Thursday, August 17, 2017

What President Trump should have (and easily could have) said on Saturday, August 12, 2017

"We were scheduled to have a meeting today about the status of Veterans in our country, and the new bi-partisan bill supporting their ability to seek the best medical care available in our country, but events have superseded the schedule. Today we stand with the people of Charlottesville, Virginia who simply want to live in peace and make decisions for themselves without being harassed by reprehensible outsiders. The United States, which the most illustrious of my predecessors beautifully wrote in 1790, "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" and will never be the home or domain of vile collectivist ideologies that we have spilled blood and treasure to eradicate at home and abroad--be they racist, fascist, communist, or religious.

"All who commit criminal acts will be punished to the fullest extent of the laws of the State of Virginia and the United States--I have already called Governor McAuliffe and the Attorney General and have been assured that they are doing everything legally permissible to bring anyone responsible for violating the laws of Virginia or the laws of the United States to justice. I would like to extend my personal thoughts and condolences to all those who have been injured or killed as the result of the disturbances this day.

"Our rights to disagree with one another, to speak freely, passionately, and openly--and assemble and protest and demonstrate--are sacred and inviolable. Just as sacred and inviolable are our rights to life and liberty and to not be physically assaulted by others. There is no tension or contradiction between legitimate rights, and there is no tension here. Saying vile things is unpopular but undeniably one's right to do. Doing vile things that violate the rights of others will never be permissible or tolerated while the Constitution of the United States still lives or while I am still the President of the United States.

"God bless the people of Charlottesville, those who have been hurt and injured, and those who have lost loved ones--and god bless the United States of America."

A republican

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Some Historical Advice for Senate Republicans

With the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) comes the end of a colorful, controversial, and consequential three decades on the bench. Shockingly, in an election year with a divisive President and recently swept in Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, we find ourselves confronting something "unprecedented" in American history--a lame-duck President making a Supreme Court appointment with a Senate that may very well refuse to even act on the nomination. (Digression: unprecedented things in American history happen all the time, in every realm of society--they are not newsworthy simply for their novelty!) Quickly, the political chattersphere kicked into gear about who would be at fault for this allegedly never before seen example of political hackery and dysfunction.

And yet, the history of the Republic contains at least two far more acrimonious examples of Congressional hatred for an unpopular and divisive President that resulted in delay and "hijinks" for Supreme Court appointments. And I would like to suggest that Senate Republicans follow one of these examples to avoid media bottlenecks over the next year that are likely to play right into the President's hands if he's clever enough (and he certainly is).

As for the really nasty example that Republicans cannot follow even if they wanted to (their majorities aren't big enough), one need only look at the Presidency of Andrew Johnson. Aside from being impeached by the House of Representatives and nearly removed from office by the Senate, Johnson's tenure in office between 1865-1869 is also notable for the fact that the Congress of the United States deliberately went out of its way to reduce the size of the Supreme Court from nine to seven justices so that President Johnson could not appoint anyone. His one nominee, Henry Stanbery, met no action in the Senate because there was no longer a seat in existence for him to take. It should be noted, by the way, that the Senate has done this--take no action at all during a session on a nominee--nine times (there have been 160 nominations, so that is 5.6% of the time).

One more historical delay before getting to the example Senate Republicans may wish to emulate. The last nominees actually made during an election year, Lyndon Johnson's 1968 appointments of Abe Fortas as Chief Justice and Homer Thornberry as Associate Justice were both withdrawn by the President in the face of congressional opposition (Democrats held a 60+ seat Senate majority throughout the session), which does not bode well for election year appointments. This is not due to any real constitutional, or even informal, arrangements, but simply the politics of election years when most of Congress is out of town and jittery about decisions that may have dire consequences in November. Reagan's appointment of Anthony Kennedy, it should be noted, occurred in 1987 and was wrapped up in the first two months of 1988. Reagan, unlike Johnson, was incredibly popular and his Vice-President was about to be swept into office later in the year--different political realities produce different outcomes, who knew!

Finally, the precedent that Senate Republicans should follow. In 1841, after one of the most contested and exciting elections in American history, and barely a month into his Presidency, William Henry Harrison died. His Vice-President, John Tyler (Too), assumed the post with the full backing of the Whig Party that had just elected both men to the top of the Executive Branch. Sadly, for the Whigs, Tyler's Whiggism was of the anti-Andrew Jackson's use of executive power variety and not the Henry Clay "American System" variety. This meant that once the Whigs passed the legislation the voters just sent them to Congress to pass, their Whig President vetoed those laws. Very quickly, Tyler was read out of the Whig Party. An aristocratic Virginian anti-Jacksonian, he found no home with the Democrats either. He was a despised President with no party at all--a rarity in American politics, that only Andrew Johnson resembles in any way.

Now, what does this mean for the Supreme Court? Well, during Tyler's rather miserable time in the Executive Mansion, two Associate Justices died--Smith Thompson (December 1843) and Henry Baldwin (April 1844). Tyler proceeded over the course of 1844--an election year--to submit five different nominees for the two vacancies in nine separate nominations. The Senate was narrowly controlled by the Whigs. First was John Spencer in January 1844, whom the Senate rejected three weeks after his nomination. Next was Reuben Walworth, whom the President withdrew in June after three and half months before the Senate. Then it was Edward King, who found himself postponed. John Spencer and Reuben Walworth were renominated and withdrawn again on the same day in June. In December, after a new President was elected (James K. Polk, Democrat), Tyler renominated King and Walworth, both of whom were withdrawn in February 1845 (Presidents were still sworn in on March 4 in those days) in the face of continued Senate opposition. Then, miraculously, Tyler submitted Samuel Nelson on February 4, 1845 who won unanimous consent from the Senate ten days later. Tyler's final nominee, John Read on February 7, 1845, met no action in the Senate and no vote. Baldwin's seat was not filled until Polk successfully nominated Robert Grier, who was confirmed in August 1846 (more than two years after Baldwin's death!) Why did Nelson make it through? He was an old jurist from New York with a good reputation who avoided the partisan strife of the Second Party System and whose only political service occurred during the good feeling Monroe administration. Which is to say, Nelson was someone everyone respected and could live with--no one held it against him that Tyler had nominated him.

So what lesson do Senate Republicans draw from all this? Obviously, President Obama is not a man without a political party and he has considerably more resources and talent than John Tyler ever did. But, what 1844 proves is that an antagonistic Senate can easily keep Supreme Court seats open simply by considering and rejecting nominees from a President the majority doesn't much care for. There are several useful lessons here for Senate Republicans in 2016:

1) Do not be afraid to reject nominees until you get one you like--the President is more desirous of living on through SCOTUS than you are!
2) Do not be afraid to reject nominees more than once--when he keeps reappointing rejects, he will look as silly as he says you are every time you repeal Obamacare
3) Do not stall on a nominee unless there is only a week or two left in Obama's term and/or the election is already over--the last thing you need is some sympathetic looking character constantly before the nation as they wait for consideration and are ignored (the American people can live with watching someone lose, but not with their being unable to have a shot--also, the media of 1844 hated John Tyler, whereas the media of 2016 is likely to disdain Senate Republicans)

Of course, if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins the election in November (and Democrats retake the Senate), those Obama appointees might start to look good compared to what is about to come. In which case, hopefully there is a modern day Samuel Nelson waiting for action in the Senate!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting Lincoln Right

The Objective Standard has published a long, but important, article of mine on Lincoln's essential virtue and importance and the gross and shameful libel he has suffered at the hands of many so-called Libertarians and classical liberals in the last 20-30 years.

Follow this link to read and/or purchase the article or entire issue in which it appears.

-- A republican

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To Brandeis University

What has happened in the last several days concerning your sudden withdrawal of an honorary degree for a defender of the liberal arts, of the Enlightenment, of reason, of Western Civilization and the rights of man and woman--based on the hurt feelings of the votaries of mysticism and statism who never lift one finger to replace a Middle East dictator but with a Shariah toting madman--has been sad to watch. Ayaan Hirsi Ali represents all that is heroic and could be in the world--a woman of independent mind who held her family and culture and childhood religion to the lights of truth and justice. What you have done is embolden the forces of darkness and relativism. You have made it harder for people to speak out against violence and intimidation and you have done so in the heart of an institution that should care about freedom of speech and human dignity more than most.

I am very disappointed and saddened.

Dr. Alexander V. Marriott
Assistant Professor of History
Wiley College

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Guest Submission: The Problem with Today's Digital Freedom Fighters

Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and an endless list of digital vigilantes have come to dominate the news as of late. They profess to be righting wrong by violating laws—laws which should not exist in a free and just society. Manning released video of American helicopters killing Iraqi civilians and Snowden revealed what many Americans have long feared – that the United States government was capable of and is spying on the American people. These two men have quickly become heroes to some and villains to others. Without question the United States has entered into a precarious era of balancing the government need to protect its citizens while maintaining secrets from foreign and domestic threats. The problem is that security policy should be set through the democratic process and not by high-minded vigilantes who would destroy the nation’s defense capabilities while trying to allegedly protect individual liberty.

Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning violated oaths and agreements made with the people of the United States by releasing secret information. They state that not to do so would have been an abdication of a greater responsibility they had to their fellow citizens and “humanity.” Both believe they had witnessed something illicit and unjust and took it upon themselves to correct this wrong by revealing documents considered classified, as they were sensitive to the National Security of the American people. These are the facts of the case for which there is no dispute. The question that needs to be asked is this: does an individual American have a right to violate laws meant to protect national security in the name of what they personally consider to be, national security?

While the stories of Snowden and Manning do indicate a government whose obsession with maintaining its own secrecy while denying privacy to others, there is a troubling pattern emerging--that of technologically adept altruists who feel it is their duty to reveal what they believe to be government and private malfeasance. Snowden states that he leaked the documents because the “public needs to decide whether these programs are right or wrong.”[1]

Snowden is correct that the extent of the spying on American citizens was “unknown,” but the suggestion that there was no oversight is incorrect. Information on all of these programs was readily available to inquisitive members of Congress, federal courts, and the Executive branch. Furthermore, American citizens have had 12 years since the implementation of the Patriot Act to elect individuals to Congress and the presidency to restrict the government’s broad powers – knowing for the most part what they were. Except for Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, most of the Post 9-11 officials have been lukewarm on civil liberties. The only person who comes out of this scandal looking like a “liar,” who has hidden an aspect of his policy beliefs from the American people is President Obama – but what else is new?

While President Obama campaigned on the promise of ending surveillance programs, he has since decided it was valuable in whatever he calls “the war on terror.” (I think it is now called: “Our On-Going Gentlemanly Row on Terror”) The revelation that President Obama, like the president before him, oversees a branch of government that has the ability to spy on every single American should have come as a shock to no one. This should only come as a lesson to Democrats that their president is just as lousy at guarding against excesses as the Republicans. While it has been entertaining to see President Obama’s hypocrisy brought to light and to watch Congressmen and Senators act like Captain Renault of Casablanca, (“I am shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”) nothing has or will come of this save embarrassing the United States and exposing an expensive and formerly secret weapon. The result will be, just as every Liberty loving American fears, a spying mechanism that is countered by our enemies (As indicated by this recent story from Wired magazine) and whose only remaining target is the everyday citizen. All Edward Snowden has done is to waste a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars and instigate the NSA to make the program more robust and more secret at great expense.  

It is fair to say that Snowden’s actions have faint similarities with those of whistle-blowers, who generally are protected from prosecution for bringing illegal dealings to the proper authorities. This is not what Snowden did. Instead of bringing what he believed to be a severe violation of both the separation of powers and the rights of American citizens to the attention of a Congressman, an attorney, or court’s officer, he released American intelligence secrets to the foreign press. He also took more information on intelligence operations with him to Hong Kong and then Russia, continuing to discharge more secret information on the way that was not directly pertinent to the privacy of American citizens and pertained directly to foreign surveillance methods used on the Europeans, Chinese, and Russians. The first action may be considered an attempt on the part of a conscientious citizen to roll back the national security state and protect individual liberties, but the subsequent releases qualify as blatant espionage.

The same goes for Bradley Manning who admittedly released embarrassing State Department secret cables--many of which he did not even bother to read--because he resented how the United States government treated gays like himself. Manning’s petty act of revenge was both a violation of his sworn oath as a United States service member and another blatant act of espionage against the United States. That he stole and published random classified information to the “World” and not to any particular country does not make his action any different than any other spy working for a foreign nation.[2]

Is Edward Snowden really concerned with the “liberties” of individuals while aiding foreign governments like China who steal from American companies and wage a cyber war against the United States? Perhaps he believes the Russian government, that imprisons domestic protestors and murders foreign dissidents, has secrets worth protecting? This all smacks of a person with a misguided savior complex who believes that the path to reform is embarrassing the United States on the world stage and hoping for revolution. The reasoning and arguments put forth by both of these men are incredibly similar to those of the lone Anarchist who assassinated William McKinley, Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz believed that McKinley had violated American principles in his war on the revolutionaries in the Philippines and represented an expansion of imperialism. He shot McKinley believing that murdering a “tyrant” would encourage an Anarchist uprising. Czolgosz never bothered to contemplate the idea that in a democratic country revolutions are not waged with bullets, but with ballots.

What Czolgosz, Manning and Snowden all seem to have forgotten is that the United States relies on elections, courts, and checks and balances to right the wayward ship. Every one of these individuals could have voted, participated in, and advocated during one of many elections if they wanted pro-privacy, anti-war candidates. This would have allowed them to maintain the oaths and agreements they made to protect the United States and its secrets. Being part of the intelligence structure, they would have had the knowledge base to know where the real pitfalls and incursions were and pursued legislative and democratic methods to achieve the goal of resolving them. Instead they aspired to be treated like martyrs of the hypocritical “Great Satan,” by our enemies, all the while fixing nothing.

While I believe that Snowden and Manning are criminals who unapologetically violated their oaths - and Manning’s court martial happens to agree with me – that does not mean that I discount the need for government whistleblower reform. President Obama has been waging a war on leakers, so long as said leaks do not make him look good like those that revealed foiled Al’Queada plots in Yemen. His ability to wield the bureaucratic and access nightmare that is classified materials to hide his own failings (See: Benghazi) and to use laws associated with classified materials to punish legitimate criticisms of his policy failings presents a real threat to the separation of powers, national security, and the liberties of individual Americans.

Do I want government spying on American citizens to end? Of course I do. The excesses of the Patriot Act were apparent to most Americans the day someone finally sat down to read it. What is the value of knowing what books people are reading? After 9-11 that only book that seemed pertinent to that particular attack was the Qur’Ran. The only person who might benefit from producing a report of books American citizens are buying is the guy who sells the government its paper. If there is a source of corruption, I always assume it is that guy.

Should we being having this discussion? Definitely. Should Edward Snowden get a pass because the public agrees with his outrage? Of course not. We are a nation of laws. If you disagree with said laws you still have some options denied to most of the rest of humanity: work to change them, emigrate, or revolt.  

Should there be legislation to protect government whistleblowers that reveal troubling Top Secret information to Congressmen and Senators so they can make informed decisions? Yes. But should Snowden and Manning be treated like heroes for releasing sensitive information for the “sake of the world?” No. Should they be prosecuted for violating the trust given to them by the American people? Yes. Will we continue to see more people like Snowden and Manning who feel alienated by a political system where elections steer policy and not vigilantism? Definitely. 

The current battle for electronic privacy is an important fight, if not the most important, being waged by the State and those who seek to limit its power. The United States government, has long made a habit of listening in on conversations, telegraphs, phone calls, and Internet messages of its citizens. The extent to which this should be permitted in a republic that guarantees a reasonable right to privacy is a delicate balance between elected officials, law enforcement, voters, and the courts. It is not an area that should be settled by megalomaniacal altruists who play God with computer code and think it entitles them to play God with America’s national security and justice systems.

-- Daniel P. Roberts

[1] Barbara Starr, Man Behind NSA Leaks says he did it to safe guard privacy, liberty, last modified June 23, 2013,
[2] Ali Mohsin, Bradley Manning justifies his actions by a desire to spark a debate, February 28, 2013,