So then, it appears as though the president is making a hash of it. The Unaffordable Care Act supplies the corned beef, the hard leftism of his administration would be the little diced potatos that we see everywhere, and this latest scandal triad is the hot grease that makes the whole thing sizzle and pop like that.
Now in this circumstance, every chance he gets, the president will blame Bush for his woes, and will do so in a way that is more risible every day. So let’s not do it that way. Let’s blame the so-called conservative establishment in the way they need to be blamed for all these federal fiascos. They are to be faulted because they think like short-sighted partisans, and not like the Founders, who thought with an expansive vision — a vision that included both the greatness of the cultural mandate and a deep suspicion of man’s sinfulness. Our modern conservative leaders are like the man driving a local delivery route with his Fritos truck. The Founders were coast-to-coast long haul truckers.
The legal theorist John Rawls once said that the ideal society ought to be crafted with the designer of it not knowing where he was going to be born into it. This is, of course, simply an interesting variation of the Golden Rule. It would be edifying to meditate on that for a while, but we don’t have time. I want to modify it still further. A judicious designer of a political system will design it — as the Founders most emphatically did — without knowing the character of those who were going to be operating the machinery of government. You build your Justice Department not knowing if Edmond Randolph or Eric Holder is going to be the Attorney-General. You contruct the office of president, limiting its powers sharply, because you do not know who is going to be sitting in that chair — Madison or Nixon, Harrison or Cleveland, Reagan or Obama. Assume the worst, and design the limitations accordingly.
True politics is about maintaining the machinery. Trash politics is all about getting your guy to operate it.
Take one of these scandals — the wide gathering of phone records from AP reporters. The justification for that came from the Patriot Act, a Bush contribution. That was a mechanism that was ostensibly built to protect us from terrorists, and which mechanism was promptly handed over to a Hard Left administration — gliding smoothly over to the next scandal — that was going to use its taxing powers to profile any group that dared to have patriot in their name. Who is in charge of running the Patriot Act these days? An administration that despises patriots, that’s who. And who did this to us?
Our tendency is to evaluate based on what the government does or doesn’t do, instead of evaluating on the basis of what the government — with the powers assigned to it — is capable of doing. We want our choices to reduce to a left wing party that can throw billions away on green energy and does, and a right wing party that can throw billions away on green energy and virtuously decides not to. How about a government is not allowed to even think about it?
In the Navy, we used to call vending machines gedunk machines. You put your money in, pulled on the knob, and gedunk, there was your candy bar. We are living in the age of gedunk government. Everybody stands in front of the vending machine, with the attention span of a hummingbird with ADHD, and waits impatiently for their product. There are right wing products and left wing products, but everybody wants their product now. Nobody thinks anymore about who is building the machines. Nobody thinks about what might happen if the supplier of the machine sells to another distributor. What might happen then?
Bush thought that his “job one” was to protect us from terrorists, when his real job one was to protect us from Obama. My chances of getting blown up by a terrorist are very small, virtually nil. My chances of having to deal with swarms of officers who eat out my substance are very high. In fact, they are doing it right this minute. Incidentally, I should note that certain phrases in that earlier sentence came from an inflammatory document called the Declaration that might get me flagged as a problematic citizen in any future dealings I might have with the IRS. The terrorists don’t care if I quote the Declaration.
So whose job is it to protect us from people like that?
None of this is said with the naivete that characterizes some doctrinaire libertarians. Terrorism is a threat out there in the world, and it was certainly a high threat in Benghazi. There are limited places where I do not begrudge security — but it has to be in the right place, governed by the rule of law, and it has to be security, not TSA security theater. And when I say governed by the rule of law, I mean that it must not be allergic to warrants and probable cause.
Having said that, I move on to the central point, which is that true conservative statesmen know how to identify the real threats, and they know how to rank them. If you are a businessman traveling to Dubai, you have to take the threat of terrorism seriously. But if you are settled in the homeland, spang in the middle of Nebraska say, Homeland Security is a much greater threat to you right there in the homeland than some screaming beard in Cairo is.
I am still waiting (patiently) for some conservative leadership that appears to know anything at all about this.