Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can Conservatives Pass the "Conservative" Purity Test?

Just as the air in Tennessee is still full of “Ron Paul” Republican Matt Collins’ ousting from the Davidson County GOP, the national party has created an uproar by discussion of a so-called “purity test” to determine which candidates should receive party support.

In the ousting of Collins we find someone who is committed to traditional Republican positions and true conservative principles being cast out from the party ranks. At the national level, we find the party trying to cast out just the opposite and withdraw support from RINOs (or at least that is the official story). However, a look at the so-called “purity list” reveals that many true conservatives and champions of constitutional government (including myself and of course Ron Paul) would fail the test.

(I recommend the following article for the complete list and an explanation of potential failures.)

When reading over the list a few things jumped out.

Purity Pledge #1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill.

Well…I sort of can sign on to this one, but I have a huge problem with the wording. I don’t support “smaller national debt [and] lower deficits.” Rather I support no national debt and no deficits. By using the language of "lower," we have already given up philosophical ground. But still I can live with this one.

Purity Pledge #6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges.

Oh, we do? I don’t, and neither do a number of conservative Republicans who have had enough with the wars in the Middle East and understand that throwing more troops at the situation will do little more than put more of our brave men and women in harm’s way.

Purity Pledge #7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat.

This is a broad statement that could entail a number of things. Based on the rhetoric coming from many party members, I cannot sign on to this one, and neither can a number of conservatives within the party.

Purity Pledge #8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act.

I am 100% pro-traditional marriage and am at the same time against the Defense of Marriage Act. The government should not be in the business of marriage--heterosexual or otherwise. When it does get involved in this matter, liberty is trampled and more problems are created. And most importantly, the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in marriage in the first place. The Act is unconstitutional!

There it is. I cannot sign on to seven or more--the requirement for GOP support. (Well...maybe I can depending on how we score pledge number 1.) Therefore, being a peace-loving and liberty-loving individual, I cannot depend on support from the GOP even though my views are much more in line with that of the GOP for the majority of the twentieth century.

I think the “purity test” is well intentioned and a step in the right direction. The problem is that those defining conservative are not conservatives themselves.

Myself, I have one standard that must be met for my support of a candidate: fidelity to the Constitution. Sadly even fewer pass this “purity test.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Thoughts on KSM and Those at Gitmo

With the recent decision by the Obama administration to try foreign terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City under civilian courts and the controversy over statements made by liberty-defender and US Senate candidate Rand Paul on the matter, I feel it necessary to present my position on the issue. Few have heard it, and it is about time I lay my neck out on the line with regard to this controversial issue.

First, let me lay out some general beliefs and positions I hold on the matter.

1. Terrorists should be brought to justice. Though I am against our wars in the Middle East, I do not support our enemies, and anyone who carries out acts of terror and war against the United States and its citizens deserves to be brought to justice.

2. The rule of law must be respected. I am a Constitutionalist and no one is quicker to call for adherence to the rule of law than myself even if the results are unpopular.

3. I am against unlawful detention. We must never detain anyone, citizens or not, without due process.

4. The United States should hold ourselves to a higher standard than that of our enemies. Our Constitution itself presents a higher standard, and foreign actions should not dictate our own.

I firmly believe that what has been going on at Guantanamo Bay is beneath the United States, fundamentally wrong, and inexcusable. That being said, we should not seek remedy through swinging too far in the other direction.

I agree with Dr. Rand Paul’s statement: "Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution. These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil.” (as long as his statement is tailored to the current matter at hand)

Does this mean that I agree with the Bush administration’s position or that of a many “conservative” commentators? By no means! Rather, I am disgusted by the fear mongering that I see going on in the media. I am fully confident in our ability to hold, try, and carry out justices toward terrorists on our own soil. I don’t buy these arguments cloaked in fear, and I would argue quite the opposite.

However, there have been many horrible acts done in the name of safety and defense over the last 8 years, and going out of our way to do something we are not constitutionally constrained to do is a mistake.

We must not be quick to wed our own views of what is right with that of the Constitution.

Military tribunals do satisfy due process requirements under the Constitution, they can be useful and just tools in trying citizens (like our troops) and non-citizens arrested on the battle field (like KSM), and they should be used more often to give those arrested the due process rights they deserve. There is no excuse for gathering up people and holding them without charge and trial. But, likewise, there is no excuse for trying to go beyond constitutional requirements because of past (and present) mistakes.

Remember, though some rights apply general to citizens and foreigner within the US the same (ex. Freedom of Speech), others do not (ex. Right to Vote). The US has violated many rights of individuals in Gitmo and beyond, but we are well within both the limits of the Constitution and prudence to try these terrorists at Gitmo or in the field (where it should really be done) by military tribunals. However, to swing to the other side and say that these enemy combatants should not be tried and should be rounded up as is the current practice: that is a moral and constitutionally indefensible position.

I would like to end with more clarification of my position. First, we should leave Cuba completely and close our Guantanamo Bay base. Cuba should be left sovereign over its land, and we should not be having an empire abroad. Second, just because I and Rand Paul hold to the same end position as some we are in great disagreement with, I assure you we get there by drastically different means. And I have little problem with terrorists being tried on US soil. My problem is with the claim that foreign terrorist share all the same privileges and immunities under the Constitution as US citizens and that military tribunals do not meet due process requirements; both are false charges.

Finally, let’s close Gitmo and stop violating constitutional and human rights. But let’s not trade bad policy for more bad policy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sen. McCain, Now That You've Read Palin's Book...

This morning Politico reported that Sen. John McCain said he "enjoyed" former running mate and GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's new book Going Rouge. This came as a surprise to some who expected McCain's reaction to be more along the lines of the rest of his political camp.

McCain noted:

"I enjoyed the book and she and I are dear friends. I talked to her on the phone yesterday. We got along fine,"...

"In campaigns there's always tension. Outside of combat, it's the most tense situation. There's always differences that arise, but it's no big deal."

What surprised me about McCain's comments was not that he enjoyed the book. Rather, I was surprised that he was in fact literate. But now we know his reading of the Constitution and the plethora of misguided and unconstitutional legislation he throws his support behind is possible.

So Senator McCain, please allow me to add a suggestion to your reading list--the Constitution. Read, understand, and defend this document; it's your job.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

If That Ain't the Kettle Calling the Pot...well...You Know.

You can imagine when I saw the Washington Times headline: “Bush Warns of Threat to Freedom, Economic growth,” I could not pass it up. The very man who spent the last eight years undermining freedom and the end of those eroding economic liberty was giving a warning about those very tyrannous acts? Well…it turns out the former president wasn’t pointing fingers at himself. Rather, he was criticizing the policies as they now stand.

Apparently, it is ok to flirt with market intervention, suppression of human freedom, and a whole host of other unconstitutional matters that plagued his presidency, but those actions better end with his presidency.

As we know, they haven’t. The Obama Administration has fallen right in line, following the path I think is best characterized as “the Bush administration on steroids.” The very market intervention Bush started Obama has perfected. The wars in the Middle East show no signs of ending. And domestic tyranny here at home is still in place, though the enemies list has additions.

You can see why I was surprised to see President Bush speak strongly about such topics on the campus of Southern Methodist University on Thursday. However, the highlights of his speech, as quoted by the article, are quite sound as he called for more economic and personal liberty.

Bush noted, "As the world recovers, we will face a temptation to replace the risk-and-reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control. History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement, but too much,"

He continued, "I believe that free markets open the path to opportunity, that a successful society requires personal responsibility, that freedom is universal and transformative, and that every human life has dignity and value."

Once again, his words are true and needed, but his actions in office fall far short of the mark.

So what is the problem here? How could one who claims to be for free people and free markets erode those very freedoms and make (in his own words) “the most difficult of [his] presidency, [going]against [his] free market instincts and approv[ing] a temporary government intervention to unfreeze credit and prevent a global financial catastrophe.”

The answer lies in compromise. Blind “pragmatism” trumps ideological consistency and fidelity in our public square, and freedom suffers as a consequence. Without a steady philosophical compass and a firm base of uncompromising fervor, we are doomed to fall into the same traps. Tyranny does not arise over night. It comes through erosion of the rule of law and acts of “pragmatism” that would see liberty suffer.

May it not be too late in this nation. Let us educate ourselves, bind ourselves down with the chains of the Constitution, and never compromise in our pursuit of liberty.

PS: My liberal friends, you can do this as well. Just remember it is the opposite of what Bush would do.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall Fell 20 Years Ago Today...Socialism Did Not

I am soon to return to my beloved Tennessee and the world of regular blogging. For now enjoy this video of what I helped some students at LSU do on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.