Author Archives: Chad Kent

The other thing that was wrong with Jay Carney’s comment

Both quotes used come from the Virginia Ratifying Convention:

“The extent of the United States cannot render this government oppressive.  The powers of the general government are only of a general nature, and their object is to protect, defend, and strengthen the United States; but the internal administration of government is left to the state legislatures, who exclusively retain such powers as will give the states the advantages of small republics, without the danger commonly attendant on the weakness of such governments.”

Francis Corbin

“The powers of the general government relate to external objects, and are but few.  But the powers in the states relate to those great objects which immediately concern the prosperity of the people.  Let us observe, also, that the powers in the general government are those which will be exercised mostly in time of war, while those of the state governments will be exercised in time of peace.”

James Madison

Rep. Schilling: Obama doesn’t respect individual freedom

Ever since the Tea Party began in 2009, whenever there is discussion about a newly elected Republican everyone has the same question on their mind: Is this guy the real deal or is he more of the same?  After all, the goal of most of the liberty groups that have formed over the last three years isn’t to elect Republicans, but to elect principled conservatives and libertarians.

Because of that, I was excited when I got the opportunity to interview one of the new Republicans elected in 2010 – Rep. Bobby Schilling of Illinois.  Unfortunately, being the tech wizard that I am we had some technical difficulties with the video that couldn’t be fixed.  So as much as I would love to post that, I have to settle for posting an article giving you my thoughts about the interview.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Rep. Schilling is not the Congressman for my district now, but he will be next term after redistricting.  This is the first time I had the chance to speak with him, but I like the Congressman and will be voting for him in November.)

During our conversation, Rep. Schilling made one comment that gives us a great idea of where he stands – he mentioned individual rights.  I can’t remember the last time I heard a member of Congress bring up that topic voluntarily but it needs to happen more often.  When I asked him if there were people in the House of Representatives fighting for the Constitution he said there are some, but:

“We need some backup and we need it in a big way […and] we’ve got to get someone in [the White House] who is going to actually respect the Constitution of the United States and respect individual freedoms, which this guy (Obama) does not do.”

The other comment Rep. Schilling made that really stood out to me is that he chose to reject the Congressional health care and pension benefits.  I did manage to some video of the speech he gave to the Rockford Tea Party just prior to our interview, so here is a 2 minute clip of the highlights (the part about rejecting Congressional benefits comes at 1:00):

In my mind, rejecting the Congressional health care and pension plans are among the most important actions he could take to demonstrate that he’s the type of person we want representing us.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. It shows he doesn’t want to be a part of the elite political class in Washington D.C.  One of the major problems we’ve faced for decades now is that we have a core group of politicians who believe that being in Congress entitles them to special treatment – that it makes them a little better than everyone else.  If we are ever going to get this country moving in the right direction again, we need to have citizen legislators.  This means no special privileges for members of Congress.
  2. It’s a fact of human nature that people will tend to do what’s in their own best interest before they worry about others.  So the best way to ensure that our government doesn’t become oppressive is to make sure that politicians are live under the laws they pass.  Because Rep. Schilling refuses to take the Congressional health care and pension, that means he will be personally affected by Obamacare and Social Security.  That personal interest will give him an big incentive to work to fix those problems rather than using them as political footballs.

During my time with the Congressman, I didn’t do a “gotcha” test of his Constitutional knowledge – largely because that wouldn’t be fair and doesn’t really prove anything – so I can’t comment on how well he truly understands the document.  He may know nothing or he may be a Constitutional scholar – I just don’t know.

However, it was clear to me that his respect for the Constitution was genuine and the he  sincerely intends to defend it in the House of Representatives.  This is critical because if we bring a Constitutional concern to Rep. Schilling’s attention, I believe we will have a sympathetic ear that is willing to listen.  That’s not a small thing in an era where a recent Speaker of the House responded to questions about the Constitutionality of Obamacare simply by saying, “Are you serious?”

Several times during the interview Rep. Schilling stressed the fact that the Republican leadership in the House checks each bill to ensure that it is Constitution before it can go to the floor for discussion.  We can certainly argue about the Republican leadership’s interpretation but the bottom line is that we have been successful in making the Constitution a factor in the legislative process again.  We are beginning to move in the right direction and I believe that Rep. Schilling will help keep us on that path.

Jefferson's advice to the Supreme Court

Since the Supreme Court is in the middle of hearing a case that will decide if our republic is going to continue or will degenerate into a tyranny of unlimited government power, this seems like a good time to go back and look at some of Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on how we should interpret the Constitution.

In a letter to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson on June 12, 1823, Jefferson gave him this advice:

“On every question of construction, we should carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

This seems like a pretty solid, common sense approach to interpreting the Constitution, but we can be fairly certain that it’s not what we’ll see from the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare.  When it comes out later this year, read through it and count how many times the justices discuss the writings of the Founders – or even mention them.

This concept couldn’t be more important because this case would be a slam dunk if it were decided based on the Founders‘ intent.  It’s simply unreasonable to assume that our Constitution could possibly have been ratified had the people at the time believed that it gave the federal government the power to force them to buy a product.

But there is a significant chance that Obamacare will be upheld because the decision is almost guaranteed to be filled with references to the decisions of other courts and obscure legal concepts that are only loosely related to the Constitution itself.  Which brings us to another piece of advice that Thomas Jefferson had for Justice Williams that day:

“Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should therefore be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense.  Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subleties which make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure.”

But this is exactly what we are doing by interpreting the Constitution based  on previous court decisions and how individual words can be twisted instead of relying on original intent.  After years of this approach, the Constitution now means everything and nothing all at the same time.  If Obamacare is upheld, it will mean that a document that was written to put strict limits on the government is now being used to justify giving that same government unlimited power.  Yay freedom!

Dick Morris gives his thoughts on how to save the Constitution

Below is the video of my interview with Dick Morris at an event in Chicago for Bill Kelly.  (I had really hoped to have this posted sooner, but sometimes technology is a bit… er… pain.)  Anyhow, throughout the event Mr. Morris was very down-to-earth and extremely accessible – he moved throughout the room with no pretense, talking extensively with anyone who came up to him.  My guess is, if someone were to walk into that room without knowing who the “big name” was supposed to be, they wouldn’t have been able to figure it out.

In this interview, I talked with Mr. Morris about the Constitution (naturally).  He gave me his recommendations for Constitutional amendments, his concerns about some international treaties that Congress will be considering this summer, and his thoughts on how the Constitution will affect the 2012 elections.

Whether you agree with Dick Morris or not he brings up a lot of thought provoking points, so this video is definitely worth a look.  Also, don’t forget to check out his new book – Screwed – which is coming out next month.

Should we idolize our politicians?

Power in the people is like light in the sun, native, original, inherent and unlimited by any thing human.  In governors, it may be compared to the reflected light of the moon; for it is only borrowed, delegated, and limited by the intention of the people…

James Burgh, Political Disquisitions

Unless we learn the lesson that James Burgh is trying to teach us in this quote – and get it ingrained in our minds and our hearts – it may be impossible for us to regain our freedom in this country.  Over the years we’ve allowed most of our politicians to develop a smug attitude of superiority as if they are a part of a special, protected class of people.

When a person is elected to political office, he is taking a step down – not up.  That person is becoming a servant, not a master.  But somehow – as citizens – we let ourselves get pushed around by the various political institutions of this country rather than banding together and reminding our politicians who is really in charge.

The truth of the matter is that all political power originates in the people.  So to whatever extent our politicians do have power, they only have it because we have allowed them to borrow it.  The people who run our government are not born with special powers of judgement or wisdom that makes them uniquely qualified to tell us how to live our lives.  So why do we sit back and accept it when they try to tell us what we can eat, what we must buy, or what we should feed our kids?

None of this should be construed to mean that we shouldn’t give our politicians the respect they deserve.  But we have to avoid putting them on a pedestal too easily.  A person should never be considered special just because he’s a member of Congress.

In his book Epic of America, James Trunslow Adams uses an anecdote that perfectly illustrates how we as citizens ought to react to public officials who start to get too impressed with their own power:

To a crowd that pressed too closely on a political procession, a gentleman at the head had called out, “Make way for the representatives of the people!”  “Make way yourself!” was thundered back.  “We are the People themselves.

We must never underestimate the position of authority we hold as citizens of this country.  Looking at our politicians as if they are somehow better or more important than we are is not the mindset of a free people – it is a mindset that leads to slavery.  So every time a politician throws his weight around with us, our response ought to be, “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m a citizen… and any power you have is because you are borrowing it from me.”

Taking the Constitution on Offense

Last week, Misfit Politics posted a video tribute to honor the passing of Andrew Breitbart.  In it, Brandon Morse said that, for the first time ever conservatism is going on the offense… and he couldn’t be more right.  Over the last few years we’ve learned a few things and gotten organized.  All you have to do now is talk to a few conservatives or libertarians and you can feel the energy coming from them.

The problem is, as conservatives we are often put in the position of defending the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the ideas of our Founding Fathers.  Any time you are defending your position you aren’t gaining ground.

If you want to learn how to take conservative ideas on offense, let Calvin Coolidge give you an example of how to destroy progressive ideas:

“About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful.  It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.  But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter.  If all men are created equal, that is final.  If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final.  If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.  No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.  If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.  Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay any claim to progress.  They are reactionary.  Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”

Calvin Coolidge – July 5, 1926

There you go – the next time some fool starts attacking our principles or the Founders it’s time to go to on offense.  Ask this person, “Ok, what exactly about our principles is outdated – are all men not created equal?”  This person will try to redirect the conversation from this question because – more than likely – he was initially just repeating something some campaign talking point or something his college professor told him.  But don’t let him off the hook – remember, you’re on offense here.  Demand an answer to that question.  Then move on to the others.  Do we not all have equal rights?  Are the people not the source of political power?

Coolidge nailed it in this quote – there is no moving beyond these three principles that make up the foundation of our country.  Everything that progressives want to do moves us away from one of these principles in some way.  We must force them to defend this ground if we want to move the debate in a positive direction.

Here’s one example of how it works: progressives want to take property away from some people in order to give it to others who progressives feel are more deserving.  As President Obama would say, “At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”  This is where you go on offense.  Ok, at exactly what point in the income scale do you forfeit your property rights?  So we don’t have equal rights to keep property we’ve earned?  Who will be taking these rights away?  I thought our rights came from God.  And on and on.

This is ground that the progressives simply cannot defend.  Remember – as long as they are on defense they cannot gain ground.

If you are a person who loves freedom, it’s time to get to work.. and it’s time to go on offense.  Liberty is not for those who are willing to sit back and allow others to make decisions for them.  Liberty is earned by people who are willing to be eternally vigilant in its defense.

On that same day in 1926, Calvin Coolidge described the type of people we need to be if we want to preserve our freedom:

“The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.”

For decades now many conservatives – myself included – have had the option of paying lip service to how much they love their rights and their liberty without consequence.  Those days are over.  Our rights and our liberty are currently under a direct assault.  The time has come to make a decision – do you have the courage to maintain them?

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