Thursday, January 31, 2008

Of toolboxes and rebuttals

The Preamble to the Constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Presidential Oath of Office

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article II Section 2 - Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

The 10th Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


I appreciate my fellow writer David Bringhurst’s response to my endorsement of John McCain for President. I knew from the moment I first conceived of the idea of the post I eventually wrote that I was exposing myself to such criticism, both because I am supporting a political moderate and because I am supporting him for a single, defined reason.

However, I found Bringhurst’s response predictable and presumptive. The refutations that he presented appeal to an academic understanding of the Constitution, the war against fundamentalist Islam—I used “War on Terror” simply as a recognizable term—and the role of the President and the federal government in our lives. In short, I think he fails to understand the nature of the toolbox he alludes to and why it contains a hammer to begin with.

I have never questioned whether or not the people of the United States of America have the ability to address one or many issues, especially domestic ones. What I question, in fact what I reject, is that the President or the federal government has any real role in ultimately solving those issues. I do not elect a president to stimulate the economy, force me to accept government health care, or create moral dictates for me to abide by. I elect a president to abide by the role he occupies as clearly defined by the Constitution and nothing more. I fervently believe that all other issues of national importance are issues for the people, not the federal government, to address and resolve as each person and as groups of cooperative people see fit. I believe that this view is the embodiment of the ideals of a government of, by, and for the people as conceived of by the Founding Fathers.

The idea that the President’s primary responsibility is to protect the Constitution from domestic threats clearly ignores the actual mandate of the Presidency as presented in the Constitution. It is no accident that Article II, Section 2, which lays out the responsibilities of the President, lists his role as commander-in-chief before all other concerns. In fact, if one is referring to oaths, then it is the oaths of everyone who works for the President, most especially the military, that contain the actual exhortation to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and it is those agencies of the executive that are charged with the task of preservation and defense, even against the President if need be.

Indeed, in the history of the executive branch of our federal government, the enduring agencies of the executive have always been State and Defense—until 1949 rightly entitled War—and those two agencies are explicitly outward looking in their very natures. Accepting this history as precedent, the role of the President as the chief executive agent, in my estimation, is to act as the international face of a nation that otherwise chooses to deal with its own affairs by actions other than the government.

Now to the more important issue, which is single issue that I believe has already defined the current Presidency, will undoubtedly define the next, and will likely trouble many administrations following that one: fundamentalist Islam is a threat not just to the United States, but to the rest of the non-fundamentalist world. This is not a slander against Islam itself but against a particular flavor of Islam that believes that it is a Muslim’s duty to subjugate the entire world under that interpretation by whatever means are necessary, including litigation, intimidation, and violence. I agree that this threat was brought into full focus on 9-11, but I was speaking against this threat after Khobar Towers, the first Trade Center attack, the African Embassy bombings, and the USS Cole. I continue to speak out against this threat, and will continue to do so until it no longer threatens.

Further, I understand something else about the war against fundamentalist Islam that so many people, including Bringhurst apparently, miss: it is a war, declared by our enemies and fought on behalf of the United States by an all-volunteer fighting force made up of professional, educated, dedicated, and willing warriors who understand better than anyone of any political ideology what our nation is and why it is necessary to fight. It should be telling to everyone that our military, made up of less than 1 percent of the population—just 2.4 million brave men and women—continue with courage, valor, and commitment to fight in places most people cannot find on a map or pronounce, not because they have to, but because they chose to and continue to choose to.

Which brings me to John McCain, the single issue of electing a wartime President, and the American toolbox that Bringhurst cites at the beginning of his rebuttal. Certainly, America has a vast and capable toolbox at its disposal. I choose to give the President I will vote for the hammer and ask him only to pound those nails well and with all of his might. The rest of those tools should reserve for the people for projects of our own choosing.


Postscript: For the sake of an accurate record, I have been in the military for 14 years and served from December 2002 to May 2003 as part of the 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron, then stationed at Ahmed al Jaber Airbase, Kuwait.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apropos of... well, everything, really.

Our Nation's Toolbox

IF I HAD A HAMMER (The Hammer Song)
words and music by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

There’s a saying that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The insanity gripping our country at the moment is that while we pound our chests about America’s innovativeness and strength, we actively pursue limited approaches to our problems that weaken us. For a country with as many tools at its disposal as the United States has, we’ve taken to treating our foreign policy problems as if all we have is a hammer. And boy, are we eager to use it.

In a previous post, Dennis L. Hitzeman expressed his support of John McCain for President on the premise that this election is a one-issue election. I'm not here to debate Mr. Hitzeman's choice for President; McCain is probably not the worst choice we could make. I do, however, take issue with Hitzeman’s characterization of the problem and his subsequent choice of the single issue.

Hitzeman makes a valid point that no candidate of either party could possibly satisfy all of our desires or points of view. However, his assertions that "[t]he question before the American people in this election is whether to continue the current prosecution of the War on Terror or to turn our attention away from that concern to address other issues" and that the “most important job of the President of the United States is to keep America strong and safe against its international enemies” are overly-simplistic.

Hitzeman’s framing of the question as an “either/or” proposition is a dangerously myopic view. A country of our capabilities should be able to consider and address more than one idea, goal, or important issue. The strength of our nation depends precisely on our ability to assess and manage multiple threats, including internal and non-military ones. Furthermore, his simplification of the question ignores the very real impact of our economy and other domestic factors on our strength and security.

Similarly, Hitzeman’s claim that the President’s job is to keep us “strong and safe” is both false and ludicrous. Our strength and safety do not and could not rely on one person, but rather on the collective efforts of our citizenry and the collective wisdom, when it can be found, of the Legislative, Judicial, and, yes, Executive branches of our government.

The President’s most specific role is described in the oath that he takes prior to assuming his position. The President swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” (emphasis mine). His primary job is not to defend the country from outside threats (though he is the public face of the nation), but rather from internal threats to the Constitution. But even if our founding fathers had chosen to imbue the Presidency with the autocratic, monarchial powers that the radical and pernicious theory of the “Unitary Executive” would give it, the President still would not be able to keep us safe.

Hitzeman also places great emphasis on the so-called ‘War on Terror.” This breathless phrase, with its overly dramatic use of capital letters, is used as cover for our increasing military adventurism. We’ve eagerly slipped into a mindset that allows us to brand anyone who disagrees with us as a terrorist or terrorist supporter. There are actual terrorists out there and we should be fighting them, but using their existence as an excuse to attack nations we fear not only doesn’t address the problem, it creates new ones.

In fact, our greatest battle now is truly one against terror. Not “Terror” as a euphemism for some faceless Arab, but the actual terror we have felt in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is often repeated that “9/11 changed everything.” This is not true. That day, as horrible as it was, was merely an extension of a conflict that has been going on for some time. What changed was us.

We have steadily betrayed our principles in an attempt to make ourselves feel safe in an unsafe world. We have taken positive steps to secure our country and avoid the mistakes we made prior to 9/11 to be sure, but we have also succumbed to panic and fear. That panic and fear has caused us to strike out against the wrong targets. It’s the same panic and fear that leads smart people like Hitzeman to believe we have somehow entered a new time where our long-held principles no longer apply.

We cannot allow fear to narrow our scope of vision. We have more options than just “fight or flight.” If we are the strong country we claim to be, a brave people with the most enlightened form of government on the planet, then it is time we started to act that way. We desperately need some perspective. We need to wake up to the fact that no matter how dire our worst nightmare fears are, the enemy we face is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. In fact, their very choice of tactics – terror – is an indication of their actual weakness.

To date, we’ve wrongly resisted labeling and treating the terrorists as what they actually are: international criminals. Like other violent criminals, they are dangerous, but they are not the threat to our nation that fear has made them out to be. Yes, they can and have caused harm. Yes, they are dangerous. Of course, we must be alert, vigilant, and we must not let them escape our justice. However, we should also remember that these are people without a country, and they lack the resources to conquer our country.

If there is a singularly important issue before us in this election, it is the choice of a President who is truly unafraid, who understands the limits of the office, and who will fight special interests to restore balance to our tripartite government and justice to the rule of law. If we don’t repair the very fabric of our government, then the terrorists will have already won because they will have terrorized us into ceding away our principles and our freedom. They are already on the way to succeeding in just that.

One final note while we remain on a war footing. So many of our political pundits who are beating the drums for war are, themselves, unwilling to take up arms. Their excuses for this lack of personal conviction are legion. What they all have in common is a willingness to send other men and women to die for their safety so that they may, as Hitzeman puts it, “dwell on the other issues our nation faces.” This recalcitrance is strange because what our military is clamoring for more than any other resource is people willing to fight. If there is one thing upon which the pro- and anti-war camps agree, it is the belief that once we made the ill-advised decision for a war of choice with Iraq, we did not commit enough personnel and resources to the process of stabilizing the country after our initial assault.

To those of you who advocate for the continuance of war, be it in Iraq or Iran, it’s time for you to step up to the plate with more than rhetoric or your ballot. It is time you support your position in the strongest terms possible: enlist. It is unseemly and cowardly for you to ask others to fight the wars of your choice.

Update: It's come to my attention that Mr. Hitzeman has indeed served his country, continues to, and has served in Iraq. While my last comment wasn't directed specifically at Mr. Hitzeman, I nevertheless want to recognize his service and thank him for it. I am pleased to see that he hasn't taken the same hypocritical stance that so many pundits in the media have. He has, in fact, acted upon his beliefs.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

John McCain for President of the United States

A large part of the debate leading up to any election is the nature of the issues that motivate voters to go to the polls. Very often, voters are reduced to categories like Values or Economy. With a certain disdain, the media and political pundits disregard what they consider to be “single issue voters” as being uninformed.

Perhaps more than ever before, the 2008 presidential election is a one-issue election. The question before the American people in this election is whether to continue the current prosecution of the War on Terror or to turn our attention away from that concern to address other issues.

Many American voters seem to have embraced the notion that “America needs a change” and that embrace is due in large part to the fact that those voters fail to understand the nature of the threat arrayed against us on the international stage. These voters fail to understand that most important job of the President of the United States is to keep America strong and safe against its international enemies.

Without strength and security, no other issues that have become part of the upcoming election matter. If we are not strong and safe as a nation, we subject ourselves to an era of fear and uncertainty that make the issues of this election irrelevant.

I will be the first person to admit that I am a single-issue voter, and my issue is ensuring that my nation is strong and safe so that my fellow citizens have the luxury of concerning themselves with other things. It is for this reason alone that I endorse Senator John McCain as my candidate for the Republican Primary and, hopefully, for the general election.

Of course, I disagree with Senator McCain on a variety of issues, but that state of disagreement is true with all of the candidates currently running. What draws me to McCain is his clear, unambiguous, and consistent stance on the War on Terror and on foreign policy. Senator McCain understands the single issue that dominates this election better than any other candidate does.

I believe that, with Senator McCain as president, we have the chance to finish what we have started in Afghanistan and Iraq and to succeed. I believe that McCain has credibility with our military that no other candidate can claim. Further, I believe that Senator McCain has the best vision for ensuring that we remain strong and secure after Afghanistan and Iraq become history.

In the upcoming election, Americans have a choice to make, and that choice is whether to press forward with the War on Terror or to return to the ignorant domestic focus we shared on September 10th, 2001. Unless we elect a president with a clear vision on how to keep America strong and secure, we risk repeating that history. I believe John McCain is the only candidate that has the clear vision to lead us forward to the kind of strength and security that will let us dwell on the other issues our nation faces.


This post was also posted on Dennis L Hitzeman’s Worldview Weblog

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You Offend Me; Now, Apologize

ESPN is suspending Dana Jacobson for a week because of remarks she made at a January 11 roast of morning show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. While it has been difficult to get a complete account of what she said (ESPN itself is so tight-lipped about it that you wonder why they even bothered to report it), it apparently had something to do with saying "F Notre Dame and F Touchdown Jesus" though it is possible she actually said "F Jesus" which, admittedly, is significantly more objectionable.

Oh, and are people objecting. Apparently, religious hack and rabble-rouser, Bill Donohue, who is president of the so-called "Catholic League" got his publicity-seeking panties in a bunch about it. Jacobson has apologized for her remarks, saying that she "respect[s] all religions." Please. Isn't it possible for us NOT to respect someone's religion? Does Dana really feel she has to respect the religion of those people who worship, say, the giant spaghetti monster? Aren't some people just whackos?

Certainly, Catholics don't fall into this category, but clearly we've reached the point where this woman, who admittedly got drunk and said some stupid things -- at a ROAST! Do you know what a ROAST is? It's all about being offensive. But I digress -- she said some stupid things and now feels the need to mollify OTHER religions as well lest they deem that her apology to the Catholic League somehow, by omission, impugns their beliefs as well. Again: Please.

In other Catholic-related news, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has asked that St. Louis University take some undefined "appropriate action" against the school's basketball coach, Rick Majerus, for comments he made at a political rally. The coach, who was at the rally as a citizen and not as a basketball coach, was interviewed and asked his views on stem cell research and a woman's right to choose. He replied that he supported both positions, though he made it clear that he wasn't in a position to really make the call about abortion since he's not a woman. He also implied that abortion wasn't a choice he would make if he were in a position to make it. Why is this a problem?

The Archbishop is afraid that Catholics might be lead astray by these comments. Yes, the Archbishop apparently believes that Catholics are so addle-brained that they'll take the personal opinion of a basketball coach as the sign they've been looking for to overthrow the Pope himself. Can Armegeddon be far behind?

I share these incidents with you, not because I'm looking to bash Catholics -- it's no joke to say that some of my best friends are Catholic -- but because I want Bill Donohue, Raymond Burke, and you to know that I am offended and I demand an apology.

This may come as a surprise to you, but if you fit any of the following categories, you have trampled upon my rights not to have to listen to your stupid opinion and have offended me. You have offended me if you:
  • support a sports team other than the ones I do
  • have a different religious belief than I do
  • don't acknowledge how wonderful it is to have my particular color of skin
  • don't acknowledge how wonderful it is to be from my particular cultural origin
  • don't know the trouble I've seen
  • have never played Euchre
  • don't go exactly the speed that I want you to on the highway
  • make me wait in line
  • make more noise than I find acceptable
  • don't give me a job when I want it
  • disagree with my opinion on any subject
  • are getting angry right now
  • think this post is stupid
  • reply to my post with anything other than absolute support for me and my position
  • buy the last box of Ding Dongs just before I get to the store
  • don't like my favorite TV shows
  • don't like the same music as me
  • don't support my favorite political candidate

I could go on, but you get the idea: your mere existence is offensive to me and you must apologize immediately. In fact, please suspend yourself for the next week. Don't go to work. If your boss gives you any problem, just let him know -- yes, just HIM, not "or her" -- that I will be offended if he does not let you suspend yourself from work for a week.

One final thing: if you don't understand or appreciate satire, you've offended me. Apologize now and go suspend yourself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

20080108 Faith, Politics, and the Next Leader of the Free World

Mike Huckabee at the CNN-YouTube Debate

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.

Daniel Webster

US diplomat, lawyer, orator, & politician (1782 - 1852)

Mike Huckabee’s recent victory in the Iowa Caucuses thrusts to the center stage the question of what role faith should play in the politics of a presidential election. Huckabee has made no secret of his Christian faith, and I believe has used his faith effectively as a tool in his rising campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee. Yet, it is interesting to note one of the most important parts of his response to the question in the linked debate clip: questions of faith should not be criteria for deciding who should be president of the United States.

I am unambiguously a Christian, and I will be the first person to say that it makes me feel good that a principled, Christian man is running for president. At least superficially, it seems like Christian Americans can claim him as a candidate that represents their point of view. The problem with that reaction is that it runs afoul of one of the deepest convictions our Christian American forbearers held very dear: we cannot vote for candidates in the hope that they will legislate, or in this case execute, our beliefs from their position of power.

I agree that Mike Huckabee’s unambiguous public profession of his faith is refreshing to me as a Christian. However, I am also aware of the fact that, beyond Huckabee’s sharing some elements of the faith that I have, he actually stands for very little of what I otherwise stand for as a voter. In fact, other than his positions on abortion and the sanctity of marriage, Huckabee looks a lot like a Democrat to me.

As Christian, I share the hope of many Christians that our nation to return to its Christian past, and I grant that our past includes principled Christian leaders. The difference between then and now is that those leaders held power in a Christian nation. When they made decisions as Christian leaders, they did so in an entirely different society and culture than exists today.

We cannot hope to reclaim that legacy by electing leaders who believe what we believe in a nation that predominately does not believe what we believe. Instead of hoping to “moralize” our nation with leaders who will make change by the force of government, as Christians, we should be focusing our energy on saving our nation through the preaching of the Gospel.

And that belief and reasoning is why I will not vote for Mike Huckabee in the primary. Frankly put, he is not the best candidate for a constitutionalist, conservative, libertarian Christian voter like myself living in a world at the beginning of the long War against Fundamentalist Islam. As a Christian, of course I want the right to have faith and to express that faith as I choose, however I do not want that that liberty at the expense of anyone else to do the same. I believe that we need a president who will defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic so that Americans are able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in the way each of them choose.

In our times, that means having a president who will focus on the threat at hand by maintaining America’s strength and security. If we do not have a president who believes in maintaining a strong and secure nation, why does it matter what the president believes? Without strength and security, the other pressing issues of our time become irrelevant because they are supplanted by never-ending threat and fear.

Our enemies are waiting for us to make exactly the kind of decision we seem poised to make in 2008: to take our eyes off them and turn in on ourselves. That is exactly what we were doing on September 10th, 2001, and we should all know that history.


This post was also posted on Dennis L Hitzeman’s Worldview Weblog