First As Tragedy….

Dr. Marvin J. Folkertsma,

Karl Marx famously quipped that great historical events and personages appear twice, first as tragedy and second as farce. The tragedy he had in mind was the French Revolution and the farce was its pale successor that took place in France in 1848. To the contrary, events leading up to the revolution turn Marx’s formulation around, in that farce preceded tragedy. A second example that demonstrates this historical dyslexia was an attempt to forestall the Civil War called the Crittenden Compromise. Both historical occurrences offer hard lessons for political leaders today.

First, events leading to the French Revolution demonstrate a sort of perfect storm of fiscal insanity by a regime that, in modern parlance, was enthralled to its political “base” at the expense of responsibility to the great majority of citizens in the most advanced country in Europe. The problem began at the top with Louis XVI, an unimaginative slob who was more interested in gluttony than governing; his most insightful observation was that he was not fit for the job that fell into his lap when his grandfather, Louis XV, died in 1774. The elder left him with an aristocracy that was expensive, parasitic, politically intransigent, and economically harmful. He also bequeathed a huge debt dating back to Louis XIV. This trio of Louises left France bankrupt.

Now a responsible leader would have exercised leadership by hiring tough and experienced counselors, acting on their advice, and dealing with the problem aggressively, but Number XVI did none of that. Instead, he continued to seek short-term political advantage, blaming and firing advisers and much more, against the backdrop of looming national catastrophe. The fiscal mess did not get better, and in fact took a huge turn for the worse when the horrible winter of 1788-89 afflicted the country, instigating famine, hatred, radicalism, and eventually revolution. The only thing left for Louis to do was to call for a meeting of the Estates General, inaugurating a series of events that eventually led to his beheading.

Many lessons emerge from this experience. For one, real reform is impossible unless you have a leader with the stomach for the job and, frankly, the courage to carry it out. Second, playing musical chairs with advisers is a waste of time; ministers come and go, but unless hard decisions are made, problems remain. Statesmanship succumbed to farce in that Louis XVI’s thick-headed efforts to keep his regime in power and avoid tragedy virtually guaranteed its occurrence on a much vaster scale.

Pairing these points with the lesson of the Crittenden Compromise completes our story. This proposal was a last-ditch effort to preserve the Union by restoring the Missouri Compromise, forbidding the….

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The Huffington Post Gets Punk’d

Ben Johnson, The White House Watch

Despite a newfound reputation as an unbiased news source, an influx of hundreds of millions of dollars, and the new ownership of a massive media conglomerate, The Huffington Post is apparently incapable of fact-checking the articles that appear on its website. An entry posted late this morning on the website attributes an apparently erroneous quotation to Sen. John McCain.

The line comes in a Huffington Post article written by legal scholar Bruce Fein entitled, “McCain Dethrones the Rule of Law.”

This author reported last month that Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against Bill Clinton, has drafted articles of impeachment against Barack Obama over the president’s unwise, unauthorized, and unconstitutional military action against Libya. This author is fully supportive of Fein’s goals and actions on this matter.

Unfortunately, it appears an online prank got past him – and The Huffington Post.

Too-Subtle Satire

Fein quotes McCain as saying, “Any [p]resident, Republican or Democrat, should be able to deploy armed forces whenever and wherever he deems necessary.”

This author has written extensively about the president’s usurpation of the Congress’ war-making power, as well as the collective Congressional abdication led by John McCain. After reading Fein’s article, I started to include the quotation in a short post on the topic. However, I could find no authentication for it anywhere.

It appears to have originated on the website of the Arizona Sunlight, which bills itself as….

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Obama’s War on Free Speech Heats Up

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson,

Free speech has always been one of our most cherished rights. It has come under attack repeatedly by those who find it to be an inconvenient and unwanted obstacle to the attainment of their political goals. Sometimes, those in positions of power ignore the First Amendment and issue laws and regulations to silence their opponents. Other times, politicians or citizens work on an unofficial level, resorting to influence or intimidation to achieve censorship.

President John Adams signed the Sedition Act to criminalize “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Americans didn’t like the federal government censoring expression or presuming to determine truth, so they canned Adams in the next election.

Abraham Lincoln jailed newspapermen whose comments on the Civil War were not to his liking.

In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, effectively curtailing employers’ freedom to talk with their own employees about their company’s financial condition and the affordability of wages and benefits.

Both Roosevelt and Richard Nixon imposed various wage and price controls. Since prices are the language through which present value is communicated between potential buyers and sellers, they essentially banned a form of free economic speech.

The assault on free speech seems to have accelerated in recent years. Freelance censors on the Left have prevented dozens of conservatives from giving scheduled speeches on college campuses by shouts, chants, and even physical aggression.

A favorite tactic of….

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