A Conservative Blog With Libertarian Flavor

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Presidential campaigns are zero-sum games. For months (and years, for some), the campaign team and the candidate pour everything they have into the effort. Every action, every public statement, every moment, is spent in pursuit of one goal. By the end, campaigns are twenty-four hour, seven-day a week operations. For those on the inside, the campaign is their life.

Then election night comes–and it’s all over. One team wins, the other team loses. And there’s no consolation prize. The winner gets the presidency. His team and his party gets the good jobs. For the next four years, they are the ones who pull the levers of power, and they are the ones behind the curtain.

What happens to the losers? They write political blogs.

And that’s why we are here. I spent ten months in the Rapid Response and Writing shops of the Romney Campaign. It was my job to attack the President, usually by drafting articles that explained why Barack Obama was wrong in his views and wrong for America. I was good at it, and we’ll do some of it here. But we won’t hold our fire from the Republican Party, either. The GOP never quite rallied around Mitt Romney, mostly for reasons that have become cancers within the party. Conservatism is great, but it needs some Libertarian flavor.

It’s time for happy warriors everywhere to unite. There’s so much worth fighting for.

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Drone Attacks on American Soil Against American Citizens?

I have to commend Senator Rand Paul for his filibuster in the United States Senate over the domestic drone program. It’s nice to see a politician with conviction. Still, I am not sure I agree with his position.

In case you missed it, Senator Paul is concerned about recent comments by the President and Attorney General Eric Holder over whether the President has the Constitutional power to order a drone strike against an American citizen on American soil. The position of the Obama administration is that the President does have that power, if there is a clear and imminent threat. I don’t see that as a particularly controversial position.

Oklahoma City presents the perfect scenario. Timothy McVeigh is driving a van full of explosives to the federal building there with the intention of blowing it up. Unlike in the historical case, we have discovered the plot, and a drone has McVeigh in its sights. Unfortunately, while the police are in route, they will not reach him in time to prevent detonation of the bomb. Can the President give the order to fire on McVeigh, killing him?

The answer has to be yes. Consider that if an ordinary, rookie police officer had a shot at McVeigh in that instance, he would be well within his rights to use deadly force. Why shouldn’t the President?

No, the real debate—and the debate we are not having—is over the cloak of secrecy that the Obama administration has thrown over the decision-making process regarding drone strikes. If the President is going to claim the power to use drowns to kill Americans—here or abroad—such actions should be taken in the clear light of day. We should have the reasoning behind the assertion of power, we should know the criteria by which that power will be used, and we should know every detail of any actual operations. There can be no secrecy here–no trust us, the target was a clear and present danger. And if the President abuses such an immense power, he should immediately be subject to impeachment.

So while I appreciate Senator Paul’s gesture, a better course of action might be to draw up legislation setting forth how and when drones can be used on American soil. After all, it is only the rule of law that separates us from a dictatorship.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

If you need a perfect example of why our government is never going to balance its budget without some serious thinking, look no further than the hilariously stupid decision by the White House to end daily tours of the President’s residence. How much will they save? $18,000 a week. Read more here.

At that rate, $936,000 a year, it would take only 1,068,376 years to pay down the deficit from ONE YEAR of this President’s time in office. Meanwhile, we just gave $250 million to Egypt. But don’t worry, President Obama’s cost saving thrift will make up for that in only 267 years.

Practicality and The Right To Bear Arms

PG has written a lengthy and thoughtful response to my last post on gun control. You can read it in its entirety in the comments section of the last post. I wanted to highlight a few points and comment.

We will have to resort to arms when our other rights — of speech, press, assembly, representative government — fail to yield the desired results. A gun owner may consider his weapon to be his first line of defense against a common criminal, but it must be his last defense against the uncommon criminal that an illegitimate government would become.

I agree with this completely. We are certainly far from that place today, and I don’t think any situation in American history–with the possible exception of slavery–has called for armed rebellion against the state.

PG then turns to the argument that it is not practical to think that an armed populace could stand against the United States government in any event.

As with so many political disagreements, the debate over a need for an armed citizenry in the U.S. may come down to differing calculations of probabilities. I find it extremely improbable, almost to the point of absurdity, that our citizen military — made up of our own relatives, friends and neighbors — would fire its weapons on a majority uprising against a tyrannical government. Yet this is the situation that is implied by a necessity for the Second Amendment to protect Americans from an internally-generated tyranny.

PG is probably right here, but of course it is impossible to know how such a situation would arise. Perhaps it would be a military coup. Perhaps it would be one army, loyal to one general that tried to take power. Perhaps it would be a civil war, with factions fighting against each other. In all of those circumstances, an armed citizenry might be very helpful in securing at least parts of the country for the good guys.

A far more likely scenario is one similar to the Timbuktu example–the government loses control of some region of the country. It’s happened in the small scale before. (I’m thinking of the aftermath of Katrina and riots that have occurred in American cities throughout our history.) It could happen on a grand scale if we suffered a severe pandemic or a nuclear strike on Washington or other major cities. If that were to happen, an armed citizenry would be critical to maintain liberty in sections of the country.

These examples may seem extreme, but so is an armed citizenry fighting for their rights.

And what if the US government did turn into a tyranny, complete with the full support of the military? Could an armed citizenry defeat them? Probably not. But I am certain that an unarmed citizenry could not, and we will never know what kind of deterrent an armed citizenry has been to any dreams of such a conquest.

Having said all that, I am glad PG has brought practicality into this debate. The onus, however, is on those who would take rights to show the practicality of their proposals. They must show how the laws they have put forward will reduce crime or the kind of mass shootings we have seen. It is unclear to me how taking the rights of law abiding citizens will prevent criminals from acquiring arms in a country with 300 million guns.

Gun Control and Japanese Internment

In response to my post on Timbuktu, reader PG proposed the following question, one that is as astute as it is intriguing.

I’ve always wondered about something and never seen it addressed in the scholarly work (e.g. by Glenn Reynolds, John Lott et al) that I’ve read about the 2nd Amendment and firearms, so I hope you can provide a useful perspective.

When I think about instances of serious governmental overreach within living memory in the U.S. — something where I think the word “tyranny” is not a total exaggeration — the biggest one that comes to mind is not something like Ruby Ridge or Waco, where the government was just trying to regulate firearms themselves. Instead, I think about the mass internment of West Coast Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, when the actual bodily liberty of over 100,000 people, most of whom were U.S. citizens, was taken away by the government’s herding them into camps.

Do you think it would be the correct course of action for citizens, when faced with such a threat by the government, to respond by utilizing their 2nd Amendment rights to defend themselves? If so, how do you think that would have worked out for Japanese-Americans as a response to the government’s demand that they go into the camps?

For those who do not know—and hopefully that’s not many of you—PG is referring to the forcible relocation of 110,000 Japanese-Americans to so-called “War Relocation Camps” during World War II. This action—taken under an executive order issued by FDR and found constitutional under a highly dubious Supreme Court decision—was based on the idea that the interred—2/3 of which were American citizens—constituted a sleeper army, loyal to imperial Japan. The federal government would eventually pay $1.6 billion in reparations to those affected by the internment. Today, it is hard to find anyone willing to argue that interment was anything other than what President Reagan called it—a shameful incident based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Which brings us to PG’s question and what it means for the gun control debate.

Generally speaking, there are three bases on which advocates of the right to bear arms rest their case—practical, historical, and philosophical. Practically speaking, guns are necessary for self-defense in the modern world, as well as for many recreational activities like hunting and sport shooting. After all, even the President shoots clays on occasion.

The philosophical grounds is more metaphysical but no less important. Having the right to bear arms is, in many ways, the ultimate right. It is action in a way that voting or speech is not, and it makes a mockery of the notion that the government has a monopoly on force. It is power, the kind ordinary citizens have not held during 99% of human history.

PG’s question goes to the historical basis. It’s the Timbuktu case. We need guns to defend ourselves from tyranny. But what does the Japanese question say about the viability of that argument?

I think PG knows—and I think most people would agree—that it would have been an unmitigated tragedy if the Japanese had resisted internment. At that time in our nation’s history, in the shadow of Pearl Harbor, it’s hard to imagine the death and destruction that could have resulted from resistance. In many ways, an armed rebellion would have served to confirm in the minds of the architects of internment the need for their policy. To put it simply, if the Japanese had resisted, they would have been slaughtered.

What is the lesson to be drawn from that conclusion? It’s not that the Japanese were not within their rights to take up arms against the state. They might very well have had the high moral ground given the circumstances. Rather, it’s that in a country of several hundred million, an armed populace is a defense against a tyrannical minority, not a committed majority. If a passionate majority wants something, it will happen, come hell or high water. No constitution, no politician, no political safeguard will stop them.

Does that defeat the historical argument for the right to bear arms? I actually think it strengthens it. One might be inclined to fear an armed citizenry, ever on the lookout for perceived tyranny, ever ready to strike against the government. Sounds like chaos and anarchy to me. But the reality of the situation is that an armed revolution truly is the last defense against tyranny, and it will only be invoked in an extreme circumstance.

The internment of the Japanese was a shameful moment, and one in which the rights of American citizens were wrongfully taken away. But it is political checks and Constitutional order that must be employed to stop that sort of government overreach. I am reminded of a story from the drafting of the Constitution. It’s no doubt apocryphal, but informative nonetheless. The story goes that as the Constitutional Convention drew to a close, a woman from Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin a question. “What have we got, Dr. Franklin?” she asked. “A monarchy, or a republic?” Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The internment of the Japanese should never have happened because the people of the United States and their elected representatives should never have allowed it to happen. But the right to bear arms could not save the Japanese. The Second Amendment is not, and should not be, the only defense of freedom. Rather, it is the last defense, one that is as dear as it should be rarely employed.

Immigration Reform, The Bitter Pill Republicans Must Swallow

Time to act.

The Republican Party is a law and order party, and that’s why immigration reform gives us so much trouble. Illegal immigrants are, by definition, law-breakers, and conservatives are loath to reward that transgression with one of the greatest gifts a person can receive—American citizenship. Add to that the dubious claims that illegal immigrants are disproportionate consumers of government services and that they are more likely to commit crimes than others, and you have a potent brew for immigration reform obstructionism, particularly when it comes to so-called amnesty.

Most Republicans claim that they support immigration reform, and it’s little wonder. Our immigration system is a complete mess. It’s become, like so many parts of the federal government, a massive, unwieldy, ineffective bureaucracy.

No one prefers to come to the United States illegally. It’s filled with danger, from unscrupulous “coyotes” who are as likely to rape and murder their customers as bring them across the border, to the dangers of the deserts. And then, of course, there’s the constant threat of arrest and deportation. Surely, if there were an easy and effective way to bring people who are willing to work—and for whom there is always employment—to our country, illegal immigration would dry up like alcohol running over the Canadian border after prohibition was lifted.

President Obama is now making headlines with a push to reform our immigration system. If it is anything like his past efforts, we can expect a lot of talk and little action. But a gang of 8 Senators, four Republican and four Democrat, have beaten him to the punch. They have proposed an immigration reform bill that has a chance at working.

It contains several provisions Republicans will like, many of which were part of Governor Romney’s approach during the campaign. These include a robust e-verify system that requires employers to check immigration status before hiring workers. That alone should put a major dent in illegal immigration, as most immigrants are here for a job. It also includes tougher border security measures, always a favorite among Conservatives. And it will make it easier for people to come here legally. Immigration has always been good for the United States, and during some of the greatest eras in our history, our borders have been more or less open to those who seek a  better life. But it’s the last proposal that will have conservatives up in arms—a path to citizenship for those here illegally.

Republicans are already starting to balk, obsessive in their absolute hatred of anything even approaching amnesty. Frankly, I think they need to get over it.

We are never going to round up 25 million people and ship them back to their home countries. It’s not going to happen. If it did, it would take a massive, jack-booted police force to accomplish, and we would be witnessing the 21st Century equivalent of the Trail of Tears. It’s impossible to imagine such a thing coming to pass, and if Republicans continue to push for it, they risk becoming a minority party for all time.

That’s especially true when it comes to the so-called “Dreamers.” These are the kids who have been in the United States all their lives, having been brought here when they were infants. They know nothing but America (some of them don’t even speak Spanish). Imagine for a moment someone knocked on your door and told you that you were being deported to Mexico. That’s pretty much what they are facing. If you think we should deport those kids, then I frankly don’t want you in my party.

Here’s the thing about amnesty. It’s never the preferred option. The people who need amnesty need it for a reason. Usually, amnesty is given for things much worse than crossing the border illegally. We didn’t punish every single Nazi, even those who were deep in Hitler’s war machine. We brought Warner von Braun to Huntsville, Alabama and made him the head of our rocket program. The Cambodian’s didn’t punish every high-ranking member of the Khmer Rouge, even though that regime killed 25% of the country’s population. For the sake of peace and stability, they gave them amnesty.

Here, we have millions of people who broke the law. They came to America, a country they had heard about since they were kids, a place where they could have a better life than in their homeland. For the sake of their families, they crossed the border without a green card, and they’ve been working here ever since. If you’ve ever built a house, they probable helped frame it. If you’ve ever eaten a piece of fruit, they probably helped pick it.

It’s time to rationalize our immigration system (Why, for instance, does a person escaping from Castro’s dictatorial regime automatically receive a green card upon reaching this country while a person escaping from Chavez’s dictatorial regime is deported?). And it is also time to start the people who are here on a path to citizenship.

Hispanics should be a Republican constituency. They are fiscally conservative. They are very conservative socially. But immigration is always in our way. Before they can hear us on the issues where there’s common ground, we have to cross the threshold issue of immigration. Most Hispanics do not support illegal immigration, but when they hear conservatives talk about it, they hear veiled racism. They hear “I don’t want brown people in my country.” And in politics, perception is everything.

If we don’t do anything about immigration, in 8 years, Texas will be a battleground state. And when that happens, you can forget about fiscal responsibility, your right to bear arms, and anything else Republicans hold dear. This is our moment. It’s time to seize it.

The Failed Obama Presidency: The Economy Shrinks Again

So this is what we get. After a trillion dollars in stimulus. After bailing out the auto industry and the banks. After promising us that the “private sector is doing fine.” After assuring us that all we need is patience, this is what we get. Fourth Quarter GDP growth is in, and the long and short of the story is that there was no growth. In fact, there was a contraction of .1%. If anyone remembers the stagflation of the 70s–with runaway inflation and soaring government spending–we may be on the verge of seeing it again. In fact, we may already be there.

Congratulations, America. After four years of failure, you’ve given this incompetent President another four years to disappoint you.

A Lesson on Guns From Timbuktu

Details remain sketchy, but the unfolding story in the small African town of Timbuktu presents a lesson for those participants in the unfolding gun control debate. Over the past few days, French troops have driven radical Islamists out of the historically significant city. But the Islamists didn’t go quietly. Before they left, they burned to the ground several historical sites and also destroyed priceless, centuries old manuscripts, many of which provided invaluable insight into African culture and history.  It is a terrible story, but there’s a lesson to be learned as well.

During an interview with the BBC, one of Timbuktu’s residents discussed the helplessness he felt in the face of such needless destruction. He said,  “We wanted to fight them. We tried to fight them. But we had no guns.”

I don’t think that the United States is at all close to falling under a tyrannical regime. But I’m not naive enough to think that it couldn’t happen here. And at least if it did, we would have some means to resist it. We would have some way to fight back.

Gun control isn’t just about hunting or even about protecting our families. It’s about preserving our freedoms.

A Call To Arms: It’s Time To Join The National Rifle Association

I rarely join lobbying groups, and I almost never tell other people that they should do so. But desperate times, my friends.

It has become evident to me—as I am sure it has become obvious to you—that the President and his democratic allies in Congress are about to launch the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime. The coming fight over gun restriction is the latest battle in the long war that activists have raged over the last several decades against our Second Amendment rights. The object of that war is to make guns illegal, in all forms. In the world they imagine, only the state and its officers would be permitted to own and carry a weapon.

It is an outrage that these activists have exploited the tragedy in Connecticut for their own ends, and it is sad that the President has decided to forgo an opportunity to reform our gun control regulations, so many of which only burden law abiding citizens while doing nothing to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

The President will no doubt launch quite the political campaign to gain support for his policies, but make no mistake—this is only the first action of many against our right to bear arms. In the President’s mind, and in the mind of liberals in Congress, there is no such thing as a good gun, and there is no such thing as a good gun owner.

These politicians either do not know or do not care that an armed, responsible citizenry is the last and greatest bulwark against tyranny that a nation can have. They certainly do not care about our right to bear arms, enshrined in the Constitution and reaffirmed by recent Supreme Court rulings. They do not appreciate that in the United States of America, the state does not have a monopoly on force. Rather, in our country, the common man is elevated as an equal with the state, a citizen that is as entitled to carry a weapon as any police officer or soldier.

For thousands of years of human history, it was not so. From the Samurai of Japan to the knights of the feudal order, it was the nobility–the powerful and the high born–who were permitted to bear the sword, not the commoner. But here, there is no nobility, there are no commoners. At least, until this point in our history.

If President Obama and his allies have their way, they take yet another step in rendering us dependent on the government, in this case for our safety and that of our families—and ultimately for our freedoms.

This attack cannot stand.

Fortunately, there is a group dedicated to the protection of our Second Amendment Rights—the National Rifle Association. Today I pledge my support to the NRA; financially, politically, and intellectually. I ask you to do the same. Join the NRA. They stand for all of us now, and I pray that in the coming battle for our rights, they will be victorious.

The Wrong Lessons From Newtown: Part 2

In the face of tragedy, we tend to overreact. So when the events of Newtown unfolded, that’s what we did. Fingers were pointed in many directions. Guns and gun owners were the first and most obvious targets. How that turns out we still don’t know. Though if history is any guide, we’ll end up with legislation that does little to address the problem while still allowing politicians to say, “See, we did something.”

But it wasn’t just the Second Amendment that suffered. Such was the nature of this particular event—with so many dying who were so young—that people lashed out in many directions. Some questioned whether society was to blame, if perhaps a culture that glorifies violence in movies, video games, television, and song has created an atmosphere where life is cheap and taken with little thought.

My first reaction was to reject such a view. Adam Lanza was insane, and drawing broad generalizations from his actions—whether about guns or culture—seems wrongheaded and counterproductive. In reality, violent crime is down sharply over the last twenty years. While the mass media is adept at efficiently spreading bad news—whether it’s violence in Chicago or any public shooting anywhere—I question whether things are really all that different than they were in the past. We can talk of the good old days, but we should probably make sure they were really all that good to begin with.

Still, one has to wonder what effect our culture has on the mentally unbalanced. In a world where “murder simulators” are the most popular video games and where violence in movies and television is not only tolerated but expected, is it any wonder that these acts of seemingly random, mass violence appear to be on the rise?

I’m not advocating censorship. Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors. I played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City until the fan in the Xbox burned out. No, we shouldn’t surrender our freedoms in the face of such mindless hate. But we may have to come to accept that such events will continue to happen.

We should remember something else as well, though. Freedom is not the same thing as license. That we allow free expression—no matter how violent or crass—doesn’t mean that our society cannot judge it appropriately. Creating a society that respects life is a much bigger job than any piece of legislation. It starts at the home, in churches and synagogues and mosques and schools. And encouraging that culture is the only way that we can ensure that Newtown remains the exception, not the rule.

Are Any Restrictions On Gun Ownership Legitimate?

After my last post, I was asked if I would support any of the currently proposed gun control measures. It’s a complicated question. Of course, everyone agrees that there must be some limits on what weapons the average person may buy. Few people would argue that tanks, rocket launchers, or jet fighters are protected by the Second Amendment (the Supreme Court skirted this problem by defining the Second Amendment as protecting the right to bear arms commonly available to law abiding citizens).

If we were starting from scratch, I could probably be convinced to support a ban on high-capacity magazines or to institute universal registration of firearms. Owning a gun is a right, but it also comes with responsibilities, and I understand that.

The problem I have with the current gun control movement is that it is not playing straight with the American people and it is not negotiating in good faith. Many in the gun control lobby do not seek safe, responsible firearm ownership. They want to ban guns altogether. Here’s Diane Feinstein on guns.

In case you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the money quote.

If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren’t here

Feinstein comes by this view honestly. She’s not trying to enslave us all, or strip us of our rights, or set up a one world state. She just hates guns. Many years ago, she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a good friend of Mayor Harvey Milk. On November 27, 1978, she was to experience her own gun-related tragedy.

“I went down the hall. I opened the wrong door. I opened (Milk’s) door. I found Harvey on his stomach. I tried to get a pulse and put my finger through a bullet hole. He was clearly dead.

“I remember it, actually, as if it was yesterday. And it was one of the hardest moments, if not the hardest moment, of my life,” Feinstein said Tuesday. “It was a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy.”

Do I blame Feinstein for her stance on gun control? No, I just don’t trust her on the issue either. The two sides simply do not understand one another, and I am not sure how we can move forward with responsible gun laws if we can’t trust one another to deal fairly and honestly.