Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
My son brought this telling joke home from camp: "If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a fatal car accident, who survives? Answer: America."
If this joke resonates, you’re like the 81 percent polled by AP/GfK who are scared by one or both of the presumptive presidential nominees, the two most polarizing, distrusted and unpopular candidates in US history.
Since Clinton and Trump emerged as frontrunners, Americans of varying political persuasions have despaired that the 2016 presidential election comes down to two famously flawed celebrities, candidates who’d wage an unrelenting, insult-filled slugfest, not a clarifying solution-focused debate. Hence the now-popular t-shirt, “I already hate our next president.”
Mid-way through this turbulent summer, with the nation reeling from terrorist attacks and fraying race relations, majorities of dispirited Americans wish the parties would Think Again about their nominees, neither of whom engender trust or confidence in a citizenry craving both.
Like last month’s Brexit vote that reasserted the “consent of the governed” principle, America’s voter revolt reflects the cleavage between elites who profit from the political system and those who feel fleeced by it. It’s also a cry for Washington to address – not exacerbate – pressing problems including immigration, Islamic radicalism, and economic stagnation.
Yet Washington is so politicized and agenda-riddled, even agencies charged with equal enforcement of laws – the IRS, Justice Department, and now the FBI – ride merry-go-rounds of evasion and unaccountability, aided by partisans who defend the law’s unequal application, and a media that’s more lapdog than watchdog.
Consider FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation to not prosecute Clinton despite meticulously detailing her lawlessness and lies. In conceding “individuals engaged in this activity… are often subject to security or administrative sanctions,” Comey advanced the banana republic notion that laws apply differently to the powerful – an injustice our constitution was designed to prevent.
Whether voters in November reassert their pledge of allegiance to “liberty and justice for all” depends on their presidential options, a choice I hoped to influence when I was elected to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
An outsider and staunch critic of the Republican Party – as readers of my column know – I wanted a nominee who’d unite the “Party of Lincoln” around its bedrock principle that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” as Abraham Lincoln declared at the height of the Civil War.
My campaign platform echoed President Gerald Ford who reassured at his swearing-in: “Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not men. Here, the people rule.” To their credit, Watergate-era Republicans put country and the rule of law before their man Nixon, heeding Thomas Jefferson’s warning: “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”
Today however, many frustrated Republicans are willing to discard these American precepts, believing we're now a nation that only one man can fix, so screw the laws since they're not being enforced anyway.
As a delegate, I reject this premise and can’t ignore that Trump rarely speaks of liberty, constitutional guardrails, and the increasing concentration of governmental power, preferring instead to campaign-by-insult and bombast.
Feeling more like a “Republican in name only,” I am discouraged by Trump’s “get behind me or else, you loser” posture toward those who disagree, and the acquiescence of RNC insiders. If the presumptive nominee and his party allies won’t try to win over grassroots Republicans like me, how will they secure additional voters in November?
I respect the democratic process, the “will of the people,” and Trump’s record-setting 13.4 million votes. But I also know that 17 million Republicans voted for other candidates, creating fissures that must be addressed.
That party rules supercharged Trump’s weak 44 percent performance – the smallest share ever won by a modern era GOP nominee – into a 62 percent delegate haul, cutting off debate without majority support, should concern delegates.
Conventions aren’t coronations, and recent court rulings confirm that party delegates aren’t rubber stamps untethered from their consciences and emerging facts. That’s why I support liberating the delegates to debate and ultimately vote their conscience in an open convention, whether voluntarily for Trump or someone else. They should do so in good conscience knowing there is no such thing as coerced unity.
It's not about elevating a personality to lead the party; it's about leading the Republican Party back to the elevated ideals on which it was founded, recuperating the alienated.
Most importantly, it’s about defeating Clinton, the most corrupt and deceitful presidential candidate in modern American history, thereby dismantling the two-tiered justice system before its entrenched.
Think Again – Imagine a car accident in which Clinton, Trump and America all survive, because Americans have restored “liberty and justice for all.” Isn’t this what we owe our children?
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
In this topsy-turvy election year, wonders never cease, as Americans Think Again about how to throw the bums out, even unelected bureaucrats.
The willingness to break with long-standing political norms isn’t surprising, considering voter anger, pessimism and spiking anxieties. Recent surveys of Americans show overwhelming majorities believe the country is on the wrong track, the American Dream is unachievable, and our powerful, unaccountable government is America’s biggest threat.
Consequently, political dynasties have been rendered passé, as mega-donor darlings Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton discovered en route to their coronations. Not even their powerful Super PACs (funded by unlimited individual, corporate and union support) can assure their victories.
The standard trump cards aren’t working either, including the gender card, played recently by former Secretary of State and Hillary-backer Madeleine Albright who admonished, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
For Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, the normally formidable race card trumps nothing. But a blustering and incoherent Donald Trump trumps everything, thanks to the limitless free airtime the ratings-hungry media grant him. ”I’m winning by a lot,” the self-funder boasts, but “I spent almost nothing.”
Meanwhile, the media leaves unexamined Trump’s assertion that his wealth is a scorecard of his abilities. Some analysts calculate the present value of Trump’s inheritance would approximate his current net worth, if he’d simply invested it in the S&P 500.
Undermining Trump’s inevitability, the self-described winner’s first electoral outing was a loss to Cruz and near-upset by Rubio, as 76 percent of Iowa caucus-goers voted not-Trump. His New Hampshire victory was impressive, capturing all demographic groups, but two-thirds still voted not-Trump.
As under-performing contenders like Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina exit the crowded field, the eventual consolidation – and Trump’s record-breaking unfavorability in the general population – bode poorly for his candidacy.
Nevertheless, the ratings-magnet is well positioned to parlay popularity into a Trump network, like the media platform that made Michael Bloomberg – who’s contemplating his own self-funded presidential campaign – one of the world’s richest.
Another surprising result was Cruz’s defeat of King Corn in Iowa. The anti-Washington agitator won record numbers of votes in a historic GOP turnout while arguing that farmers are hurt by government ethanol mandates – not helped, as powerful agribusiness lobbyists allege.
Most extraordinary is Bernie Sander’s durability. Polls show the septuagenarian-socialist tied with Clinton nationally, after narrowly losing Iowa but routing her in New Hampshire where 93 percent of Democrats prioritizing honesty preferred Sanders.
Are voters drawn to Sanders’ socialism, or is he the beneficiary of a “no more Clintons” mindset, especially after reports the Clintons “earned” $153 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House?
It’s probably both, since Sanders’ support skews young. Thirsty for trustworthy leadership, “Sandernistas” have witnessed government bailouts and rampant cronyism, while suffering through the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
According to Pew Research, this generation is “the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income.”
No wonder they find political revolution tempting. But they should study the American Revolution before accepting Sanders’ plan to concentrate ever-growing government power in the name of “social justice.”
As founder James Madison explained, “The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Concerned that a government would eventually encroach on rights and liberties, Thomas Jefferson forecast “debt, corruption and rottenness,” absent constitutional guardrails.
That’s why, after overthrowing King George’s arbitrary and unfair rule, America’s founders established a government with limited powers to protect the equal rights of the people, believing the boundless potential of individuals operating in a free society would “make America great” – and they were right.
Yet as government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting our founders’ liberty-preserving system with cronyism that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.
Using massive powers to legislate, tax, spend and regulate, policymakers have rigged the economy and undermined the principles on which freedom, fairness and opportunity rely – equality under the law, property rights and sound money.
Given America’s heritage and Big Government’s dismal track record, it’s stunning that Sanders and Trump -- both advocates of using unprecedented government power to centrally plan and control economic life – could win New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” state. Have its freedom-loving voters forgotten the national purpose their state helped found – the democratic self-rule of a free people?
Hopefully, America is in revolt and casting about for outsiders not because they want more government, but because of the failures of our hyper-politicized, unaccountable government: contaminated water, terrorist attacks, dying vets, IRS harassment, illegal immigration, health care chaos, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards.
Think Again – in this anti-conventional wisdom year, may our founders’ wisdom about the dangers of Big Government ultimately prevail.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“All the great inspiring leaders and organizations…think, act and communicate the exact same way… opposite to everyone else,” Simon Sinek revealed in his famous TED talk. They “start with why they do what they do.”
Consider how these transformational Whys moved masses to Think Again: “All men are created equal,” declared America’s founders; “I have a dream” – not a five-point plan – proclaimed Martin Luther King; “Think different” and “Just do it” urged Apple and Nike en route to brand domination.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra quenched a thirst to challenge the status quo, helping him become the political equivalent of an iPad whose novelty rendered Hillary Clinton a vintage desktop.
As Obama predicted in his autobiography “Audacity of Hope,” he became a human Rorschach test, serving ”as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."
Chanting “yes we can” while staring at Obama’s inkblot, supporters agreed with him that his nomination was “the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless… when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal… when we ended a war, secured our nation and restored our image.”
Obama’s inkblot sent a “thrill up my leg” for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and convinced conservative David Brooks he’d be “a great president.” Newsweek compared the new president to Abraham Lincoln, and 65 percent of voters believed they’d be better off in four years.
Reflecting on the media’s role in creating the Obama phenomenon, CBS’s Bob Schieffer recently acknowledged, “Maybe we were not skeptical enough.”
The same is true of the soaring candidacies of anti-Washington insurgents Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In their inkblots, supporters see trustworthy leaders whose Whys resonate. To voters hurt by our cronyist political system, and revolted by self-dealing politicians and their special interests, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Sanders’ “A Political Revolution Is Coming” are the “Hope and Change” of 2016.
Hard-working Americans play by the rules and resent politicians who don’t. They’ve watched Wall Street and Washington boom while enduring stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising health-care costs and reduced living standards.
Now, with the economy growing at half its 100-year historic average, small businesses failures exceeding starts, U.S. debt approaching Greek proportions, and national security threats looming, many fear we’re bequeathing our children a less secure and prosperous America.
But on what rational basis do Trump and Sanders merit such unbridled loyalty? Even Trump is amazed, joking recently, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any voters.”
History shows that when politicians are elevated before winning in the marketplace of ideas, they stop answering questions and being held accountable, and then everybody gets trumped.
Case in point: Trump. The reality-TV star now refuses to appear at the last pre-primary debate, drawing plaudits from minions who celebrate his bullying and bombast. Meanwhile, inquiring minds want him to persuade his way to victory.
How would the self-described insider-dealer dismantle the cronyist system that rewards political connections over competitive excellence? If he’s free of special interests, why not end corporate welfare, such as ethanol subsidies favored in Iowa?
How does Trump reconcile his penchant for unilateral action with the constitution’s separation of powers, never mind America’s founding purpose – democratic self-governance of a free people?
How can Trump defend religious liberty while proposing a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US? How does he justify “eminent domain” whereby government can seize an individual’s property, even for private use, such as a casino parking lot?
Sanders is similarly vague. At CNN’s town hall, he described democratic socialism as “an economy that works for all,” a benign vision -- especially for younger voters -- considering its devastating track record. Socialism is a discredited idea because, Time’s Joe Klein wrote, “it dampens incentives, which dampens creativity, which leads to poverty.”
That’s why the Scandinavian social-democracies Sanders touts reformed their economies, reducing taxes and regulations. Doesn’t Sanders worry that his ideas will disincentive the very entrepreneurialism that transformed America from an agrarian backwater into history’s greatest economic wonder?
Sanders argues “the 1%” will pay for trillions in new government spending, though they rarely do. Instead, they pay lobbyists and lawyers to avoid taxes, and often stop working or move overseas. These are luxuries unavailable to the middle class and debt-saddled future generations who invariably pay when government grows.
America’s founders understood what Sanders doesn’t. Poverty is humanity’s natural state, and free enterprise is the best system for moving people toward productive and prosperous lives. What government-planner can design “an economy that works for all” that's better than the free market, where endless autonomous decisions are made efficiently, creatively and cooperatively?
Think Again – Sanders is right. A few rich people shouldn’t run America. Hopefully, voters willing to look beyond 2016’s inkblots will insist that a handful of politicians shouldn’t run the country either.
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
At a recent 11,000-strong Netroots Nation conference, irate activists booed off the stage presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for proclaiming “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
That O’Malley was jeered for his echo of “all men are created equal” – the self-evident truth that fueled America’s civil rights movement – reflects a disturbing phenomenon, one social critic Aldous Huxley called the propagandist’s purpose: “to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
By emphasizing differences and distorting reality, propagandists incite mistrust and hostility, compelling followers to line up dutifully behind partisan agendas, never to Think Again.
Yet as Adolf Hitler understood – and history proves – blind partisanship is dangerous. “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think,” observed modern history’s greatest propagandist and destroyer of humanity.
A 2013 experiment conducted by pollster Mark Mellman for the Bipartisan Policy Center confirmed Hitler’s insight, revealing how partisanship often overrides informed policy preferences, blinding people to the consequences of their choices.
Two groups of respondents were asked to select between Republican and Democrat education plans, with the labels on each plan reversed in each group. Rather than choose a plan based on policy preferences, Republicans and Democrats in each group overwhelmingly opted for their party’s plan.
“The evidence suggests that parties have considerable latitude to alter their positions without losing voters,” Melman concluded, “driving voters further apart on the issues if they choose.”
Consider how the Obama Administration is severing the long-standing bipartisan consensus to use all elements of American foreign policy -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- to prevent Iran’s theocratic regime, and the world’s most lethal terrorist state, from acquiring nuclear weapons.
On the most consequential life and death issue facing Americans, administration officials have reversed their pledges to prevent an Iranian bomb while ridiculing those who won’t renege, branding them the equivalent of warmongers.
Meanwhile, the Iran deal would convey a jackpot of sanctions-relief, conventional arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles, enabling the world’s worst warmongers – the tyrannical ayatollahs whose declared goal is to establish a global caliphate and “raise the banner of Islam over the White House.”
Unfortunately, by prematurely sidelining diplomatic and economic leverage, the deal leaves America with few peaceful ways to counter Iran, or secure our hostages’ release.
Normally, far-reaching international agreements – particularly nuclear-related treaties – require a two-thirds Senate majority to assure domestic support. Fearful of constitutionally mandated scrutiny, the administration framed the deal as an executive agreement requiring no congressional approval. To reassert its treaty authority, Congress agreed that disapproval requires an unprecedented two-thirds majority in both houses.
Most worrisome, the administration has circumvented voters, the Constitution and American sovereignty by obtaining UN approval of the Iran accord – including secret side deals – before Congress’s review. Should Congress reject the deal, administration officials argue America would be violating international law.
Whose lives will matter most: Those of pressured lawmakers, or Americans whose lives, and way of life, are imperiled by the agreement?
The same question can be asked of policymakers who put the lives of criminal aliens ahead of law-abiding innocents by allowing immigration laws to go unenforced.
This month, an illegal immigrant with seven convictions, five deportations and multiple returns to San Francisco’s “sanctuary city,” shot and killed 32-year old Kate Steinle while she was strolling with her Dad.
Like San Francisco, more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions routinely ignore immigration laws, as tens of thousands of criminal aliens have been released into unsuspecting populaces. Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two preventable tragedies per month. Yet propagandists obscuring these facts call opponents of sanctuary policies racist.
Similarly, it’s a “war on women” to be critical of Planned Parenthood, even after secretly recorded videos exposed the human cost – and price – of saleable baby parts, harvested from late-term abortions at their clinics.
In two videos that went viral, Planned Parenthood officials explain why their “less crunchy” techniques make them “very good at getting heart, lung, liver.” They crush above and below to “get it all intact.” A third video shows doctors discussing how to maximize fetal tissue revenue.
It’s hard to reconcile a belief that “all lives matter” with the routine and lawful crushing of emerging human life. Yet a mother’s life and right to control her body also matter. Acknowledging these conflicting truisms is a mark of a healthy society, one capable of breaking through the propaganda to consider the question: at what point does the mother’s right to control her life stop trumping a baby’s right to life?
George Orwell said, “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it,” which is why O’Malley was booed for saying “all lives matter.” Reversing society’s drift requires citizens willing to risk vilification to search for the truth, people who’ll resist reality-distorting partisans.
Think Again – by reversing Hitler’s insight, imagine the good fortune for society when the people do think.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
So a priest, an imam and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What’s this? A joke?”
Yes, and it’s funny, so accustomed are we to religious humor and wit that pokes fun at humanity and the powerful who govern it.
Though humor is in the eye of the beholder, its historic purpose is to induce us to Think Again. Truth-telling with laughter pushes conformist societies’ boundaries, whether by medieval court jesters; cartoonists; humorists like Mark Twain; Charlie Chaplin impersonating Hitler “The Great Dictator;” comedy troupes like Monty Python; or sitcoms like Archie Bunker.
Today, enlightened Westerners living in human history’s freest society know that free speech doesn’t end where offense begins (except on college campuses, alas), no matter how insensitive or provocative. Even lowbrow, cringe-inducing satire is stomached, like “The Interview,” Sony’s controversial North Korea spoof. It’s a trivial price to pay for liberty’s luxuries.
What’s blasphemous to some is social commentary to others, like South Park creators’ Tony-award winning lampoon “The Book of Mormon,” or religious icon-desecrating art like Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (a crucifix submerged in urine) or Chris Ofili’s elephant dung-smeared “Holy Virgin Mary.”
Though justifiably offended, Mormons and Christians turned their collective cheeks, recognizing that while each is free to practice a chosen faith, others are free to critique it. Freedom to mock is the flip side of religious liberty.
So indispensable to a healthy, innovative and prosperous society are free expression and individual rights, America’s founders implanted these bedrock principles in our cultural DNA and the Constitution’s First Amendment, making it government’s duty to protect freedom of speech, press and religion.
Only a few centuries old, these human rights-assuring ideals have produced civil societies where differences are settled in the marketplace of ideas -- not by thought police -- rendering obsolete 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ depiction of man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Yet it’s back to Hobbes’ world we go if the ever-growing radical Islam movement achieves its aim -- more important than taking innocent life is taking our way of life, as they’ve demonstrated since 9/11.
In a constant state-of-war with non-believers, militants invoke Islamic law to justify waves of barbarity against those, including Muslim majorities, who don’t submit to their fanatical creed. Even in the West, disaffected and unassimilated Muslims living in Balkanized “no-go zones” -- often where sharia law supersedes domestic laws -- are lured, radicalized and trained to terrorize.
We’ve witnessed the Islamic State’s mass beheadings, including journalists and aid workers; the Pakistani Taliban’s shooting of 132 school children; and Boko Haram’s raping, forced conversion and enslavement of Nigerian girls.
Crescendo-ing last week, the Paris massacres -- 12 at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine famous for publishing Muhammad cartoons, and four Jewish hostages at a kosher market – by “Allahu Akbar”-hollering jihadists overshadowed al-Qaeda’s other attack in Yemen, killing 37, and Boko Haram’s deadliest massacre yet of Nigerian women, children and elderly.
Writing in USA Today, British-born Muslim cleric Anjem Choudaryin defended the repressive sharia creed being practiced worldwide, arguing “Islam doesn’t mean peace,” but “submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression.” Choudaryin’s threat is clear: forfeit your liberty or face “the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad.”
Eager to reclaim Islam from radicals like Choudaryin who’ve made “the entire Islamic world…a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently addressed Muslim clerics and scholars, imploring them to “revolutionize our religion.”
Concerned “the Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed,” Al-Sisi argued “texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.” Underscoring tolerance in the Arab world’s most populous Muslim nation, he became Egypt’s first president to attend a Coptic-Christian mass.
Similarly courageous, Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb championed assimilation as a means to sustain the civil societies to which “well-meaning Muslim” immigrants like him are drawn. “If you can’t stomach freedom [or] humorists who created a newspaper,” he proclaimed, “pack your bags and leave!”
Aboutaleb’s unapologetic defense of freedom reveals the truth about radical Islam – without any rational political objectives, it can’t prevail in a post-Hobbesian world that protects liberty and individual rights.
Free expression – not self-censorship or accommodation – is not only morally superior, it’s the water that will extinguish the Wicked Witches of Islam, enabling the Muslim world to embrace the freedom and modernity its innocents and we Westerners crave. It will also safeguard our free society, generating more of the cultural riches we cherish – books, films, plays, art exhibitions and satirical cartoons.
Think Again – imagine a priest, an imam and a rabbi attending an irreverent Broadway show together… and it’s not a joke!
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
It’s been an October of surprises. As U.S. health officials’ mistake-riddled handling of the deadly Ebola virus topped newscasts, the Denver Post editorial board captured headlines for its denunciation of Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign tactics, helping subdue the fevered politics that’s plagued us.
Insisting Udall -- dubbed “Mark Uterus” -- Think Again about his fixation on gynecological issues while “a great deal is at stake,” the Post’s endorsement of challenger Cory Gardner injected truth serum into a poisonously dishonest election season.
Noting Udall’s lack of leadership in Washington and his “obnoxious one-issue campaign” in Colorado, the Post contends “Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision.” As if inoculating himself from scrutiny, the Post notes Udall has spent a “shocking amount of energy and money…to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman's call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives.”
The Post’s rebuke may not be a cure-all for mindless and dispiriting “War on Women” sloganeering, but it’s healthy if it incentivizes politicians like Udall to address constituents’ real preoccupations and priorities.
In addition to war with the Islamic State and Ebola, Americans face serious economic mobility concerns described last week by Federal Reserve Chairwomen Janet Yellen as significant “gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.”
Unfortunately neither striking an independent pose nor debating and shaping such great issues are allowed in Harry Reid’s Senate, contrary to the two-century history of the world’s most deliberative body.
With the Senate now less open and more partisan, unanimous Democrat votes set an all time high for either chamber, according to a recent study by Congressional Quarterly, with the average Senate Democrat voting the party line 94 percent of the time in 2013.
To maintain this governing conformity, Reid has denied votes on over 350 House-passed measures, many with large bi-partisan majorities, and used parliamentary trickeries to pass controversial measures on narrow party-line votes. Last December he activated the “nuclear option” eliminating the Senate’s two-century-old filibuster tradition (the 60-vote threshold requiring consultation with the minority) on most presidential nominees.
Smash-mouth politics has served the governing elites -- many of whom, like Reid, have parlayed influence into family fortunes -- but not Americans who feel ill served by the institutions they oversee.
Not surprisingly, two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, a recent WSJ/NBC poll reveals. Furthermore, the two most respected federal agencies in a 2013 Pew poll – the Veterans Administration and Center for Disease Control -- are reeling from reports of veterans consigned to death by waiting list and Ebola-infected nurses. Considering presidential security lapses, even the Secret Service is suspect.
The merry-go-round of evasion and unaccountability is well known. First never-ending investigations are launched promising to hold people accountable. Then governing elites blame budget hawks -- even amid increasing budgets -- not misplaced priorities and misspent taxpayer money. Finally, to protect the governing agenda, appointed mouthpieces run interference, rambling incoherently at oversight hearings to run out the clock.
More worrisome than the cavernous competence gap is the politicization of every bureaucracy, even institutions charged with equal enforcement of laws, like the Justice Department and IRS.
Aided and abetted by elected officials who defend the indefensible, the Administration diverts our attention with false assurances: you can keep your health insurance and your doctors; there’s not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS; al Qaeda is on the run; the border is secure; and a US Ebola outbreak is extremely unlikely.
Unsettled by Ebola’s transmissibility and skeptical the government can track and contain the lethal virus, Americans want travel restrictions from affected African countries. Yet President Obama resists, claiming a ban could lead to more Ebola cases.
Willing to defy public opinion before an election, imagine what controversial policies Obama will pursue afterward. An Iranian nuclear deal that sidesteps Congress and legalization of illegal immigrants are reported, though political allies like Udall studiously avoid these issues.
In a television interview this week, Udall admitted to being “brain-dead,” which isn’t surprising given how dumbed down and non-deliberative the Senate has become. Had Udall and Reid succeeded last month in passing their constitutional amendment to refashion the First Amendment (under the guise of campaign-finance reform), there’d be even less need for politicians to defend themselves in the marketplace of ideas.
Calling the senators’ amendatory efforts “exceedingly dangerous to the democratic processes,” the American Civil Liberties Union warned the amendment “would lead directly to government censorship of political speech… fundamentally break the Constitution and endanger civil rights and civil liberties for generations” -- a contagion our society couldn’t endure.
Think Again – with sunlight being the best disinfectant, Coloradans could have a senator who’ll represent our interests in Washington, not a servant of Washington’s agenda back home.
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.”