November 16, 2007

Among the Federalists.

"We thought we had planted a wildflower in the weeds of academic liberalism. Instead it was an oak, " said Antonin Scalia last night at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Federalist Society.

President Bush spoke too:
"Senate confirmation is part of the Constitution's checks and balances. But it was never intended to be a license to ruin the good name that a nominee has worked a lifetime to build," Bush said.

He also said many qualified lawyers had "politely declined" judicial nominations "because of the ugliness, uncertainty and delay that now characterizes the confirmation process."
Rudolph W. Giuliani spoke to the group today.
He professed his affinity for judges who see the Constitution for "what it is, not what they want it to be.'' He denounced the Senate confirmation process that denied a Supreme Court seat to former Judge Robert Bork and became an "attempted character assassination'' of Justice Clarence Thomas. He promised to nominate justices such as Thomas--and Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts Jr and Samuel A. Alito Jr....

Giuliani said Hillary Rodham Clinton should have been invited, since she is "one of the newest federalists." He was referring to what he said was her position that driver's licenses for illegal immigrants was something to be decided by each state.

"This is the only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis," he said, to laughter from the crowd. "And you know something? She picked absolutely the wrong one.''...

The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''

"It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th Century--Nazism and communism," Giuliani said. "It's this country that is going to save civilzation [sic] from Islamic terrorism.''
"Divinely inspired role" — good or bad phrase?

"Islamic terrorism" — good or bad phrase?

"The only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis" — really?

ADDED: Here's the full text of the Giuliani speech. Let's see "divinely inspired role" in context:
The theme of this conference is “Shining City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism.” Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop, but the American exceptionalism is also a very, very important part of that theme. There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.

Most countries on earth developed out of a single ethnicity, a single religion, some common characteristic that bound people together before they were even a nation. America is very, very different. We’re not a single ethnicity, we’re all ethnicities. We’re not a single race, we’re all races. We’re not a single religion. We were established so that we wouldn’t be a single religion. So we’re very different in our origins than just about any other country on earth. We’re united because of ideas and ideals. That’s what holds us together. That’s the thing that makes America America, makes Americans Americans—shared ideas....

American exceptionalism isn’t a debate, it’s not something we should be arrogant about where we say, “Oh, we’re very, very special.” We’re just very, very fortunate and when we don’t recognize that, I don’t think we do justice to our background and to what’s expected of us.

... America established this constitutional democratic government in the form of a republic and it was the nation that from the very beginning saw that tyranny and oppression is something that was illegitimate and had to be dealt with. It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. It’s this country that’s going to save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.

17 comments:

ricpic said...

I daresay Hillary would fumble badly if asked pointblank to define federalism.

Simon said...

"'The only time in her career she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state by state basis' — really?"

Other examples would be? I wouldn't go so far as Ricpic's comment, but Hillary doesn't exactly come over as a federalist.

Question: the Federalist Society is a "mighty oak" in academia; on the same scale, what is the ACS?

rhhardin said...

We thought we had planted a wildflower in the weeds of academic liberalism. Instead it was an oak

Wildflowers are weeds. The easiest way to identify a weed is to wait until it flowers.

Cabbage said...

Question: the Federalist Society is a "mighty oak" in academia; on the same scale, what is the ACS?

ACS is like when people who live in Trinidad go vacation in St. Kitts.

"Divinely inspired role" — good or bad phrase?
bad phrase. If God inspires you, it usually turns out better.


"Islamic terrorism" — good or bad phrase?

accurate phrase

really?
I'm with the rest of them. That's probably accurate.

SteveR said...

I agree with Cabbage

tc said...

" Islamic terrorism " ? Islamic stupidity is more like it. But the same applies to us in America. The real problem is that there is no more land to expand upon on this planet earth. Yet all we do is squabble ever more about feminist nonsense, gay rights and other bullshit.

jeff said...

"The real problem is that there is no more land to expand upon on this planet earth. Yet all we do is squabble ever more about feminist nonsense, gay rights and other bullshit."

Impressive. Textbook non sequitur.

Revenant said...

Impressive. Textbook non sequitur.

The man is a virtuoso, only instead of working with music or paint he works with being extremely annoying.

John Kindley said...

Rudy Guiliani said "... America established this constitutional democratic government in the form of a republic and it was the nation that from the very beginning saw that tyranny and oppression is something that was illegitimate and had to be dealt with."

Henry David Thoreau said: "Seen from a lower point of view, the Constitution, with all its faults, is very good; the law and the courts are very respectable; even this State and this American government are, in many respects, very admirable and rare things, to be thankful for, such as a great many have described them; but seen from a point of view a little higher, they are what I have described them; seen from a higher still, and the highest, who shall say what they are, or that they are worth looking at or thinking of at all? . . . The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to, — for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well, — is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly."

Palladian said...

Excellent quote from Thoreau, John. Would that both parties understood the gravity of the idea.

garage mahal said...

The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''

Shorter Rudy!
I've assembled a team of neocons deemed too crazy even for the Bushies, and we're going to need some Iran Invasion Money.

PatCA said...

Yes, they are both good phrases, for our freedoms are based on the fact that our dignity is inherent; it comes from the deity. No king, no tyrant can bestow it upon us or take it away.

Islamic terrorism is exactly what we are facing. When we just say "terrorism" it implies that only Muslims commit terrorism. Isn't that the exact opposite of what people like CAIR want?

Rudy is the anti-dynasty candidate. He has earned the right to talk of American exceptionalism and American's place in history. Lots of people invoke Reagan to cash in on his popularity. That a candidate can articulate what I feel now, what I missed then, fills me with joy.

Tim said...

"Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?"

Thoreau forgot we are a Republic.

As for Rudy, his phrases are serviceable in that they help to define his candidacy against his most likely opponent, who most certainly could not embrace them with half of Rudy's enthusiasm, lest she feared no longer being thought a true Democrat.

Luckyoldson said...

"The Federalist Society has become kind of mythologized," said Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, who often speaks at the group's events. "For those who don't really know what they do, the ACLU can be shorthand for the liberal agenda and the Federalist Society can be shorthand for the conservative legal agenda."

Clang!Honk!Tweet! said...

The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to, — for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well, — is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it.

With all due respect to Palladian and other admirers of Thoreau, this is simply wrong.  It seems to me a recipe for solipsistic anarchy.  Government should have the sanction and consent of the governed, but in Thoreau's formulation, it appears it must have the consent of Thoreau as an individual.

To be at all meaningful in any practical organization of society, "consent of the governed" is a collective right.  There will always be dissenters whose rights should be protected, but "consent" in this context means majority consent to what a government is and does.  No actual government will never find unanimous support.  Thoreau could sit in Concord gaol, as well he might, for not wanting to pay his taxes to support President Polk's illegal and unwise Mexican War, but it is the perfect right of the larger society to put him in jail for not obeying its laws.

Thoreau could go build his cabin and pretend to self-sufficiency, all the while in fact being dependent on the hard-won economic base created by his neighbors quietly going about their desperate lives.

He could also pretend to be a law unto himself, proclaiming that government can have, "...no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it," all the while being dependent on an impure government to do such things as coin the money and protect him from assault.

Thoreau misuses the word "impure" when speaking of governmental authority.  I think he spent too much time reading his "Geeta."  He was expecting from the Town of Concord, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the United States of America something pure and perfect. But you're supposed to get pure and perfect when you're united with Brahma in the end.  The Hindu teaching is that individual consciousness is ultimately dissolved and subsumed in the godhead, so it appears Thoreau could never quite escape the dilemma of his essential egoism.

The individual may wish to be a "higher and independent power."  But the sad realities of life with his fellows here on earth, and the promised union with the Transcendent in the afterlife, all conspire to be damned inconvenient for people with our friend's pretentions.  Thoreau's solution was to pick and choose doctrines that suited him, and to pay close attention to his beans while ignoring his real obligations to society.

I realize that it is apostasy to criticize Thoreau, but count me among the apostates.  I have lived in Concord (and traveled much in Concord as well), and have come away from that experience with a fond dislike for Thoreau, his work, and his baleful influence.  To me, Thoreau is not Authority on anything, but a massive pain in the butt.

Of course there's no lack of pains in the butt in Concord even today.  But I think that particular piece of local color can wait for the proper occasion.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to debate Thoreau's significence, I'm happy to do so.

John Kindley said...

Thoreau's words, at least the ones I've quoted from Civil Disobedience, carry "Authority" for me, not because Thoreau said them or because Thoreau lived for a time in a cabin by Walden Pond, but because they're true.

You say "'consent' in this context means majority consent to what a government is and does." That is simply wrong, and a recipe for tyrrany. Did Stalin's USSR have majority consent? Did Hitler's Germany? It would have been hard to tell if you took a poll (fear of the Gulag, etc.), and Hitler at least seemed to enjoy the popular support of his "constituents" for much of his reign. Was a German who had retained his moral sense at that time in history bound to submit his moral sense to that of the "majority"? In America, our system of political campaigning funded by lobbyists and other Big Money interests is a poor, contemptible counterfeit for the will of the majority. In any event, the most important point is that a "majority" doesn't have some magical right to do something that it would be immoral for an individual to do, like steal or murder. Read Lysander Spooner's "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority." Maybe then you'll have thought about this enough that we could have a meaningful debate.

Clang!Honk!Tweet! said...

Mr. Kindley:

First of all, you raise excellent and very valid points that I skirted in my comment.  And I agree with you about the famous old question about the morality of the majority.  I simply ignored it in my critique of Thoreau's egoism.

I can assure you that I have indeed read every word Thoreau wrote and have thought about them.  Whether that was "enough" by your formulation, I cannot say.

You may have an interesting and spirited debate about morality, constitutional government, individual rights, etc.  But you are going to have to have it with someone else.

If you had left off the last sentence or two, I would be happy to respond. To accuse me of not having thought enough about these topics to have a meaningful debate is a standard rhetorical ploy to preclude debate.

You have succeeded.