Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
You wouldn’t know it from the stock market’s record-breaking tear since Hillary Clinton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but the mood among Trump-averse Americans remains bleak.
Blinkered with rage and disbelief because Clinton won more votes than any other presidential candidate in US history (except Obama in 2008), the despondent blame her stunning upset on nefarious reasons such as “whitelash” bigotry, as CNN’s Van Jones fumed on election night, leading many to sever relations with friends and family.
For partisans inhabiting thought silos influenced by social media’s curated tribalism, the election was rigged, if not by hacked voting machines in rustbelt states or by hacked journalism’s “fake news,” then by Russian email hackers who exposed Democrat dirt, including revelations about how Democrat primaries were rigged against Bernie Sanders.
No credible intelligence source maintains Russia tipped the election in Trump’s favor, only that they meddled to sow chaos and discord regarding the election’s integrity and the winner’s legitimacy. With Clinton supporters clamoring to hack the 227-year old Electoral College, demanding its electors Think Again about making Trump president, you can almost hear Vladimir Putin’s evil-maniacal cackling.
The scheming of 2016’s losers negates Clinton’s laudable concession speech, politicizing and muddling serious matters like Russian malfeasance and cyber-security, and sullying the electoral process by which presidential power peacefully transfers under the world’s oldest constitution.
Unfortunately, political elites – including Trump, the master media manipulator – are being played by Putin whose long-term strategy is to discredit American-style democracy and the liberal order we lead. Considering the post-election freak-out, it’s as if the combatants are double agents working for Russia.
All Americans should agree that Russian covert influence in our democracy is an intolerable threat. It’s one reason why Mitt Romney considered Russia our top geopolitical foe, a claim famously mocked by President Obama who scolded, “The 1980’s are calling. They want their foreign policy back.”
That wisecrack followed the Obama-Clinton “reset” with Russia and Obama’s assurance to former-Russian President Medvedev (caught on an open-mic) that he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election – such as disregarding Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian and Georgian territories. Meanwhile, foreign cyber-intruders have repeatedly hacked federal agencies, without much consequence.
Now, despite dismissing Clinton’s Espionage Act violations related to her unsecured email server and her foundation’s international solicitation fraud, and after denouncing as un-American Trump’s assertion that the election might be “rigged,” Dump-Trumpers insist Clinton would be President-elect, but for Russian cyber-rattling.
On his “The Messy Truth” program, CNN’s Jones heard otherwise from two-time Obama voters who switched to Trump, flipping six states. “If she’d spoken to the blue-collar worker, she’d have won,” explained Ohioan Scott Seitz about Clinton, who hardly campaigned behind her “blue wall.”
In the industrial heartland left behind in America’s asymmetric recovery, long-suffering voters believed Trump would address the issues affecting their livelihoods, preferring Trump’s message of “I’m with you,” to Hillary’s “I’m with Her,” as Seitz framed it. Clinton’s elitist sneer about Trump’s “basket of deplorables” didn’t help.
Rather than grapple with their staggering electoral losses since 2010 – Congress, governorships, state legislatures and now the presidency – or their aged and weak leadership bench, Democrats prefer to fundraise off claims that Russian saboteurs stole the election and Trump-voters are stupid or racist.
If the last 18-months have taught us anything, it’s that Trump shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should his outsider appeal. According to his “Art of the Deal” playbook, “controversy sells,” and he’ll manufacture it if necessary, as he showed en route to the White House.
Speaking bluntly and carrying a big Twitter stick, Trump outlasted 16 primary rivals, the well-funded Bush and Clinton dynasties, and an unprecedentedly hostile media, which he trolls to perfection.
Like all reality-TV stars, Trump is a survivor who’ll outlast the current freak-out too, assuming he revives blue-collar jobs. Hopefully his compulsion to trumpet cronyist deals like Carrier will fade as his economic growth plans make America ripe for private-sector deal making again, as the stock market expects, even amid rising interest rates.
Among history’s greatest dealmakers were America’s founders whose constitution was a heavily negotiated compromise designed to assure that unaccountable power couldn’t be centralized. They believed the boundless potential of individuals operating free from government intrusion would make America great, and they were right.
Unfortunately, as ruling elites have circumvented constitutional guardrails, concentrating power in the ever-growing, unaccountable federal bureaucracy, presidential elections have become life-or-death slugfests. Now half the country quakes in fear that the other half will punish them if they gain power.
The solution is not to further erode constitutional guardrails by defacing the Electoral College; it’s to return the role of Congress, the Supreme Court and the president to their original proscribed limits.
Think Again – Wouldn’t it make America great again if we didn’t have to care so much about who won the White House?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Among this election season’s oddities was the dust-up between Pope Francis and Donald Trump. After departing Mexico, the Pontiff appeared to criticize Trump in an interview, suggesting that building walls – not bridges – “is not Christian.”
Calling the comment “disgraceful,” the presidential front-runner and insulter-in-chief compelled the Vatican to Think Again before retreating. Meanwhile, comedians joked that the perceived papal putdown would cause church attendance to fall and Trump’s poll numbers to surge.
Indeed, by crossing swords with the Pontiff, Trump burnished his image as a fearless fighter, a trait his voters prize. Unfazed by his incoherence, lack of policy specifics or controversies, Trump supporters, like columnist Jim Nolte, are tired of losing and want “someone who will do whatever it takes to win.”
Buoying Trump is Americans’ sense of powerlessness and insecurity. Consider these controversial policies, imposed on disapproving majorities using extra-constitutional means: the Iran deal; the irresponsible and never-debated Omnibus budget; Obamacare; trade promotion; and executive actions and sanctuary-city policies that nullify immigration laws.
But for Trumpkins, “Making America Great Again” isn’t about restoring government of, by and for the people. It’s about elevating their own Julius Caesar to make deals with a ruling class that runs government like a spoil system – of special interests, by unelected bureaucrats and for political elites.
Apparently, Trumpkins want a warrior who’ll “bork” political opponents. The angry verb “to bork” means to discredit by whatever methods necessary. It was coined after the character assassination of eminent jurist Robert Bork, killing his 1987 Supreme Court nomination the year after recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia won a 98-0 Senate confirmation.
Anti-Bork activist Ann Lewis later explained the unprecedented smear campaign: there’d be a “deep and thoughtful discussion about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” Hence, Kennedy’s fabrication that in Bork’s America, “women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”
Writing 24 years later, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera lamented the nomination battle’s “essential unfairness,” noting “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.” Whatever one thinks about Bork’s views, Nocera argued, “they cannot be fairly characterized as extreme…. Rarely has a failed nominee had the pedigree – and intellectual firepower – of Bork.”
That Bork was Scalia’s ideological and intellectual equal, but was rejected shortly after Scalia’s unanimous approval, speaks to how politicized the theoretically independent judiciary has become. Consider that it was President Franklin Roosevelt’s fellow Democrats who foiled his plan to pack the Supreme Court.
Thomas Jefferson warned that giving “judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not… would make the Judiciary a despotic branch." Now, having morphed from “the least dangerous branch” into an unelected super-legislature of nine philosopher kings with lifetime appointments, it’s not surprising Supreme Court nominations are hotly contested – and fraught with hypocrisy.
Though waxing indignant over Republican refusals to consider a lame-duck president’s Supreme Court nomination during this election year, Sens. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden favored obstructing Republican judicial nominees.
In 1992, Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proclaimed, “action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over,” insisting the president not nominate anyone. And in 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama voted to block an up-or-down vote on Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination.
Ironically, an activist and politicized judiciary is what Scalia wanted to roll back, favoring the founders’ original intent: separation of powers, checks, and an independent judiciary with limited authority to resolve legal disputes by applying – not writing – the law. Other issues should be decided democratically – at the ballot box or by representatives accountable to the people.
By short-circuiting the democratic process for resolving emotionally charged issues, Scalia believed the Court was violating “a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”
Feeling voiceless and powerless in an America that’s migrated away from it’s founding purpose – the democratic self-governance of a free people – many Trumpkins want a strong-arm “borker” to wield power on their behalf. But do they really want a vengeful president using the IRS, NSA, FBI and CIA to target and punish critics?
As Scalia argued while pointing to unfree nations that have charters of rights, “It isn’t the Bill of Rights that produces freedom; it’s the structure of government that prevents anybody from seizing all the power.”
Essentially, the founders used constitutional walls to separate and check power so that diverse people with differing beliefs would be free to build bridges of mutual respect and tolerance, forging an open and decent society. The Supreme Court’s unlikely “best buddies” – rivals Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – built a remarkable bridge, a lesson for Pope Francis, Trump and Trumpkins.
Think Again – Isn’t the best way to Make America Great Again to elect a president who’ll adhere to America’s great constitution?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Ancient Talmudic wisdom teaches that whoever destroys a soul, destroys an entire world. So it’s understandable that in unveiling heightened gun control measures last week before an audience of shooting victims’ relatives, President Obama shed tears.
Inspired by the San Bernardino massacre to take unilateral action he admits “will save few lives” (nor would they have prevented any recent mass shooting), the president urged Americans to Think Again about “common-sense” gun reforms.
Obama’s executive actions bypass bipartisan congressional majorities, and 58 percent of voters who say “the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on,” according to last week’s Rasmussen poll.
“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence,” Obama frequently laments, a claim judged false by Politifact and the Washington Post who called his language “slippery.”
In fact, the US ranks 11th in per capita fatalities from mass public shootings – behind European countries with stricter gun control laws such as France, Switzerland, Norway and Belgium – according to a Crime Prevention Research Center analysis of the period 2009 through 2015. Meanwhile, total U.S. homicides are at historic lows.
Turns out, Obama is a better salesman for guns than gun control, the New York Times noted. During Obama’s tenure, gun ownership has nearly doubled, with women and concealed-carry owners representing the fastest-growing segments. Even as the stock market suffered its worst yearly start ever, shares of firearm manufacturers soared.
At his CNN town hall meeting, Obama faced gun rights defenders, including rape victim Kimberly Corban. “I have been unspeakably victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again,” Corban explained in asking Obama to understand that restrictions make it harder for her to possess a gun, “making my kids and I less safe.”
While Obama was repeating his “if you like your guns you can keep them” mantra, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump drew deafening applause in Vermont after saying, “You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait!”
Even in Bernie Sanders country, people wonder why after a shooting spree lawmakers reflexively seek to limit the gun rights of law-abiding citizens, making them vulnerable to criminals who account for the vast majority of gun violence.
America’s killing fields aren’t in suburbia; they’re urban centers blighted by societal decay, gang warfare and beleaguered law enforcement. The perpetrators aren’t mentally ill loners; they’re mostly criminals killing criminals.
If addressing gun violence is such an urgent priority, why have weapons convictions declined six percent since last year and 35 percent since peaking in 2006? Why is Obama releasing dangerous gun felons and hardcore Guantanamo Bay jihadists? Why insist on resettling Syrian refugees whom the FBI says it can’t vet and Islamic radicals intend to infiltrate?
Why does Obama sanction “sanctuary city” policies that ignore immigration laws by releasing criminal illegal immigrants into unsuspecting populaces? Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two souls lost per month.
Obama’s gun fiats came amid an ominous 2016 debut: escalating Middle Eastern conflict; a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan; mass sexual assaults by Arab refugees in Germany; a hydrogen bomb test in North Korea; sanctions-violating ballistic missile facilities in Iran; captured footage exposing ISIS’s “jihadi university”; and an ISIS-inspired terrorist ambushing a Philadelphia policeman with a stolen gun.
Seemingly indifferent to these life-imperiling events, Obama intends to override the will of the people – as with his 2014 executive order to grant amnesty to 5 million illegals, and the Iran deal, granting them $150 billion to fund terrorism and build ballistic missiles – setting dangerous precedents for our constitutional system.
Testifying before Congress about accumulating separation of powers violations – over-reaches for which the Supreme Court unanimously rebuked the White House 12 times – constitutional law professor and Obama-voter Jonathan Turley said Obama is “becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” Turley insists the President “can’t say the solution to gridlock is you simply have to resolve it on my terms.”
By forcing his agenda on Americans, Obama is building a Trump Tower of insecurity and distrust, an edifice Trump unapologetically promises to destroy to “make America great again.” He’s tapping into Americans’ “dissatisfaction with government,” which tops Gallup’s latest list of voter concerns, with gun control barely rating.
That such an unlikely and flawed candidate is contending for the presidency speaks to America’s state of disunion. It’s tear inducing considering Obama ascended to the White House with this plea for national unity:
“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America…There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United State of America.”
Think Again – Since elections are designed to punish failures and reward success, may 2016 reveal a statesman capable of delivering the legitimate government Americans deserve.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Amid unending political horserace punditry – who’s up, who’s down in the wake of Supreme Court rulings, Congress’ Trade Promotion votes, Iranian nuclear negotiations, and the racist Charleston massacre – let’s Think Again about the most important concern: are the American people winning or losing?
Are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the national promise Americans celebrate on July 4th – secure in this year of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary? That watershed moment in the annals of human liberty curbed a tyrannical monarch, like the American founding it helped inspire.
Initially an agrarian backwater in a socially stratified world, America unleashed boundless creativity and industriousness by asserting human equality, becoming history’s greatest economic wonder. While Great Britain’s well-being (real GDP per capita) increased 14-fold between 1800 and 2007, America’s grew 32-fold.
Today, as Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington aristocracies prosper, Americans are suffering crisis levels of job insecurity, economic stagnation and poverty. Will immigrants who’ve left societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end discover that social mobility isn’t much better here?
With the Congressional Budget Office projecting Greek-proportions of U.S. debt within 25 years, and a nuclearized Iranian terrorist state looming, are we bequeathing our children lower living standards and a weaker and vulnerable America?
The author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, captured the dilemma: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history. Whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
Echoing Jefferson in his recent Time commentary, former presidential candidate and Colorado senator Gary Hart lamented the erosion of America’s founding purpose – the democratic self-governance of a free people.
“Our European ancestors came to these shores to escape social and political systems that were corrosive and corrupt. Two and a quarter centuries later, we are returning to those European practices,” Hart argued, concluding, “We are in danger of becoming a different kind of nation, one our founders would not recognize and would deplore.”
Considering the unaccountability of Washington’s increasingly powerful and unelected ruling elite – from nine Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments to the colossal administrative state – is government’s power still citizen-driven?
Are Americans as free to control how we live, what we believe, and where we dedicate our labor and its fruits, or must we slavishly defer to elites wielding uninhibited power?
Given calls to abolish the tax-exempt status of religious institutions whose definition of marriage now diverges from the Supreme Court’s, will individual dissidents be similarly hounded, jeopardizing their careers and reputations?
If a female photographer can discriminate, choosing not to photo-shoot a bachelor party featuring a female stripper, can a Christian photographer decline to shoot a same-sex wedding?
Saved twice by the Supreme Court’s judicial rewriting, will Obamacare deliver the affordable, patient-centered health care its supporters promised, or will skyrocketing costs and narrowing provider networks impede access, disproportionally hurting sick Americans?
Though an Obamacare and same-sex marriage supporter, Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley argued “there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political, social and religious divisions.”
Moreover, in ignoring its constitutional duty to implement laws – writing them instead – the Court circumvents the political process our constitution’s separation of powers was designed to facilitate, undermining the people’s consent upon which government legitimacy depends.
Unlike the blindfolded Lady Justice on whose objectivity and impartiality our free society relies, the Court jeopardizes its integrity and imperils civil society when it operates more like a political institution than a legal one, concerned less with the rule of law and constitutional adherence than winning agendas.
Thankfully, in South Carolina – the state that moved first to secede from the Union in 1860 because it denied “all men are created equal” – we’re witnessing the ordered liberty our founding ethic was expected to foster.
They’re showing the world how to “combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions,” as Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of the murdered reverend Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. put it. In Charleston’s diverse melting pot, prejudices are dissolving through exposure to disparate voices and moral suasion, as freedom of expression is respected.
Inspired by the magnanimity of grieving Emanuel AME Church families, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed “a moment of unity in our state, without ill will.” Declaring no winner or loser in respecting those who wish to display the confederate battle flag on private property, Haley announced, “it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”
The people of South Carolina are winning as they prove a righteous and thoughtful citizenry dedicated to society’s safety and happiness, can indeed self-govern.
Think Again – as Americans look beyond fireworks this July 4th, may we see more than political horseraces, perceiving our nation’s enduring notion that free and virtuous citizens – not ruling elites – are our fate’s best masters.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Last week, as radical Islamists slaughtered 148 Christian students at a Kenyan university, America’s faithful celebrated Easter and Passover in tranquility, demonstrating why religious liberty is not the eccentric uncle in the human-rights family -- it’s the matriarch.
Yet with demonic evil spanning the globe, and religion a life and death matter, punishment for defending one’s faith is now acceptable in America. Our “live-and-let-live” ethic is increasingly imperiled. Witness the firestorm after Indiana became the 20th state to enact its version of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In our morally upside-down world, we accommodate the nuclear ambitions of Iran’s “Death to America”-shouting ayatollahs, but not our citizens eager to preserve our bedrock values. They’re told to Think Again about their inherent right to religious liberty, the principle that created America.
Founded by righteous people fleeing religious persecution, and inspired by patriots proclaiming, “Give me liberty or give me death,” America became an unrivaled beacon of hope, tolerance, and prosperity. This was “not a result of accident,” Abraham Lincoln reasoned, but the product of our founders’ “wise and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures.”
Embedded in the Declaration of Independence, one of history’s most consequential documents, is “the principle of liberty to all,” which Lincoln believed “clears the path for all – gives hope to all – and, by consequence, enterprise and industry to all.”
So indispensable is religious liberty and the virtuous citizenry it encourages, America’s founders implanted it in our spiritual DNA and the Constitution’s First Amendment, making it government’s duty to protect. Where governments have crushed religious liberty, as in Nazi Germany, it’s those practicing the “Golden Rule” who’ve refused to follow tyrannical mobs.
Lincoln believed our liberty-preserving system would inspire future generations to counter the “tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants,” a confidence increasingly imperiled by a new credo -- “give me your religious liberty or lose your livelihood.”
Consider the boycott threats based on alleged anti-gay bigotry raining on Indiana after it adopted the kind of religious freedom law that protects long-standing traditions of all faiths, from Native Americans to Zoroastrians.
Like the Ted Kennedy-sponsored federal law -- passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Clinton -- and the 1998 Obama-backed Illinois law, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars the government from substantially burdening someone’s religious beliefs without a compelling state interest, and only in the least-intrusive manner.
Anyone claiming a religious-right violation can seek redress in court, though in the few cases involving marriage rituals, religious liberty defenses haven’t prevailed. A New Mexico photographer, a Washington-state florist, and a Colorado baker, all Christians with gay clientele – but resisting government-coerced participation in same-sex weddings – have lost in court.
Nevertheless, outraged Indiana-boycotters included Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act predates the federal law and is stronger than Indiana’s. Will Malloy advocate boycotting his own state? Decrying discrimination, Apple CEO Tim Cook jumped on the boycott bandwagon, but will he stop operating in countries – such as Iran -- that brutalize women and hang gays?
Last week, a small-town-Indiana pizzeria was hounded into closure after its Christian owners – who’d served all-comers -- told a reporter they wouldn’t cater a hypothetical same-sex wedding.
Would tolerance-enforcers harass a lesbian photographer for declining the business of the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, a Jewish baker for refusing to make a “Happy Birthday, Hitler” cake, or a Muslim printer who wouldn’t create an anti-Muhammad poster? Must a Catholic OB-GYN perform abortions? Each of these conscientious objectors has moral justification, but no religious doctrine sanctions a refusal to serve African-Americans, which is bigotry.
In truth, the list of unconscionable hypotheticals is endless, but actual disputes are rare. That’s a tribute to America’s unusually tolerant society where prejudices dissolve through exposure to moral suasion, and where everyone’s dignity and beliefs – even the objectionable -- can be respected.
To preserve harmony and avert unnecessary civil wars, can’t we agree that good-faith people shouldn’t be coerced into performing services they deem morally objectionable?
One hundred fifty years ago -- mere weeks before the Confederacy’s April 9 surrender and Lincoln’s April 14 assassination -- a solemn president delivered his Second Inaugural Address to a crowd anxious for an account of the war. Instead, they heard Lincoln’s most profound reflections, only 701 words, on the war’s meaning: the preservation of the divinely inspired liberties on which America was founded.
Speaking humbly to an audience that included slavery supporters, Lincoln counseled “malice toward none, with charity for all” in pursuit of a “just and a lasting peace,” prompting former-slave and abolitionist-orator Frederick Douglass to brand the speech “a sacred effort.”
Think Again – to preserve America as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, shouldn’t we strive to emulate Lincoln’s unifying absence of malice, and show respect for those with sincere religious conviction?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In an ironic twist, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic “Dumb and Dumber” opened as Americans discovered that in the eyes of our Political Class, we’re like the film’s low-IQ duo – “stupid voters.”
Caught dropping truth bombs in a series of videos, MIT professor and Obamacare co-architect Jonathan Gruber describes how policymakers hid the Affordable Care Act’s true nature. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter,” Gruber chortled, since “that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
But who’s the dunce considering Gruber is now persona non grata in capitals where he’s earned millions of taxpayer dollars for his wizardry?
Prior to Obamacare’s enactment, Americans overwhelmingly approved their health insurance plans -- 86 percent, according to Time Magazine’s July 2009 poll. Fearing their health system-upending plan wouldn’t survive public scrutiny, Gruberites launched an operation to obfuscate and deceive.
Without a vote to spare, there wasn’t time to Think Again about Obamacare’s numerous taxes, employment disincentives and cross-subsidies from healthy to sick (including those with unhealthy behaviors) and young to old.
"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it," Nancy Pelosi insisted, demonstrating how raw political ambition trumped the consent of the governed in passing modern history’s most consequential law.
In our era of secretly negotiated lawmaking, “comprehensive” legislation (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank’s “Wall Street reform” and the Senate’s Immigration bill) means complex enough to hide the special interest-laden truth.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber explained, which is why the 2,409-page “bill was written in a tortured way” to game the arcane Congressional Budget Office’s system for measuring legislation impacts. “If CBO scored the [insurance] mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” Gruber admitted.
Armed with CBO’s contorted conclusions, politicians and their media minions wielded them like weapons, including at the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality by deeming the mandate a tax.
To achieve other politically treacherous measures, like limiting tax deductions on employer-provided health benefits, Gruberites designed the “Cadillac Tax” on expensive plans. “Mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people,” was possible, Gruber contends, because “the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”
In revealing Obamacare’s deceptions, “Grubergate” upsets Thomas Jefferson’s self-government truism -- “whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.” By conspiring to misinform and manipulate, Gruberites have engendered distrust of the institutions they’re empowered to run.
More interested in advancing partisan agendas than assuring government’s legitimacy and durability, Gruberites endanger the constitutional stability that’s enabled America to become the freest and most productive society on earth, deviating from history’s norm – tyranny, instability and stifled human potential.
Unfortunately, by circumventing the debate and consensus on which pluralistic democracies depend, Gruberites prove Jefferson’s observation that “even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
As America’s constitutional framers understood, process matters to orderly self-government. To constrain Gruberites, the founders designed a liberty-preserving system founded on popular consent, limited government, and equality under the law. To check abuse, they separated political powers among co-equal branches, pitting “ambition against ambition.”
That’s why President Nixon was wrong to tell interviewer David Frost, “When the President does it, that means it isn’t illegal.” Similarly, President Obama is wrong to claim authority for sweeping legal changes – like amnesty-by-fiat for 5 million illegals -- if Congress doesn’t pass laws he likes. Presidents are entitled to discretion in executing, not vacating, the law.
According to Jonathan Turley, constitutional scholar and Obama policy-supporter, the President’s unprecedented separation-of-powers violations render him “the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” If Presidents can enact consequential changes in defiance of Congress, the law and public will, what can’t they do?
Unilaterally legalizing millions of low-wage workers – a magnet for millions more -- to compete with America’s economically distressed working class mirrors the imperial and unfair rule we overthrew in 1776. Absent rapid job growth, it’s also a recipe for poverty and dependency, straining the society to which immigrants are drawn. Americans aren’t stupid or heartless to insist on the right to control whom we admit and in what numbers, no matter what Gruberites say.
Saturday Night Live mocked Obama’s King George-like views and his “go big or go home” immigration overhaul in its Schoolhouse Rock parody: “How a Bill Becomes Law.” First it passes Congress; then the President signs it. Even lame-duck Presidents must operate within constitutional bounds, using the bully pulpit and the legislative process -- not imperial edicts -- to advance policy goals.
Think Again – Ambitious Gruberites are an enduring threat to government of, by and for the people. Wouldn’t it be dumb not to deploy all available checks and balances to curtail them?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“Too often…we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,” President Kennedy famously asserted before Yale’s class of 1962.
Denouncing political debates that “bear little or no relation to the actual problems the United States faces,” Kennedy urged policymakers to Think Again before engaging in “false dialogues” that “distract our attention and divide our efforts.”
“The very future of freedom depends,” he believed, “upon the sensible and clearheaded management of the domestic affairs of the United States” and a “vigorous economy” -- quaint concerns 52-years hence.
Because today’s political discourse is so dishonest and domestic affairs so muddled, we’re living in an era of manufactured social strife. Creating policy impasses, politicians pick unnecessary fights over our constitutional system’s commitment to individual liberty and the rule of law, transforming dissenters into black-hearted villains with sinister agendas.
Faux-hysteria and fear mongering – especially in an election year -- are potent tools for squeezing money and outrage from voting blocs whose “rights,” they’re told, are under assault.
Witness the feverish backlash to the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. The ruling grants the company a religious exemption from the Health & Human Services regulation -- imposed during the 2012 election year without congressional input -- forcing employers to provide 20 types of contraception, including four abortion-inducing methods.
Facing crippling IRS-enforced penalties, the company’s devoutly Christian owners refused to provide the four abortifacients -- all cheap and ubiquitous -- though their gold-plated health plan covers the other 16 contraceptives cost-free.
Now closely held for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby (where five or fewer shareholders own at least half the corporation) needn’t defy their owners’ religious conscious, shocking national leaders including Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. Based only on their reactions, Americans could fairly assume the court had banned contraception and imposed an employer-led theocracy.
Forgetting an all-male majority decided Roe v. Wade, Pelosi opinioned, “We should be afraid of this Court, that five guys should start determining what contraceptions are legal or not” – rated “false” by Politifact.
Clinton suggested that in denying women “access to contraception,” the decision makes the U.S. akin to extremist and theocratic nations where women are “deprived of their rights….” and “control over their bodies.”
In fact, because the government has alternative ways to assure cost-free contraception, the court crafted a narrow holding that respects religious liberty without interfering with employees’ rights. Women enjoy the same access to contraception they’ve always had, and all forms are legal.
Speaking to his MSNBC choir, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe explained the case hinged on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Co-sponsored by Pelosi, passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Clinton, the law says, “corporations, along with people and… unions, should be able to argue that something needlessly burdens their religion,” clarified Tribe, concluding, “That’s not [a] radical decision.”
Tribe won’t be quoted this election year. Absent an improving American standard of living, politicians need the faux “war on women” narrative to woo female voters, as they do the Latino vote-winning claim that proponents of immigration law enforcement are racist xenophobes.
Like the Hobby Lobby case, the escalating humanitarian crisis on the southern border was avoidable if the government merely followed the law. After all, what distinguishes America is our healthy respect for the law. Instead, pro-amnesty appeals and the Obama Administration’s de facto “open border” policies created powerful magnets for migrating multitudes.
Though the administration insists the border is secure and unlawful crossers will be deported, the migratory surge proves otherwise. So does a leaked Border Patrol memo saying only 3 percent of detainees are repatriated. The illegals and their countrymen know from experience that indefinite U.S. residency is virtually guaranteed, incentivizing them to make the life-endangering trek.
The influx of under-age migration, up 5-fold since 2012, began shortly after Obama’s election-year order effectively legalizing 550,000 alien youths. They’re coming predominately from countries not contiguous to the U.S. because of a 2008 anti-trafficking law granting repatriation leniency to non-Mexicans, which must be corrected.
If our leaders were as clear-headed as Kennedy, they’d realize that a national consensus on immigration won’t happen without crisis-ending steps including: building fences in insecure border sectors, like California’s; eliminating deportation leniency; conditioning foreign aid on exodus-ending measures; and enforcing U.S. immigration laws.
Since none of these fixes are in Obama’s $3.7 billion funding request to provide migrants housing, food, transportation and lawyers, the explosive issue remains.
Sadly, the wave of humanity stretching across America is stressing services -- from trash collection to education to healthcare -- imposing ever-growing economic and social costs that weaken the society to which huddled masses are drawn.
Think Again – Kennedy was right. We need more leaders mindful of the national interest who are willing to “separate false problems from real ones.”
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Imagine a 4th of July tradition like Hollywood’s where each year the Oscars pay homage to fallen stars. Liberty-loving Americans would fete public servants who’ve honored Thomas Jefferson’s rule to “leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.”
Might celebrating trustworthy stewards inspire Americans to Think Again about our founders’ insights, ingraining a culture that prizes democratic accountability and lawful government, the one that transformed our risky political experiment into history’s freest and most prosperous society?
We’d be celebrating two recently passed stalwarts who put country and constitutional order before party: Senator Howard Baker, the Senate Watergate Committee’s ranking Republican who famously asked “what did the President know and when did he know it,” and Johnnie Walters, President Nixon’s IRS commissioner, who refused to target his “enemies list.”
Like our Founders, Baker and Walters understood that where equality under the law goes, so goes freedom. Therefore, the greatest threat to civil society and human potential is a powerful, deceitful and unaccountable government where the few rule the many.
That’s why the Founders designed a liberty-preserving system that fragmented and checked government power among equal, competing branches, conferring ultimate authority upon the people -- not our representatives.
Respectful of Jefferson’s rule, unlike many in today’s “Ruling Elite,” it’s doubtful Baker or Walters would stomach the IRS targeting Americans for their political beliefs, or the evaporation of email evidence critical to congress’ investigation -- called “a conspiracy theory” by the White House.
Journalistic sleuths Woodward and Bernstein know that government accountability derives from an active media and an informed citizenry. In comparing the IRS and Benghazi scandals to Watergate, they criticized the media for abandoning its constitutionally protected watchdog role, appearing instead to protect the government from Americans.
Public servants may arrive eager to drain Washington’s cesspool, but after harnessing governmental power and dispensing money and favors, they discover it’s a hot tub made inviting by politicians, bureaucrats, public-sector unions, lobbyists, donors, and the media.
Our greatest challenge -- and the biggest threat to the world’s oldest (and shortest) constitution -- isn’t a left versus right tug-of-war, but a struggle to wrest power away from those who collude at the citizens’ expense.
Incentivized to invest in influence instead of innovation, Big Business (currently enjoying record profits) can buy access to trillions in spending, tax and regulatory favors. The result is a heavily indebted citizenry and a stagnant economy warped by cronyism, as evidenced by the 2.9 percent plunge in first-quarter U.S. GDP -- the worst non-recession contraction in over 40 years.
Not surprisingly, the small business sector that accounts for two-thirds of net new job creation is suffering as “business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the thirty-plus-year history of our data,” according to a new Brookings Institution report on declining business dynamism.
While Wall Street and Washington boom, the rest of America suffers crisis levels of income stagnation, underemployment, economic immobility and government dependency, with a record 50 million living in poverty.
Yet as the American Dream slips beyond reach for ordinary citizens, those who oppose the Ruling Elite are labeled extremists, proving George Orwell’s adage that “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”
Consider last month’s Mississippi Senate run-off that spoilsman Thad Cochran narrowly won, thanks to crony donations and promises to keep the gravy train running, unlike his “extremist” opponent.
But who are the extremists? Those who advocate free markets, equality under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, in God we trust, and peace through strength – the campaign platform of David Brat, Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s vanquisher – or the Ruling Elite who subvert these guiding principles?
Though distressed Americans clamor for law, order and security on our southern border, slack immigration-law enforcement has accelerated unlawful migration. Exacerbating the lawlessness are lawmakers like Nancy Pelosi who called the deluge of illegal immigrants an “opportunity.”
Unfortunately, the opportunity is at the expense of working Americans, considering all employment growth since 2000 went to immigrants (legal and illegal), the Center for Immigration Studies reported.
Meanwhile, with Congress requiring border security prior to any amnesty, President Obama intends to act alone, as he did in 2012 when he indefinitely suspended deportations of 550,000 alien youths, granting them work permits.
Commenting on Obama’s intentions following his twelfth unanimous Supreme Court rebuke for federal power over-reach, constitutional law professor and Obama-voter Jonathan Turley explained, the President “can’t say the solution to gridlock is you simply have to resolve it on my terms.”
Having overthrown King George’s unfair and arbitrary rule, our Founders established an America of, by, and for the people – not Ruling Elites -- stipulating that presidents “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Think Again – wouldn’t a shared allegiance to our constitutional order be the best way to realize a more perfect union, for “ourselves and our posterity?”
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Shouldn’t college students know as much American civics as they do pop culture?
MRCTV went to American University to find out, discovering few who could name a single US senator or the number of senators from each state, though most knew the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”
Equally surprising are polls showing that only one-quarter of Americans can identify Joe Biden as the vice president or name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (religion, speech, press, assembly, petition), though over half knew at least two Simpson cartoon characters.
Before suggesting Americans’ ignorance is bliss, Think Again. “Fear always springs from ignorance,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is why fear mongering and placating assurances have enabled a ruling elite to wield enormous power over the people – our founders’ worst nightmare.
False promises and controversial payoffs enabled the narrow passage of Obamacare, which grants unelected bureaucrats control over 16 percent of the economy, empowering them to impose costly and freedom-infringing regulations.
Perhaps their most liberty-assaulting decree – and cunning given its election-year timing -- was the unprecedented Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate forcing employers to provide free contraception, including abortion-inducing methods, or face a $100 per day/per employee fine.
That amounts to $47 million annually for arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, whose devoutly Christian owners, the Green family, oppose the mandate with pilgrim-like fervor.
Just because they started a business, the Greens argue, doesn’t mean they must leave their religion in the pews. The First Amendment guarantees their right to live and work by their faith, and they won’t give it up without a fight.
For 44 years, the Greens have operated Hobby Lobby as they do their lives, in accordance with Biblical principles. They close on Sunday to honor the Sabbath, pay justly by starting full-time employees at nearly twice the minimum-wage, maintain a free health clinic at their Oklahoma headquarters, and offer Cadillac-level health benefits for 13,000 employees, covering 16 out of the 20 Obamacare-mandated contraception drugs. And they won’t pay for four abortion-inducing methods, all cheap and ubiquitous.
Their Supreme Court case will determine whether the federal government can force corporations owned by individuals to choose between moral beliefs and government dictates, or face crippling IRS-enforced penalties.
Hobby Lobby argues the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Clinton – which says the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without “compelling” justification and using “the least restrictive means.”
With half the population already exempted from Obamacare and it’s contraception mandate, how could there be a compelling interest in forcing conscientious objectors to comply when their non-compliance is hardly burdensome?
While admitting the mandate forces the Greens to violate their Christian faith, the government argues religious liberty is forfeited when people go into business for profit, meaning companies could also be required to pay for abortions, and kosher butchers could be forced to break ritual laws -- an outcome all media corporations should oppose, or risk losing their first amendment freedoms.
If the government didn’t insist its interests trumped the First Amendment, it could make abortifacients available otherwise, which would be “a win for everybody,” according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
“I’m a liberal Democrat who supports Obamacare. But I think the constitutional right of the free exercise of religion trumps my own personal, political views,” concluding, it’s not “a complex case.”
Unfortunately, a win/win solution is not the preferred outcome for mandate supporters like Senator Barbara Boxer whose rhetorical bombs transform dissenters like Hobby Lobby into War on Women combatants.
Misconstruing Hobby Lobby’s plea not to buy abortifacients for employees as “denying women birth control,” Boxer declared the company is anti-woman and hypocritical for having “no moral objection to men getting Viagra” -- as if procreation-aiding drugs resemble pregnancy-ending ones. Stoking more fear, she mused whether vaccinations and HIV drugs might be “their next moral objection.”
Throughout our liberty-loving history, Americans have endorsed Voltaire’s enlightened principle – “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” No more.
In abandoning this principle, we now assassinate the character of non-conformists, like Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who was purged last week for contributing $1000 to the 2008 passage of Proposition 8 in California. Meanwhile, no political leader dares to face the gathering mob despite sharing Eich’s views on marriage until recently.
Once the mob forms, no dissenter is legitimate, no sunlight can disinfect, no society is free, and no constitutional right is secure.
Regardless of one’s views on contraception, abortion or marriage, this can’t be our destiny.
Think Again – if Americans want to retain our right to prefer pop culture to politics, we must preserve our individual liberties.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In the madcap TV series “Get Smart,” secret agent Maxwell Smart evades surveillance -- and arch-nemesis KAOS – with an array of clandestine gadgets including a shoe phone and the legendary “Cone of Silence.” Americans once laughed at Smart’s privacy-enhancing schemes. But recent revelations about America’s ever-widening surveillance state have stirred many to Think Again about their privacy rights – and pine for their own “Cone of Silence.”
Originally designed to spy on foreigners and track the foreign correspondence of suspected terrorists, today the NSA digitally frisks US citizens, capturing and storing their communications data for up to five years. Under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the NSA now claims the authority to systematically – and without warrants or court orders -- sweep “metadata” into its dragnet, sourced from private telecom and server companies who enjoy immunity from civil liability or criminal prosecution.
The Patriot Act’s author, Jim Sensenbrenner, released a statement saying, “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses…. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.” Sensenbrenner advocates amending the act to assure the secret FISA court system performs its designed role -- “to put a check on what the government could do.”
Under pressure to prove Uncle Sam isn’t a Peeping Tom, NSA and FBI officials pulled the curtain back on the ultra-secret surveillance programs. Testifying before Congress this week, they said the programs helped avert at least 50 threats, citing two specifically -- though it’s unclear whether they were “helped” by conventional surveillance techniques and gumshoe investigative tip-offs, or NSA’s data dragnet. “The encroachment on privacy has been strictly limited by a court-approved process,” President Obama asserted in the NSA’s defense, while stressing that communication content can’t be accessed without a court order.
But the sifting and mapping of communications data can actually reveal more about a person than their communications’ content. Newer technologies like cell phones and the Internet serve up seemingly innocuous but clue-rich metadata -- sender and receiver email addresses, times of e-mails, phone numbers dialed and received, and call length -- that can reveal identities, locations and associations, without accessing content.
The Washington Post illustrated metadata’s investigative value, explaining how former CIA Director Patraeus’ mistress was identified, despite using anonymous e-mail accounts and hotel WiFi networks. Analysts discovered network IP addresses that traced back to hotels where there was one common guest – Paula Broadwell.
In 2006, Joe Biden pointed out that individual calling data reveals “a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. And the real question here is: What do they do with this information that they collect that does not have anything to do with al Qaeda?” Metadata is so powerful, analysts can glean one’s religion, politics, doctors, Internet habits, and even uncover a CIA director’s infidelity.
Fearing another 9/11, we’d much rather the government collect our communications data than our remains. But is that a false choice? Are we in fact violating Americans’ privacy while overlooking terrorists among us, especially considering that since October 2011, the Justice Department restricts FBI surveillance of mosques?
Rather than vacuum up exabytes of data from work-at-home moms in Omaha, could the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood massacre have been prevented by profiling and tracking their perpetrators, the Tsarnaev brothers and Nidal Hasan? Forget Russia’s forewarnings about the Tsarnaevs, how did their online activities – posting terrorist videos, communicating with Islamic extremists, researching pressure-cooker bombs -- evade the government’s dragnet, while tea party groups and the parents of Fox News reporter James Rosen didn’t?
If unscrupulous IRS officials were willing to share the confidential files of a pro-traditional marriage group with a gay marriage group, what’s to prevent rogue NSA officials from raiding the “metadata treasury” for partisan or illicit purposes? How can Americans have faith in congressional oversight when high-level officials use Orwellian doublespeak, lie, or invoke the Fifth Amendment?
Our founders understood that in the history of mankind, few have experienced freedom. To “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” as the Constitution’s preamble declares, they designed a limited, separated, checked and balanced government that could contain corrupting power. They also protected the press so they’d inform us when power was abused, a goal to which the watchdog media must increase its commitment.
Power, it’s been said, attracts the worst and corrupts the best, and concentrated power is prone to abuse, even by the well intended. The era of the surveillance superstate means there are no “cones of silence,” presenting challenges to our civil society that must be understood and debated by We the People.
Think Again – when it comes to protecting our liberties, Americans can’t afford to “miss it by that much,“ as CONTROL Agent Smart used to say.