rather, whoever prevails among us—are bound only by our latest appetites. If those lead us to accept, say, polygamy, or to trade the Bill of Rights for rule-by-administration, so what?

Clearly, whether the men of the American Revolution and founding thought in terms of natural law or of natural right makes the difference between courthouses engraved with the Ten Commandments, and ones whose portals bear the words inscribed over Rabelais’ Abbey of Theleme: “Fais ce que vourdas”—Do what you want (limited only by what you can get away with).

Focus on the pure forms of these philosophical points of departure, however, diverts attention from the founding generation’s forma mentis, which grasped philosophical doctrine through the medium of the practical questions at hand. Foremost among these was the struggle against the British regime. Although America’s founders are not here to pronounce on what may have been implicit in their hopes for the future, they were clear enough about what they were revolting against, as well as about about the basis upon which they revolted.

What Freedom Means

The founding generation was steeped in the concept of natural law. But it had not distinguished that concept from “natural right” as clearly as we do.

Their education in in Greco-Roman thought taught them to regard man as a social animal who is born, lives, and dies in families, tribes, and various kinds of political arrangements, and who has a fixed, knowable nature. As Christians they believed (along with Jews) that man is created “in the image and likeness of God,” and that this status between God and the rest of creation defines what is good for man. Such secularists as there were among them joined in believing that right, for man, is to live according to his nature. The Christian addendum to classical thought also stresses that because men are equally God’s creatures, none may rule another without the other’s consent, and that duties to God are separate from duties to earthly powers. All this portends limited government and defines “freedom” as the capacity to choose between good and evil, as these categories exist in the immutable “laws of nature and nature’s God.”

So what kind of freedom did America’s founders mean to establish? Fact is that, as they framed the American regime, they used the terms natural law and natural right interchangeably. Hence, they never choose explicitly between the implication of these terms as we have come to understand them.

Competing for their attention was the post-15th century (previously adumbrated in Greek thought) construct of the individual—radically unattached and inalienably self-interested. This individual first appears in a “state of nature.” Positing this “state” makes it impossible to think of creation and creator, as well as to consider for what purpose man might have been created. In short, it makes it impossible to think about what might be right for man by nature. The “nature” of this “state of nature” has really only one law, one natural right: self-preservation. What is good is whatever that individual decides for himself at any given time may be consistent with that right.

Consequently, any and all familial and political bonds are naturally artificial. Freedom means the unfettered natural right, collective as well as individual, to decide what good and evil might be according to the inalienable priority of self-preservation. That in turn means discovering and satisfying one’s own ever-changing sentiments. The state has the greatest freedom to satisfy desires.

‘Right’ Rightly Understood

So what kind of freedom did America’s founders mean to establish? Fact is that, as they framed the American regime, they used the terms natural law and natural right interchangeably. Hence, they never choose explicitly between the implication of these terms as we have come to understand them.

They left no doubt, however, that their peculiar notion of right is something at the same time ancestral, natural, and divinely ordained.

Today’s dominant philosophical-political assumptions make it difficult for us to understand that. Since the Founders did not maintain the strict opposition between the concepts of “nature” and “convention” or “custom” to which academic philosophy has accustomed us, they found nothing incompatible about claiming that, as Britain was violating rights established by God and Nature, it was also violating the ancient rights of Englishmen—and vice versa.

Our difficulty in understanding this stems in part from the assumption—as wrong as it is widespread—that history has moved more or less uniformly from less freedom to more freedom, that America’s Founders were revolting against the middle ages’ legacies (despotism mixed with and veiled by religion) and that they, Children of the Enlightenment, were trying to make it possible for people to live however they like.

Consider: this British regime had been ruling in the same way for almost 400 years. The Americans were rebelling against the 18th century’s ancien regime’s established customs. But they were doing so in the name of a regime that was even more ancien, whose customs were no longer customary but were somehow right in themselves. Where had these customs come from? What endowed them with right?

Our difficulty in understanding this stems in part from the assumption—as wrong as it is widespread—that history has moved more or less uniformly from less freedom to more freedom, that America’s Founders were revolting against the middle ages’ legacies (despotism mixed with and veiled by religion) and that they, Children of the Enlightenment, were trying to make it possible for people to live however they like.

In reality, the Founders knew that the regime that was oppressing them was anything but medieval. They faulted it for having trammeled medieval and downright ancient rights. Nor, aside from Franklin, were they libertines. To them, freedom was the capacity to live life free from arbitrary power. This is something of which there had been much more in remote times than in their time.

Insofar as the American revolution was about custom, it was about restoring customs of limited government, which they believed was also divinely ordained.

In fact, the British crown against which the Americans were revolting (Parliament had become the senior partner within it) was not a relic of the middle ages. Like other European monarchies, Britain had transcended medieval political forms as well as the Christian notion of right as independent of power. The regime against which the Americans revolted was like the rest of Europe’s in having shed all but the trappings of an earlier age.

Why the Middle Ages Matter

The previous millennium’s story had been similar, whether in Spain, France, Germany, or England. The Germanic tribes that had overrun Western Europe consisted of free men. They had done away with Rome’s imperial bureaucracy. The absence of easy communication between towns as well as between countless corners of countryside, abetted the tribes’ independence from one another, as well as the autonomy of their components.

All this meant that the rules of life grew in diverse ways throughout Europe, and guaranteed that arrangements within medieval society would be flexible. All arrangements were inherited and hence became customary. Arrangements between nobles, towns, and kings became the charters of freedom, from Spain’s “fueros” to England’s Magna Carta. Since Christianity provided the only common intellectual guide, these arrangements had to be justified in terms of what is right and wrong in itself. Hence, the notion of consent of the governed became the essence of the medieval legal principle of jus et consuetudo regni (Ranulf de Glanville, 1180). Here we see diversity born of selfishness and necessity, ingrained by custom, blessed, and amplified by Christianity’s teaching of human equality.

Medieval Europe’s complex polity, which such as John Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliae (1394-1480) described at length, and which Aristotle would have called a mixed regime, is what the kings of the Baroque age had destroyed. In England, Royal commissioners enforced the king’s will. Local custom had given way to law made by the king’s judges or by parliament.

Arrangements between nobles, towns, and kings became the charters of freedom, from Spain’s “fueros” to England’s Magna Carta. Since Christianity provided the only common intellectual guide, these arrangements had to be justified in terms of what is right and wrong in itself.

Elsewhere, though the details varied, the story was much the same. Tocqueville’s The Old Regime And The Revolution describes the result: “The central power encroached on every side upon decaying local franchises. A hierarchy of public functionaries usurped the authority of the nobles. All these new powers employed methods and took for their guide principles which the Middle Ages either never knew or rejected, and which, indeed, were only suitable for a state of society they never conceived.”

The kings just wanted more power. But they did not understand that, as they gathered it, they were building Leviathans. Having the power, as Blackstone said, “to do anything not naturally impossible,” these would fall for the temptation to do all that and more. The crown had declared itself the arbiter of right and wrong over all things. By what right? Britain was no stranger to the European doctrine that kings exercised absolute power. Louis XIV claimed divine right by papal dispensation. Henry VIII’s heirs headed the church and made rules about matters religious as well as secular. This of course was a negation of Christian orthodoxy as well as a departure from medieval practice.

What the Founders Were Up To, Really

In sum, the Americans sought to recover a right to self-rule which they supposed to come from God and which they recalled as the (by then largely superseded) custom of England. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in The Rights of British America (1774), they harked back to Anglo Saxon government, limited by the people’s ancestral rights understood as natural rights. And, as James Wilson argued in his 1790 inaugural lecture to the first American law school, attended by a Who’s Who of the Founders, Americans disagreed with Blackstone’s notion that right is the will of the sovereign. In America, said Wilson, law was to be right insofar as it is right by nature.

Regardless of their precise understanding of natural law and natural right, of nature and convention, the American revolutionaries were not trying to transcend Christian or classical notions of right and wrong, much less were they trying to create a centralized state capable of instituting whatever moral or social order anyone in power might want.

Regardless of their precise understanding of natural law and natural right, of nature and convention, the American revolutionaries were not trying to transcend Christian or classical notions of right and wrong, much less were they trying to create a centralized state capable of instituting whatever moral or social order anyone in power might want. If the latter had been their intention, they would hardly have crafted a Constitution that makes it excruciatingly difficult for the government to act. Had they meant to institute the unbounded capacity to satisfy their own desires, they would not have sought to re-establish medieval customs. Rather, they would have grasped and reinforced central authority over all matters, including religion. That is what their contemporaries in France did, about whom more below.

No. Although Progressives have succeeded in making the American regime open-ended, they are wrong historically. It was not meant to be that.

Follow these links to continue reading part two and part three.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

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2016 Election • America • Democrats • Donald Trump • Featured Article • Hillary Clinton • Russia

Sean Davis at The Federalist Exposes WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin on Paris Hypocrisy 

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Sean Davis over at The Federalist has an excellent piece calling out the phony conservatism of Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post whose political philosophy appears to have have been reduced to disagreeing with Donald Trump. He writes:

“If you want to see a case study in how blind anti-Trumpism corrupts the brain and renders an individual incapable of basic reason, look no further than Jennifer Rubin, the faux conservative blogger for the Washington Post. On Wednesday, following the publication of several news reports indicating that President Donald Trump planned to withdraw the U.S. from the toothless 2015 Paris global warming deal, Rubin declared that Trump’s move was a disaster, proof that he hated science, and ironclad evidence that he was far too stupid to be president.

The whole piece is well considered, thoughtful, and timely. Read the rest at The Federalist.

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Democrats Should Fear the 2018 Midterms

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Democrats are licking their lips in anticipation of a 2018 wave election that returns the Speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi icy grip and ushers in a new era of having to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill. But hubris is always stalked by nemesis and pride goes before a fall. Eddie Zipperer at Lifezette explains that Democrats should be much more circumspect about their actual prospects:

GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter the day before the U.S. House special election in Montana and still won by 6 percent. Democrats should take that as a harbinger of political doom on a par with meeting the weird sisters or receiving a visit from Hamlet’s father. You need no ghost to come from the grave to tell you that when your policies are 6 percent less popular than misdemeanor assault, you need new policies.

But Democrats seem incapable of learning from elections. After losing the House, the Senate, the presidency, several governorships, and scores of state legislature seats over the past eight years, they continue to charge forward, propelled by the delusion that America’s heart beats for globalism, socialism, part-time jobs, and feckless foreign policy.

Meanwhile, once-influential media outlets have become nothing more than tabloid-style, anonymous-source-citing, Republican-attacking enablers, pushing clickbait headlines and irresponsibly spinning narratives that reinforce the delusion that Republicans and conservatives are a tiny fringe group of deplorable racists, xenophobes, and homophobes.

Read the rest at Lifezette.

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What Donald Trump Can Learn From the Clintons

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You have to hand it to the Clintons. They understand power. At least, Bill does. Hillary may be too much an ideologue to excel in the power sweepstakes.

Donald Trump? I think the jury is out on him.

Did you know that one of Bill Clinton’s first actions after he had been inaugurated was to install a friend of his wife’s and one of his campaign workers as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service? The lucky lady was Margaret M. Richardson, Clinton stalwart.

Many conservatives must wonder, why is John Koskinen still head of the IRS? If you haven’t watched Koskinen’s testimony before Congress lately, take a look. Then take a look at Lois Lerner’s testimony. Really, take a look at that. Then note that you, a taxpayer, are helping to pay for this disgusting person’s pension (the amount, of course, is undisclosed).

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I suggested that Trump take a page from Machiavelli. “The success of his administration,” I wrote,

will depend on many things: luck, skill, effective alliances. But all will be for naught if he tarries. It’s not just the first 100 days that will matter. It’s the first week, nay, the first 48 hours. His team should come to town ready to undo, right now, today, every executive order promulgated by Obama. Every appointment that can be made should be made instantly, every nomination should be put forth and, so far as is humanly possible, fast-tracked. It should be a shock-and-awe performance. The media will howl. The political establishment will squeal. But they will have been rendered irrelevant before they knew what hit them. It will be a spectacle worth watching.

As I have noted, I think that Trump’s opening chapter has been a success. The simple fact that Hillary Clinton is not president is a triumph for democracy. “The fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water,” I noted recently.

And it’s not just a matter of what Hillary Clinton would have done. At issue was also who she was: a Clinton. I leave to one side the breathtaking corruption that she conspired with through her connections with the Clinton Foundation and its various pay-to-play schemes. I leave to one side also her callous and mendacious incompetence in handling the terrorist attacks on our consulate at Benghazi, her scandalous and routine mishandling of classified material and deployment of a home-brew email server. Leave that to one side and think just of the precedent she would have set had she become president: no, I am not talking about her anatomical status as female, but rather her dynastic status as a Clinton. Had she won, the presidency of the United States for the last twenty years would have shuffled between three families. That alone would have set an ominous precedent and upsetting that counts as a large bullet dodged.

I think of that, I think of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, of Trump’s efforts to roll back counterproductive regulation, his energy policy, his efforts to enact a pro-growth agenda by cutting taxes and taming the beast that is ObamaCare: I think of all that and am glad.

But, still, I worry. Like Gulliver in Lilliput, Trump is surrounded by enemies. So far as I can see, he has done precious little to neutralize them. The day Bill Clinton was inaugurated, he asked for, and got, the resignations of 93 U.S. attorneys. Trump early on asked for 46: much wailing and gnashing of teeth greeted that initiative.

Bill Clinton moved quickly to replace an FBI director he didn’t like. In August 1993, just months after Clinton took office, Louis J. Freeh was confirmed.

I am trying to imagine what the response on the Left would be if Trump did any of these things.

What would Stephen Colbert say?

My concern is this. You often hear that the president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world.

Like Gulliver in Lilliput, Trump is surrounded by enemies. So far as I can see, he has done precious little to neutralize them.

I’d say, that depends.

Compare, for example, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Who was the more powerful president? Reagan may have been the most powerful person in the world. Was Carter?

I think the answer is obvious.

Why? Personal charisma? That was part of it.

But there was something else. Part of the answer, I feel sure, was an intuitive grasp of the physics of political power. Reagan had it. Carter did not.

One of the first things Reagan did upon coming to office was settle a strike by air traffic controllers. In 1981, he fired 11,000 striking workers. “They are in violation of the law,” said Reagan, “and if they do not report for work within 48 hours they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.” Notwithstanding the fletus et stridor dentium I alluded to above worked: the union was tamed, the planes flew, freedom and prosperity moved a few inches forward.

Reagan defeated the Soviet Union without firing a shot. His tax cuts sparked the greatest economic boom in world history.

What did Jimmy Carter do? What do you remember? The “malaise” speech? “More mush from the wimp”? The Iran-hostage fiasco? The “misery-index”?

So long—but only so long—as the people who put Donald Trump in office believe he is doing his best to fulfill that promise, they will follow him to the ends of the earth.

The moment they sense he has betrayed them on this fundamental issue, the party is over.

Let me say this: The promiscuous desire to be liked is a personal character failing. In a politician, it is an existential challenge.

I have recently had occasion to quote one of my favorite mots from William Dean Howells: “The problem for a critic is not making enemies but keeping them.”

A congressman’s wife is on the board of a local dance company that gets $10,000 from the NEA. “Don’t defund the NEA, honey! What will Mildred think?” Will he keep his enemies or let them go?

Have you been to any swank parties in New York lately? Everyone, darling, is on board with the idea that “climate change” is an existential threat to mankind.

It’s errant nonsense, but no matter: it takes a politician of rare courage to buck the trend and say the truth.

Here’s something our friend Niccolò Machiavelli knew but that escapes many: power operates according to a partially occult calendar. What is possible on day one or day 100 or even on day 150 of a politician’s tenure will no longer be possible on day 366.

I am not sure anyone has ever said exactly why that should be the case.

But it is the case.

Donald Trump came to power on an extraordinary wave of hope and bitterness.

The bitterness was a response to a justified sense of existential marginalization at the hands of an anonymous technocratic elite that presumed to run people’s lives without in the least understanding their lives.

The hope arose from the trust that, finally, someone understood the score and was going to return prerogative to the people, not simply shuttle it to another party.

That is exactly what Trump said he would do on January 20, 2017. “[T]oday we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another,” he said in his brilliant inaugural, “or from one party to another—but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

So long—but only so long—as the people who put Donald Trump in office believe he is doing his best to fulfill that promise, they will follow him to the ends of the earth.

The moment they sense he has betrayed them on this fundamental issue, the party is over.

No politician wins every battle. Trump has already won several. He has lost some. He will lose more. There are some symbolic victories that have to happen: the Wall, for example. Somehow, that has to happen.

There is also one central promise that has to be kept: Make America Great Again. I believe that Trump has already made great strides in that battle. But at the end of the day it will be won or lost on one issue: economic growth. The magic number is somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent. It can be done. Will it?

If Trump understands political power, the answer is Yes. Does he?

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Featured Article • Government Reform • Hillary Clinton • Obama • Political Parties • Republicans • Section 1 • Section 2 • The Constitution • The Courts • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • Trump White House

How the Obama Precedent Empowered Trump

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Donald Trump was elected president by sizing up the Electoral College, and the voting public, and then campaigning accordingly. A number of the things that explain Trump’s election also point to unique opportunities to overturn the Obama legacy. This, in turn, explains why the Left is understandably upset about the unprecedented scope of the presidential landscape they bequeathed to and therewith empowered Trump.  

Weaponizing the Presidency

After complaining for years that he was constitutionally unable to grant executive-order amnesties, Obama lost all such scruples after his 2012 election. His legacy was not so much the number of executive orders that he issued, but rather the unapologetic overreach of them—whether granting blanket amnesties, ordering convenient pen-and-phone non-enforcement of federal immigration laws, green-lighting sanctuary cities, changing the idea of due process on college campuses, recalibrating the order of Chrysler bankruptcy creditors, or delaying the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act for reelection advantage.

The Left is understandably apprehensive of Trump because Obama set the modern precedent that a contemporary president can do almost anything he pleases by executive orders (and in Nixonian fashion can weaponize federal agencies, from the NSA to the IRS, in order to monitor and hound political rivals and perceived enemies). Sen. Harry Reid’s near suicidal destruction of the Senate filibuster captured the unreality of the times, as if Obama progressivism most certainly would be America’s new orthodoxy for generations to come.

The Media Implosion

A supposedly disinterested media’s ecstasy over Obama’s election ensured that its subsequent revulsion at Trump could be taken no more seriously. Once a journalist declares a president a god or capable of sending shocks down one’s leg, then he would be no more credible if he were to pronounce another president the anti-Christ or capable of causing boils on one’s appendages. And once a political novice is declared a worthy Nobel laureate on the basis of professed intentions, then why would anyone worry about any other president’s political inexperience?

When Obama joked (to general media laughter and applause) at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner about sending Predator assassination drones to take out potential suitors of his daughter, one can then hardly sympathize with media hurt feelings when Trump skips the embarrassing charade altogether. The Obama administration occasionally expressed contempt for media toadies who proved so useful to him, whether defined by Obama’s frequent jibes that the media slavishly was in his corner, or by Attorney General Eric Holder’s monitoring of Associated Press journalists, or by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’s haughty disdain for obsequious reporters (the “echo chamber” that “knows nothing”).

In sum, Trump is the beneficiary of a dysfunctional opposition whose reaction to the close loss of 2016 is reminiscent of the unhinged Democratic response to the narrow defeat of 1968, when it doubled-down, went harder left, gave up on middle-class concerns—and was demolished in 1972.

If a prejudicial media’s smarminess nonetheless earned derision from its icon Obama, why should not its hostility earn the same from Trump? If a marquee partisan reporter confesses (in the Podesta Wikileaks trove) of his Clinton partisanship that he is a “hack,” why should Trump argue with such self-described assessments?

A critical media is not a mere reset button that one turns on and off at one’s convenience. Instead, once it was short-circuited after 2008, its burned-out switch cannot be flipped back on in 2017. In sum, there is no longer a believable media that can offer credible critiques of the Trump presidency.

The New Democratic Party

The Democratic Party metamorphosed in 2008. Obama convinced it that identity politics and new demographic realities meant that record minority turnouts and bloc-voting—coupled with the disengagement of the vanishing “clinger” white working class—ushered in a new hard left Democratic generation of power.

Progressives sipped this tainted moonshine and the result over eight years was the disastrous losses of the majority of state governorships, legislatures, the House, the Senate, the presidency and, likely for a generation, the Supreme Court. In truth, the polarizing “hands up, don’t shoot” /”you didn’t build that”/”punish our enemies” assorted rhetoric deemed necessary to galvanize Obama’s progressive base also both polarized and riled the “deplorables” and “irredeemables.” Or to put it another way: historic minority participation and identity politics zealotry were not commensurately transferrable to a 69-year-old, multimillionaire white woman; but the working-class estrangement that accompanied such an effort most certainly was. Clinton inherited all the downsides of the Obama paradigm without, at least in her case, any of its upsides.

After the emergence of an even harder left Democratic National Committee leadership, and President emeritus Obama’s own vows to lead a sort of shadow progressive resistance movement, there is little chance that a stung Democratic Party will jettison polarizing identity politics issues and its neglect of the middle classes, and learn from the 2016 defeat. The problem is not just that the Democratic establishment leadership—Jerry Brown, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi—ranges in age from their late sixties to eighties, but also that the younger, and more robust next generation—Keith Ellison, Kamala Harris, Tom Perez—has embraced an even more polarizing politics. Are orthodox and old preferable to radical and young?

In sum, Trump is the beneficiary of a dysfunctional opposition whose reaction to the close loss of 2016 is reminiscent of the unhinged Democratic response to the narrow defeat of 1968, when it doubled-down, went harder left, gave up on middle-class concerns—and was demolished in 1972.

There is as yet no credible response to Trump and certainly no opposing coherent agenda. Instead, the “Resistance” is being waged by cherry-picking liberal federal judges in hopes of delaying and slowing down executive orders in the courts, along with states-rights nullifications, organized advertising boycotts of conservative media figures, media collusion, jamming town hall meetings of conservative representatives, campus antics, and waging war on social media.

At least for now, all these slow-downs are not substitutes for legislative action, but more evidence of political impotence.

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America • Democrats • Drugs • Featured Article • The Culture

Politicizing and Misunderstanding the Opioid Crisis

The nation’s opioid crisis is real and it is serious. As Christopher Caldwell recently pointed out, “those who call the word ‘carnage’ an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.” And so, too, are those playing politics with the crisis. Even beyond the politicization—or, perhaps, because of it—there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to what is driving this crisis.

As for the first problem, the politics: Senator Claire McCaskill (D., MO) has announced that she is initiating an investigation of several opioid manufacturers, and is requesting “reams of information” from them. But note the one manufacturer she did not target and from which she did not request information—Mallinckrodt. Mallinckrodt, after all, is headquartered in Missouri, her own state. Odd, that. And it’s not as if Mallinckrodt is a bit player in the manufacture and sales of opioid drugs. Indeed, “it is one of the nation’s largest” producers, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the market share of opioid prescriptions. The companies McCaskill has targeted are responsible for a total market share of 5.25 percent combined. Odd, that. If she were serious about investigating pharmaceutical companies, she most certainly would be investigating the one based in her own home state which also happens to be the one responsible for most opioid sales in America.

But all of this is not even the beginning of the beginning in addressing America’s opioid crisis. For when political leaders like Senator McCaskill are not playing politics with the issue, they are too often misunderstanding it. Some of that is not their fault.

Part of the problem in addressing the opioid crisis is that the terminology can be confusing or misleading. People hear “opioid” or “prescription opioid” or “fentanyl” and begin to lump the problems all together as a crisis driven by legitimately prescribed drugs. No doubt, that is a part of the problem, but it is nowhere near the biggest part of it. Take a look at the best statistics available (taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the CDC):

  • In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths.
  • Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constitute another 9,580 deaths.

Because opioid deaths usually involve the use of more than one drug, percentages and raw numbers will not neatly add up to 100% or the 33,091 deaths. As the White House Website puts it: “A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.” But what we can see from the above is that over 68 percent of the problem is from the use of illegal drugs.  Or, as the CDC put it in December of 2016: “[T]he increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.”

As for the prescribed opioids, the majority of overdose deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them. As the CDC notes: “Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative.” The people “at highest risk of overdose” “get opioids using their own prescriptions (27 percent), from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).” Thus, for the population that overdoses from opioid prescriptions, 64 percent abuse them from a diverted or illegal source. In other words, the abuse of opioid prescriptions that leads to overdose deaths involving a patient acquiring a legal prescription and misusing that prescription on himself is less than 30 percent of the prescription problem and constitutes about 15 percent of the overall opioid overdose problem.

This is backed up, as well, by the most recent testimony of the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry. Just last month, she testified to Congress stating,

Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid (other than methadone) overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicate these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Again, the main driver of our current crisis is the use and abuse of illegal drugs, not legally prescribed drugs. Indeed, there is some common sense to this. Almost anyone who has had a surgical procedure was likely given a legal opioid like fentanyl. As one prominent anesthesiologist recently wrote: “To an anesthesiologist, fentanyl is as familiar as a Philips screwdriver is to a carpenter; it is an indispensable tool in my toolbox. It is the most commonly used painkiller during surgery. If you’ve had surgery, it is more likely than not that you have had fentanyl.” And yet the vast majority of people who have had surgical procedures do not have substance abuse or opioid abuse problems.

Yes, there is a popular reverse gateway theory regarding heroin abuse—i.e., that high percentages of heroin users started by abusing prescription opioid drugs. But that is misleading and, indeed, looks at the problem from the wrong direction.

As Dr. Robert DuPont from the Institute for Behavior and Health has put it:

[W]hile 80% of heroin users used a prescription opioid before they first used heroin, the vast majority, over 96%, of people who have used a prescription opioid non-medically [i.e., illegally] have not transitioned to using heroin.  Five years after the initial nonmedical use of a prescription opioid, only 3.6% ever used any heroin.  Among prescription opiate users, the people most vulnerable to switching to heroin are those who are also abusers of other drugs including alcohol.

In other words, the vast majority of prescription opioid patients do not transition to the use of an illegal drug like heroin.

Other data bear this out, as well. For example, according to an important article in the January 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “[A]lthough the majority of current heroin users report having used prescription opioids non-medically before they initiated heroin use, heroin use among people who use prescription opioids for non-medical reasons is rare, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate.”

The numbers and factors detailed here are not meant to diminish or emphasize any serious or particular effort to address the variety of opioid issues contributing to the present crisis but, rather, to detail the full picture of the problem in sharp relief. Playing politics with this crisis will get us nowhere and waste a lot of time, energy, and resources. Public confusion about what is leading the epidemic and behind the majority of cases driving the crisis is another problem altogether, made worse by playing politics with it. It is time, past time, to get serious about this issue and take it on in a serious manner.

There are a great many efforts aimed at dealing with pill mills and irresponsible and rogue sales of prescription opioids. That is all to the good. But those efforts will not solve the problem or even get to the roots of the largest parts of it. A responsible and successful prevention campaign is needed and must be combined with serious drug education policies and messages along with a greater border and law enforcement effort. For concerned Americans, first and foremost, it is our duty to become educated about the issue.

2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Deep State • Donald Trump • Editor Picks • Featured Article • Greatness Agenda • Republicans • Section 1

GOP Leaders, Remember Trump Ran Against Your Pieties … and Won

Politics is a team sport. It’s a basic truth of republican government—one that was even written into the nation’s founding document. The signers of the Declaration of Independence all agreed to “pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” In short, they would stand together or hang separately, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin. The stakes were high and they knew they had to rely on each other.  Still, every team has its stars and in politics that is the president.

After years in the political wilderness, Republicans have honed their skills as an opposition party to a fine edge, but their electoral success requires that they govern. With control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Republicans need to close the gap between theory and practice quickly.

President Trump acts decisively, reflecting his entrepreneurial background, and expects similar alacrity from Congress. The American people entrusted the GOP with a level of power not seen in nearly a century and they expect results. This is especially true of the party’s most loyal supporters who are tired of excuses from their elected representatives. That sense of frustration, even betrayal, set the stage for the accession to power of Donald Trump.

Remember that Republican voters categorically rejected the party’s dream team during the primary in favor of an outsider who happily overturned many conservative pieties. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Donald Trump ran against the congressional leadership of his own party and won.

 Read the rest at The Hill.