Founding Fathers...Always Right?

In a recent column, I claimed that the democrats have decided to make as their major campaign appeal concerning the November elections the desperate need for voters to return the Senate and the House to democrat control in order for the House to impeach the president and the Senate to vote him out of office. Since Dean and company have yet to establish much of an agenda on the actual issues concerning the problems the country faces, and since the nation is in a violent conflict halfway around the world (instead of in USA streets, thankfully), the democrat hierarchy has decided to play upon the fears connected with war, claimed by them to be the sole responsibility of George Bush notwithstanding any Congressional complicity, especially with respect to the loss of life or wounded bodies, both of which all reasonable people agree are tolerated only in desperate times.

Indeed, in the approximate 4.5 years since 11 September 2001, during most of which time the country has been engaged in fighting terrorists or, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, destroying regimes bent on conquest by any means of any and all nations, about 2,500 Americans have been killed, or about 1.5 per day. In Iraq, the figure since March 2003 is about 2.2 deaths per day. This is unacceptable, of course, in terms of human life; however, during the actual 4.5 years of actual combat in World Wars I and II combined, the average of American deaths per day numbered an incredible 320. Millions of people who were living in the 1940s are still alive and remember that the citizenry was able to cope with a situation virtually incomprehensibly worse in terms of human life – 405,000 killed during 1942-45. So, it probably became apparent to democrat leaders that a worse issue must be found to scare the public.

In that column, I made this statement: The "wiretapping" matter will be the issue grasped by the democrats, who have lost some of their pet projects such as help with medicine for senior citizens, already handled by the administration and Congress, and who perhaps have realized that their refusal to cooperate in any way to manage the Social Security problem has put them in a bad light. This issue fell right into the lap of Screamin’ Howard and the other noise-makers, most notably House Minority Leader Pelosi, the virtual champion of whining, though Senate Minority Leader Reid is a close second. What could be worse, after all, than all those deaths, if not the absolute peril to citizens of having their privacy violated by some arm of government? The notion that “he who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear” does not resonate with these people, or at least its meaning is not acceptable, as logical as it is, simply because it does not serve their political purpose at this time. Not realizing the extent to which 99.999% of Americans use plain, common sense, Dean & Company have tried to make it appear that even a trip to McDonald’s means at least five FBI agents plus two from the CIA, not to mention a guy from the DEA, will follow every citizen and determine just how much mustard one uses on a hamburger.

In the feedback I received there were two predictable quotes by the “founding fathers” that are constantly splattered all over the media landscape with respect to this subject: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."- Benjamin Franklin; and, "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison.

Franklin didn’t to my knowledge differentiate between “essential liberty” or any other kind of liberty, or between what constitutes the timeframe of “temporary security” or any other kind of security. So, who knows what he meant? In any case, liberty is defined as: “the quality or state of being free.” Essential is defined as: “of the utmost importance.” If Franklin meant by “essential liberty” that being free is of the utmost importance, I agree. If not, while he was a genius in many ways, he was out in left field. In the first place, no American is giving up any kind of security vis-ŕ-vis the NSA program of surveillance of terrorist activities. But if he/she were and if Franklin meant giving up a right or privilege short-term for realizing those rights or privileges in perpetuity, such as when habeas corpus was revoked by Lincoln and FDR during the Civil War and WWII, respectively, was not acceptable, he was dead wrong, founding father notwithstanding. Any 9th-grade civics student can understand this by simply looking at the military draft, many of those GIs affected giving up not only their “essential liberty” and “temporary security” but their lives, as well, for the permanence of the nation’s freedom, not just its temporary security at the time of the fighting.

This is what Madison should have said: "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of UNSUCCESSFULLY fighting a foreign enemy." With the exception of the Civil War, in which the citizens chose up sides and fought each other, this country has fought only foreign enemies, in the first place, and the fighting in the Civil War did away with tyranny and oppression for the slaves, in the second place. Actually, if the Union had split permanently in 1865, a DOMESTIC war would have caused tyranny and oppression by one side or the other, not any foreign enemy. If Madison had been living in 1918 or 1941 or even in the 60s and 1991 or 2001-2006, he might have had a different take, the proof being that in the guise of fighting foreign enemies, the nation still stands. Indeed, he was president during the War of 1812, and had the choice then of either fighting the British (a foreign enemy that drove him from the White House temporarily) again or eating his words. The federalists of that day even called the conflict “Mr. Madison’s War.”

Paying attention to the Founding Fathers is always good. Revering them or their words can sometimes be, not irreverent, just wrong.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark