Are the Founding Fathers too extreme? Is being an advocate for liberty or wanting to make the world a better place incompatible with military service? Somebody seems to think so. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, an organization called Judicial Watch was able to obtain documents from the Department of Defense, which labeled the Founding Fathers as extremists and states, “participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service.” To be specific, it was the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) which claimed in a January 2013 lecture on “Extremism”:
"In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples."
The document further claims:
“Individuals who hold extremist views are in conflict with the standards expected of all military members, and participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service...”
“All nations have an ideology, something in which they believe. When a political ideology falls outside the norms of society, it is known as extremism. When extremists take their ideology to the next level and believe that it is the only right ideology to follow, it becomes supremism.”
My immediate questions involve trying to figure out who decides what the “norms of society” are and what do they mean by “taking it to the next level?” Does that mean holding a rally or protest? A letter writing campaign? Starting a petition?
But here is the really alarming statement in the document:
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
In the twelve years after the terrorist attacks on 9-11 by Islamic militants, our nation has been engulfed in a Global War on Terror and we continue to seek out, identify and eliminate threats from extremists the world over. At this point however, it seems that extremism has been used so broadly that it can mean anything from a suicide bomber to the signers of our Declaration of Independence only because they signed a document highlighting the sanctity of individual liberty.
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
-Department of Defense Document, January 2013
We need to understand the parameters this document has set. The document states that you become an extremist simply because your political ideology doesn’t fit the norms of society. Who, we should ask, is in charge of looking at the 300 million plus people in our country and gets to decide what the scope of normal is? How does the government establish whose ideas are normal and whose aren’t? From my understanding of history and the constitution, I have been under the impression that the 1st amendment was established to protect my right to express my ideology and thoughts and religion even if they were unpopular, or outside the “norms of society” if you will. Furthermore, the Department of Defense basically implies that those who advocate for states’ rights, a constitutionally identifiable mechanism of checks and balances, are also extremist.
Here is a real mind bender: the document states that, “Nowadays… many extremists will talk of individual liberties… and how to make the world a better place.” Huh? Lets follow the logic here. If the Department of Defense is setting policy for our military that identifies extremism as an ideology that falls outside the norms of society and they identify extremist behavior as those who advocate liberty and want to make the world a better place then it means that someone has already established that it is “normal” in our society for the majority of people to demonize liberty and to be so immoral as to not want to make the world a better place. What is going on at the Department of Defense that someone could actually get away with writing this? I believe just the opposite; the vast majority of Americans want to enjoy liberty and in fact want to make the world a better place.
Many people have always been under the impression, and rightfully so, that the point of American government was to protect liberty in an effort to make the world a better place. That might still be the case but apparently, someone has decided that the prevailing thought is something else. If you are in the group of people who still hold to the traditional, constitutional and liberty-minded school of thought, this document has branded you an extremist. According to this document, traditional American government and constitutionalism is now so far outside the scope of normal society that the Department of Defense must label it “extremism” and incompatible with U.S. military service. The irony here is that in order to become a member of the U.S. Military, one must still swear an oath to the Constitution, at least for now.
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On September 11th, 2001 I was serving as a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps and was living in the barracks at Pearl Harbor while undergoing annual marksmanship training. I remember a Marine from the sniper platoon waking some of us up early that morning, shaking us nearly out of our racks and shouting: We’re being attacked, their hitting New York and the Pentagon!” I remember being filled with an overwhelming sense of urgency and duty, I didn’t know what we were going to do but I knew we were going to do something.
It wasn’t long before our troops were searching for Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan as they battled Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Back home in America, our D.C. politicians were nearly unanimous in their approval of any legislation crossing their desk that promised better security for our nation and almost overnight, the Department of Homeland Security was born to aid in our safety. National Guard troops patrolled our airports for weeks carrying M-16s and everyone seemed to unite and comply with the inconveniences of security as our government sought out the terrorists. Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people.
"Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people."
The nearly unanimous compliance with federal intrusions and mandates have entirely faded away and transformed into a nearly unanimous cry of outrage as we learn that our government will stop at nothing to feed its insatiable appetite for more power over the American people. It is true that many of us eagerly joined our nations leaders in an attempt to be patriotic; most of us did so not once entertaining the notion that the land of the free could somehow turn into the land of constant surveillance. Over the last twelve years many of us have come to an understanding; now realizing that we have been so careless with our liberty that we only miss it now that some of it is gone. The people of America are slowly but steadily waking up to the schemes of our government and yet our unconstitutional overlords continue to shirk responsibility by passing the blame when they have been found out.
We have a President who not only has demonstrated his resolve to maintain indifferent to letting our diplomats and troops meet violent deaths in spite of their pleas for help while they were attacked in Benghazi but he also allows his administration to morally transgress every other reasonable expectation of sound government as well. Earlier this year, the Justice Department secretly seized two months of phone records of editors and reporters from the Associated Press with a “secret warrant.” The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place. Warrants aren’t required for search and seizure in the Bill of Rights to protect the government, they are required to protect the citizen from tyrrany by requiring the government to provide proof to the citizen that checks and balances are being applied through due process to ensure that his rights aren’t being violated. If someone is going to break the law in secret do they really need to get secret permission from another secret person? This is absurd!
"The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place."
Furthermore, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has issued an order to Verizon to force them to turn over millions of their customers phone records to the National Security Agency. What’s even worse was that the order prohibits Verizon from telling anyone including their customers that their records were turned over! This same government has also inquired about purchasing 30,000 aerial drones for domestic use and our President had a really a hard time saying that they won’t be used to kill American citizens. This is what happens when a nation people fail to exercise stewardship over their liberty and jealously guard their God given rights from the abuse of those they have empowered.
The AP scandal, Benghazi, the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, the Fast and Furious cover up and the list continues to grow. Keep in mind that the man occupying the Oval Office in the White House is that same man who earned the votes of millions based on campaign speeches that went like this:
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“I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution…”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
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“I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorist without undermining our constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient, that is not who we are and it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorist…our constitution works.”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
It is at times like this I am reminded of the very wise words of one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, when he warned us, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Foreclosing on our liberty for the sake of security begs the question: What have we really secured? America has a great tradition of protecting freedom and now more than ever we need to hold the federal government accountable and demand answers from our congress and not let them let President Obama get away with his unprecedented overreach and abuse of power.
In 1968, a young Marine Lance Corporal named Stephen Daniel took a few minutes to mourn his friend who he lost in battle the night before in the jungles of Vietnam. The Lance Corporal wrote home to his parents the following night:
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Mom and Dad: Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us. There is no nation to mourn for him or fly our flag at half-mast. Yet this Marine did more for his country than any President or Senator ever did. His name was Corporal Lee Clark.
Just a few years after L.Cpl. Daniel lost his friend, Cpl. Clark, in battle, the U.S. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971. Part of this act set Memorial Day to be observed as the last Monday in May rather than on a particular date on the calendar and with its passage Congress did little more than to create a national three-day weekend. In its 2002 Memorial Day address, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
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"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
Unfortunately, I believe the VFW is right on the mark. While several towns still observe this day of remembrance, many towns and communities have lost their traditional Memorial Day parades to history. Many young people fail to recognize the ultimate sacrifices that American men and women have made during some of the most uncertain times in our nations history. Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words really mean.
By noon on Memorial Day, many people will have spent countless hours and even days planning some type of get-together for their family, friends or co-workers complete with BBQ and lemonade to enjoy as their kids play games in the yard. Many people will enjoy this time with their families and they will be sure to mention a soldier or Marine they know of that didn’t make it home but many others will only think about having a good time.
"Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words actually mean. "
This Memorial Day, please take a moment, not just to think about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but to talk about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Mention to your kids that the reason the school closed down for a day was so they could have time to remember the kids whose father was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. We all need to do what we can to protect the sanctity of Memorial Day; to remember that it has more to do with body bags than BBQ. While we are getting together with some of your friends, lets have enough courage to mention the courage of those 18 year olds who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to enjoy a day off in their honor.
Many people have personally known someone who has paid for our freedom with their life however; I would say that most Americans haven’t had the honor. If you don’t personally know of anyone that you can specifically remember on Memorial Day, lets do L.Cpl. Daniel a favor and remember his buddy Cpl. Lee Clark. Lets think about what L.Cpl. Daniel must have gone through and then think about how hard it must have been for Cpl. Clarks family the moment they received the news that there young son was killed by the enemy half-way around the world while he fought for his life and the life of his Marines. Then remember that these Marines and there families aren’t alone. Let’s not let these heroic deeds go without showing some degree of gratitude; lets be sure to demonstrate our gratefulness. 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl. Tremblay
U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock said it best when he coined the term “Freedom isn’t free.” We have been blessed in America but it has cost our fighting men and their families dearly. To say that freedom isn’t free would also imply that it costs us each something as well. I suppose that if we only depended on the acts of others to keep us free without any sacrifice of our own then our freedom would be free but since freedom “isn’t” free, I would have to ask what have we done, as individuals, for the security of our liberty. Can we honestly say that we have completed the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers to ensure they didn’t give their life in vain? I would argue that each American has a profound duty to guard our freedom however we are able. Whether its working on campaigns or as an activist for some important issue or by showing up on election day to choose your leaders, we all have a responsibility to fight for freedom at home also. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “All gave some, some gave all” but would it be a terrible thing for us to let the greatness of our country slip away, little by little, election after election, only to have some of Americas bravest and youngest have given all for nothing? It is no small weight of responsibility that we bear, as Americans, to ensure that we complete the sacrifices made by our fallen countrymen.
It is incumbent on us to remember that the purpose of our entire government is to help keep us free, the military shares this responsibility at the risk of life and limb. Let us at home support and defend the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and defend. Two of my friends and Marine Corps brothers were killed in action in Iraq. I served with them both back in the early 2000s. I want to thank them both, 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl Tremblay, I miss them and I am honored to have known them and to have served with them and I will never forget what they have done for myself and my fellow Americans and I promise that I will do my best to complete the sacrifice they have made and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.
"I consider the foundation of the [Federal] Constitution as laid on this ground: That "all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people." [10th Amendment]
To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."
--Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791
Among the first orders of business of the First Congress was the debate over establishing a bill of rights. Although the Constitution had made the separation and enumeration of powers very clear, the American people and the States wanted certain rights of the people to be explicitly stated within its text. After securing their independence from Britain, our Founding Fathers understood, better than anyone else, what freedoms a despotic and tyrannical government would attempt to take from the people.
The rights enumerated to the people in the bill of rights are those that are required to be exercised by the people if they are to retain their power over the government. For example, the inherent freedom of speech is one that any despotic government must take in order to control information. After all, knowledge is power; so whoever controls the dissemination of information has the power. Similar to the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, religion, and the right to bear arms and maintain a militia are all just as necessary to the people so they always have the means of establishing themselves as the ultimate authority over the government.
Not everyone believed that the bill of rights was necessary. For example, Alexander Hamilton believed that the structure of the Constitution was enough to bind down the federal government. He explains that the Constitution is set up so that the people of America “surrender nothing” by delegating powers to the central government. In that sense, Hamilton was right. Any federal legislation that falls outside of the confines of the Constitutional limits of Congressional power is by default unconstitutional; it is a breach of contract; it is an invasion of the sovereignty of the State or the States and the will of We the People. In Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton uses the Preamble of the Constitution to explain that a bill of rights is not necessary. Hamilton wrote:
“[Our Constitution is] professedly founded upon the power of the people...Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing; and as they retain everything they have no need of particular reservations. ‘WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ Here is a clear recognition of popular rights...”
Hamilton then went on to reference several articles, sections, and clauses which did, in fact, identify the structure of the new government as one that protects the rights of the people. Hamilton’s main fear was that the enumeration of certain rights would lead to the belief that those certain rights were all the rights of the people and that they were granted by the benevolence of the government. In the end, the will of the people and the States led to the ratification of the bill of rights.
With one hundred proposed amendments supplied to Congress by the States, James Madison initiated the debate. Of the proposed amendments, only ten were selected for ratification as the people’s bill of rights. Two amendments chosen for ratification, the ninth and tenth, were designed to be solid reinforcements of the limited role of the federal government. These two amendments did not enumerate any rights to the people; rather, they were composed in a manner that identified the rights of the people as almost completely unlimited.
The ninth amendment to the United States Constitution was written to explain that the people have rights that go beyond what is expressed in the bill of rights, thus eliminating Hamilton’s fear that a bill of rights would be identified as the entirety of the rights of the people. The Ninth Amendment states:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
The Ninth Amendment gives explicit attention to the protection of liberty by preventing the federal government from reaching beyond its delegated powers. In other words, the Ninth Amendment is saying “just because we list some of the people’s rights it does not mean that we have listed all of the people’s rights.” It also means, “all the rights of the people need to be protected but here is a short list of the ones that need special attention.” The Ninth Amendment is not a delegation of power; it is a statement of understanding The Ninth Amendment ensures the context of the bill of rights as a protection of the people’s liberty; not as granting the peoples liberty. James Madison stated this understanding as he proposed the bill of rights on the House floor when he said:
“It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exception to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration, and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the general government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that may be guarded against.”
Just as the Ninth Amendment is written to reinforce personal liberty, the Tenth Amendment is written to reinforce the limitations of the federal government by making it clear that undelegated powers belong to the people unless given by the people to the States or the federal government. Just in case the Preamble to the Constitution wasn’t clear enough; incase Article 1 Sections 3 and 8 were not made clear at all; in case Article 2 Section 2 and Article 4 Section 4 left the American people wondering whether the States or the federal government had more authority to govern the people, our Founding Fathers added one last reinforcement for State sovereignty. That last reinforcement of State sovereignty came with the ratification of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Tenth Amendment says that before Congress can act, it must point to one of their enumerated powers as the source of their authority; and if they do not have that power enumerated to them, then it is a power left to the people. The Tenth Amendment states:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.”
“All the powers we forgot to give the federal government and all the powers we forgot to tell the States they don’t have....those powers then, are by default, given to the States and to the people.”
“If they didn’t put it in the Constitution then they didn’t put it in Washington!”
It was America’s intent all along to keep the States free from intrusiveness that might someday come from an overbearing and tyrannical central government. Also, many people do not know that Article II of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first form of government, had a similar provision which clearly stated the same point:
“Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress Assembled.”
Much like the previous declaration in the Articles of Confederation, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the scope of federal power as only that power enumerated to the federal government by We the People. All power that is not enumerated to the federal government must necessarily remain with the States or the people. To further assure the American people of this limit on the federal government’s ability to intervene in their lives, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45:
“The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former [federal power] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce...The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
Should the people ever decide to enumerate any more power to the federal government, we can amend the Constitution to legally provide for that delegation of power. We have already discussed the amendment procedure which is detailed in Article 5 of the Constitution.
This is why we call it the federal government; because it is a federation of sovereign States. Governments exist on two levels in America: the defined sovereignty of the federal government and the indefinite sovereignty of the State governments. Madison referred to this when he said, “The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.” State Sovereignty is not unlimited, simply because the States have delegated some power to Congress. States do however have indefinite sovereignty because of the indefinite issues that exist outside of those powers delegated to Congress. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and the drafter of the Bill of Rights, had this to say about the sovereignty of the States:
“[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.”
By this point, we have come to understand that the United States Constitution is saturated with the idea of having sovereign States; free to exercise all the powers reserved to them outside of those delegated to the federal government. Not only have we found that the States have a larger array of powers but we have also found out that the federal government exist only for the benefit of the States so that they may enjoy domestic tranquility, a general welfare and have provided for them, a common defense. We have also discovered that the federal government, according to the Constitution prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, could only operate with the consent of the States. It is obvious, considering the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, that just as our government operates only with our consent for the protection of our rights, so does the federal government operate only with the consent of the States to protect the sovereignty of the States.
Copyright 2012 by Paul Curtman, All rights reserved. Don't Tread On Me! The Constitution and State Sovereignty. 2009
Although one of the most debated issues at the Constitutional Convention was the apportionment of United States Senators to the States, the principles that defined the role of the Senator were understood and agreed upon. From the text of Article 1 Section 3, prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, we understand that the role of Senator is designed to be a check on the Federal government from the State in a sole effort by the State to maintain it’s Constitutional sovereignty. Here is the first part of Article 1 Section 3 prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, explains the purpose of having US Senators and the reason they were originally appointed by the State legislatures. Madison believed that in order for the States to protect the freedom of their citizens, they must be active participants in the affairs of the Federal government. Here are Madison’s words:
“Whenever power may be necessary for the national government, a certain portion must be necessarily left with the states, it is impossible for one power to pervade the extreme parts of the United States so as to carry equal justice to them. The state legislatures also ought to have some means of defending themselves against the encroachments of the national government. In every other department we have studiously endeavored to provide for its self-defense. Shall we leave the states alone un-provided with the means for this purpose? And what better means can be provided than by giving them some share in, or rather make them a constituent part of, the national government?”
I like how Madison started out by saying "Whenever power may be necessary for the national government..." because he is implying that the national government does not always need power. The state legislatures, he says, must have a means of defending themselves against the encroachments by the federal legislature and the best way to do that is to give the states a mechanical function within the federal legislature. That is the purpose of the Uited States Senate- to jealously guard the jurisdiction of the states. So now, in those cases in which the federal government does need to exercise power, it can only do it with the advise and the consent of the states; if the states approve, the senate will approve.
According to Article 1 Section 3, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, United States Senators were chosen by the Legislatures of the States; this provided the States with the appropriate means of defense. This method of establishing Senators by appointment would do a tremendous service for protecting the sovereignty of the individual States in more than one way. First of all, the office of United States Senator would be an appointed position made by elected state legislators, thus encouraging the Senator to follow the orders of the state if for nothing more than the sake of job security. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison said that select appointments were recommended for the purpose of:
“Giving to the state governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government, as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.”
By allowing the States to appoint their own Senators, the Individual State would then have the necessary means of defending itself against the encroachments of the national government. The Constitution provides other resources for the protection of State sovereignty, but as Madison pointed out, what better means can be provided to the protection of the States then by making them an actual mechanical part of the workings of the national government; establishing Senators whose duty is bound to their State and not the nation as a whole. An appointed Senator would be given the office by the elected State legislatures and sent to the Federal government in Washington DC to be a check on the Federal government; duty bound to represent and protect the sovereignty of his State from federal encroachments.
Another reason behind the appointment procedure is so that if the Senator was not representing the will and the sovereignty of the State, then the State legislature could convene and remove him from office and appoint another in his place to serve a term of six years. In other words, although US Senators served six year terms, they could be “hired and fired” if necessary in order for each State to maintain its individual sovereignty. I have heard Americans voice their disappointment time and again when their Senator ignores them; refusing to hear them or represent them in Washington DC. The only solution anyone ever has to this predicament is to wait until the six year term of the wayward Senator expires and then vote him out of office. Our Founding Fathers had a better idea however when they drafted the Constitution. Before the 17th Amendment, US Senators would routinely meet with State legislatures in order to discuss the goings on of the federal government and the states positions on the various issues. The Senator was in a position where he must act on behalf of his State alone and not the influence of lobbyists, friends, the President or even a political party; he almost had to be a statesman or else he may lose his job.
Here is something else to think about, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, US Senators never had to raise millions of dollars in order to campaign for an election. This eliminated all kinds of problems that pertain to temptation, corruption, making campaign promises that they never intend to keep as well as all the baggage that goes into becoming and staying popular. The role of the United States Senator is to protect the sovereignty of his individual State so that the State legislatures can operate freely based on the will of the people that elected them. This is the only way to maintain the principle of governing with the consent of the governed, and our Constitution is structured to ensure citizen consent from the federal level all the way down to the State and even local levels. Considering the original process by which US Senators were seated, I think is it fair to assume that state legislatures would be seen as more important than they are given credit for today and thereby encourage more government participation at the State level.
With the ratification of the 17th amendment, we have allowed the duty of United States Senators to blow with the political wind away from the States and into whatever means of security they think will keep them in office. The 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the States on April 8th, 1913. The first sentence reads as follows:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
When the States ratified the 17th amendment to the US Constitution, a fundamental change took place that was for the most part completely unintended. To put it simply, the unfortunate change was the turning of Senators from statesman into politicians. Instead of being duty bound to the sill of the state government, US Senators are now duty bound to the party, the popular ideas or even emotional trends. The problems with the 17th amendment have even been recognized by US Senators including one from Georgia, former US Senator Zell Miller, who stated from the floor of the Senate:
“Direct elections of Senators…allowed Washington’s special interest to call the shots, whether it is filling judicial vacancies, passing laws, or issuing regulations.”
With the ratification of the 17th amendment, the American people have thrown the United States Senator from off the principled pedestal of statesmanship and into the arena of power politics. Although the process by which we place our Senators has changed, one thing has not changed- why we have them.
In my humble opinion, it does not matter so much how our senators are chosen near as much as the character of the senators we choose; the job description of a US Senator has not been amended or repealed, they are still there to protect the sovereignty of the states; we just need to make sure they understand that.
Copyright 2012 by Paul Curtman, Don't Tread On Me! The Constitution and State Sovereignty.
“I Like The Founding Fathers -Except for their foreign policy.”
Understanding Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy
Like many conservatives, I have been watching the presidential debates between the GOP candidates. I talk with others about the debates and I have noticed a trend among the conservatives. Many of them like different candidates but when it comes to Ron Paul, I almost always hear people say something like, “I like Ron Paul- except for his foreign policy.” The more I listened to Congressman Paul explain his position on foreign policy, the closer I came to understanding his point of view and although I do not agree 100% with any candidate on the issues, I believe that Ron Paul’s foreign policy is closer aligned to keeping with the principles of liberty and the Constitution than any current GOP candidate.
People are under the impression that Ron Paul is an isolationist because he wants to bring our troops home from the 130 countries were we have them and he wants to stop going into countries like Somalia, Kosovo, Libya, Georgia, Iraq, Uganda, the Philippines… to “spread democracy”. A policy of non-interventionism is not by any means isolationism. Japan was an isolationist nation until Commodore Matthew Perry sailed a fleet of U.S. ships into the Bay of Tokyo with four war ships and demanded that Japan trade with the West. Ron Paul does not want to seclude America from the rest of the world, he wants America to operate our foreign policy according to the Constitution and follow the advice of the founding fathers.
I personally believe that America should strive to follow principles in all we do and not be so inclined to cave to the temptations of political smooth talk or our emotional responses to current happenings. Give this some thought: We borrow and spend our way into trillions of dollars worth of debt, sacrificing the lives of America’s youth so we can intervene in Libya, Kosovo, Somalia and even Iraq to “protect” and “liberate” civilians but then we turn a blind eye to similar dynamics in Rwanda, Darfur and even Yemen because we consider that nation an ally in the war on terror. How can anybody look at that foreign policy and still come to the conclusion that we are using principles to guide our actions? At what point will we realize that we should institute guiding principles instead of relying on emotional or otherwise unprincipled responses to pull us around the global maze. If you were to ask me, I would say let’s follow the Constitution and seek the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
All of our Founding Fathers had an opinion on foreign policy but in my humble opinion, the best words on the issue came from our second President, John Adams. In looking ahead at what future generations of wise men would say about American, Adams wrote,
"If wise and learned philosophers of the elder world…. Should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: …She has uniformly spoken among them …the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights; …she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles through which she clings as to the last vital drop that visits the heart."
Much like Adams says, we have been a standard bearer of freedom and liberty in the world but unfortunately we have not abstained from intervening in the concerns of others. Today, many Americans have a much different perspective of our role in the world.
America spends billions of dollars every year doling out money in the form of foreign aid and it doesn’t do anything to secure the liberty of the American people. America is also the only member of the United Nations that currently pays the maximum amount in annual dues to the U.N. and the U.N. still continues to work against our interest at every turn. I won’t even mention that the U.N. has no respect for our Republic. What happened to following the Constitution and the wisdom of the founders when it comes to foreign policy? America has no moral obligation to spend tax dollars and our troops’ lives on anything but the security of our own liberty and property. Adams continues,
"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all… She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication [meaning to dissolve political connections… [The] fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force… She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit…"
Does this sound like anyone from the Democrat or Republican party today? President Obama bombs Yemen, sends troops into Libya and Uganda. President Clinton committed American lives and money to Kosovo, Somalia etc.… President Bush sent troops to the countries of Georgia, Iraq, and Afghanistan etc.…. America is currently using tax dollars and borrowed money from China to fund troops in about 130 countries around the world, while at the same time our border is still wide open and our national debt is now on its way to 16 trillion dollars. Our Founding Fathers advised us to respect the sovereignty of other nations in spite of how much we might disagree with them. John Adams warned us against becoming a nation determined to exercise force as a means of influence but rather he counseled us to cling to the virtues of liberty in order to fuel the self-determination of others around the world that they might pursue the agenda of freedom. Can we really have confidence that others have grasped the concept of freedom when we implement policy from the barrel of a gun? Is it really consistent with the principles of liberty to force someone to accept a political ideology that they either do not want or are not mentally or even emotionally prepared for?
Obviously John Adams believed in a non-interventionist foreign policy; he didn’t think it was our place to police the world or use military force to “spread democracy.” If we commit ourselves to the habit of dictating policies to other nations, haven’t we failed to heed Adams warning of becoming the “dictatress of the world?” Ask yourself how our intervention in Somalia did anything to protect Americans’ liberty and property. How is being a member of the U.N., who uses our money to carry out liberty-stealing policies all over the world, any different from just stealing people’s liberty ourselves?
The more I read the more I am convinced that our Founders were ready to trade with anyone and everyone but they were not ready to assume a position of entanglement unless our security and liberty depended on it. John Adams wasn’t alone. George Washington, the Father of our country, was a strict non-interventionist. In fact, Washington had a great deal to say about how careful we should be with our foreign policy when he wrote,
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible…. Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of Europe ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?"
George Washington, the great general that lead us to independence and then served two terms as our first President, strongly advised the American people to have little to do with involving ourselves in the affairs of other nations. In this particular paragraph, he is specific about warning us against involving ourselves with European politics but still encouraging commerce. Washington continues,
"A passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils… against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizen) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful woes of Republican Government… The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop."
If we would start to adhere to the advice of George Washington, our tax dollars would immediately begin to serve our immediate interest again and our men and women in uniform would come home. There will always be evil in the world, but our Founding Fathers were surely the wisest and best to encourage us to not extend our jurisdiction beyond the interest of the security of our liberty. Now we must ask ourselves this one important question: Was George Washington wrong?
Unconstitutional WarsIt is very disappointing to me to stand shoulder to shoulder with conservatives who are adamant about following the Constitution but as soon as the issue of war comes up they dismiss the Constitution as being inconvenient to the times we live in; the same excuse liberals use for taking away your 2nd Amendment rights, etc. In the 2008 presidential debates, the MSNBC moderator asked the candidates what would justify their use of military force to wage war with Iran. Mitt Romney’s answer was that his lawyers would help him decide if he should wage war. Ron Paul stood out in stark contrast to ALL other candidates when he said,
“This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me, why don’t we just open up the Constitution and read it, you’re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war …”
Congressman Paul elaborated on the powers of the President when faced with an imminent threat rather than the escalation of force which traditionally leads to war, specifically stating that the President has power at all times to use the military to defend such imminent threats.
But what does the Constitution say? Article I Section 8 of the Constitution states Congress has the power to declare war, indicating that if we go to war, it is because Congress declared it. The problem with our current wars is that there was no formal declaration. There was no mission statement and no way to know when we had achieved absolute victory. This is just one reason why there is all this talk about a timetable to have the troops out of Iraq as though we’re planning a road trip to Disneyland. This is also why our troops have to fight bureaucrats for proper rules of engagement that will allow them to actually fight; instead, they’re told not to return fire into a mosque so we can appear sensitive to the feelings of our enemies.
George Washington never considered the thought of using the military to make war without a declaration by Congress. Washington is probably the one man in American history who could have singlehandedly overthrown the new government and made himself king with hardly any dissent but he was still humble enough to acknowledge the authority of the Constitution. Washington once wrote of this issue,
"The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."
The President does not have the Constitutional authority to engage in war against another nation without direct orders from Congress. In a message to Congress in 1805, our third President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote,
"Considering that Congress alone is Constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force in any degree which could be avoided."
Please keep in mind that Ron Paul has made it clear that he understands that there is a difference between authorizing military action for defensive operations and actually going to war with another country.
In 1973, Congress created the War Powers Resolution which requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. One problem with this is that once troops are committed, it is hard to just pull them out of action. Once the President does ask Congress to fund his little war, Congress will do it because most of them are spineless politicians, concerned more about what it would look like to their constituents if they voted to not fund the President’s operation than actually following the Constitution.
By not following the Constitution, we have allowed so much war-making authority to be granted to the President, something our Founders vehemently warned against. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, James Madison, wrote,
"The Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature."
In 1787, another of our Founding Fathers, James Wilson, said of the issue,
"This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large..."
One of the latest examples of a breach in Constitutional restraints happened quite recently. May 20, 2011 marked the 60th day of US combat in Libya, but the deadline arrived without President Obama seeking specific authorization from the US Congress. President Obama, however, notified Congress that no authorization was needed, since the US leadership was transferred to NATO. See how this works? We stop using the Constitution, the President commits our men and women to war and then passes them off to the command of foreigners with your tax dollars and he does it all by himself. People get upset when we are taxed without representation but today, the President will send your 18-year-old son into gunfire without asking Congress or the Constitution for permission. If by some chance your son doesn’t make it home, the President will send you a letter that he never actually wrote and give you your son’s medals in a box. So now ask yourself this: Is the President right to have his way with our troops? Or is Ron Paul right to follow the Constitution and the advice of the founders when it comes to foreign policy and engaging in war?
Our Founding Fathers intended for war making powers to remain in Congress because they understood better than anyone else that war is a serious commitment that will either change the lives of thousands or end the lives of thousands altogether and therefore the people must have a say in the commitment. It is Congress that provides the voice of the people with the most direct route to the ear of the federal government. If it is the American people who are going to make the sacrifice, then a war commitment should be left entirely up to the will of the people.
In order to join the military, our men and women have to take an oath to the Constitution, at which point they are issued body armor and rifles because the oath they took is that important. Isn’t it entirely reasonable then to demand that our President be held accountable and not wage war without a constitutional declaration?
After the signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin told his fellow signers, "Gentlemen, we must now hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately." The point is this: Our Founding Fathers signed their name to the Declaration of Independence and then sent it to King George III to basically say, "If you get through our troops, you know who to come for!" Our Founding Fathers had something that is seriously lacking in Washington D.C. today; it’s called CHARACTER and because of that lack of character, our troops have become political leverage. Who is to blame? We are. Many conservatives have decided that it is more important to be pro-war than it is to be pro-constitution.
The next time one of our Navy SEALs, Marines or Army Rangers is court-martialed and imprisoned for doing what we asked them to do, just remember that it could have been avoided if our U.S. Congressman would have demanded that we handle things the way the Constitution prescribes. The federal government is becoming less accountable as the Constitution continues to be dismissed as “inconvenient,” even by those who espouse to be conservatives.
Even if the Constitution needs a foreign policy fix, then let’s amend it according to Article V.
It seems to me that Ron Paul is the only one who is following the advice of our Founding Fathers on this issue but don’t ask yourself if Ron Paul is wrong. Ask yourself if you think Washington, Adams and Jefferson are wrong. Ask yourself if you think the Constitution is wrong.
An Afterthought: Cutting Defense Spending IS NOT THE SAME AS Cutting DefenseOne of the biggest arguments I get for why we need our military everywhere is that the world is just so globalized we have to pretty much be all over the place. Really? Have you seen the Air Force Reserve commercials lately? They go something like this,
“Hi, my name is Mary Smith and last weekend I flew a reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan… I’m a hair stylist the rest of the month but thanks to the Air Force, I can take pictures and drop bombs without ever leaving Las Vegas!”
Our own military recruiting commercials are testifying every day on national television that we do not need to be half the places we are actually sending people and even for those places that we are sending troops there is still plenty of pork to cut from defense. For example, when I left active duty in 2003, the Marine Corps was in the process of phasing out most of the cooks and base security and replacing them with civilian contractors. So here is what it looks like to you, the tax payer: an 18-year-old Marine volunteered to cook for $800 a month but we are firing him and replacing him with a civilian contractor to cook for five times that amount. Sounds like a good idea. They are doing the same thing with base security overseas. Does anybody really think it is a good idea to spend more money just so we can use the local people to protect us from the local people when our troops are overseas? We can cut defense spending by cutting this nonsense out of the budget.
Here is a plan to cut defense spending and increase preparedness for our military: Let’s start bringing our troops home from overseas bases and put them on the borders to the North and the South so they can train for every climate and terrain while at the same time deploying security patrols to stop the illegal immigration problem as well as the problems we are having with human trafficking etc… We wouldn’t need to spend the money on a fence; we wouldn’t need to hire overseas contractors, and our troops would still be the best trained in the world.
How do you feel about the $1.2 TRILLION debt we are in to cover the cost of wars that Congress didn’t even declare? It is hard to make the argument that we are against unconstitutional spending – unless it’s for an unconstitutional war.
After reading Congressman Paul's articles and books and hearing him speak, I can say with confidence that his general message is simply to adhere to the Consitution and the advice of the Founders. If we did, maybe we could get a handle on security at a fraction of the cost of what we’re spending now.