The two greatest documents in the history of America were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For over a hundred years, these documents were revered and used as the basis for political decision-making in the United States.
The Declaration of Independence was a statement of grievances and the rationale for separation from the English monarchy. It was a cry for the dignity and freedom of mankind against the abuses of a tyrannical government. Significantly, 27 specific grievances were listed against the British crown.
The Constitution was the framework that governed the relationships between the federal government, the various states, and the American citizenry. It described how government was to function in America’s new Democratic Republic. To prevent the federal government from amassing too much power and control, the Constitution contained a system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Enumerated or limiting powers were spelled out as well. As a final gesture to liberty, America’s founders added a Bill of Rights that gave specific rights to citizens and states.
The founders of the United States of America had built the central government on the premise that the government that governs least governs best. They had built a government based on the rule of law and trust in the decency and wisdom of individual citizens.
But the Constitution stood in opposition to the appetite of politicians, and a central government with virtually unlimited power grew well beyond constitutional limits.
Joe knew that America’s founders would have been shocked but not surprised at this course of events. History had demonstrated time and again the tendencies of politicians to concentrate power and distance themselves from the people. However, the founders would have been particularly dismayed that the American citizenry had tolerated attacks on the Bill of Rights. They should have known that this was dangerous to their “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
From the beginning of the American democratic republic there had been contentious debates about the size, scope and intrusiveness of the central government. Within short order, differences of governing philosophy led to the rise of political parties and partisan political warfare. By the time of the Gulf oil spill, the political landscape was dominated by two major political parties.
The Democrat Party consistently favored an ever bigger federal government. Taken over the by progressive movement, its politics were focused on creating and maintaining a social welfare state that not only “cared” for the American citizenry but the world at large. As such, redistribution of wealth, global environmentalism, international unionization and the dominance of favored groups over individual interests was at the core of the Democrat Party ideology.
The Republican Party, on the other hand, “functioned” to defend the limited government and traditional ideals of the founders. Republicans favored free markets and individual liberties along with a strong national defense. They believed that America’s citizens should be served not subjugated by the actions of government. Unfortunately, many Republican office holders acted like their Democrat counterparts when it came to spending, borrowing, taxation, – and the exercise of arbitrary power.
At the time of the spill, the federal government was utterly controlled by a Democrat President and Congress. A key feature of the President’s political agenda was opposition to oil drilling and the promotion of “Green” initiatives both nationally and internationally.
The governors of the Gulf states were Republicans. Their interests were in cleaning up the spill and getting their oil, fishing and recreation industries repaired and back to normal quickly.
Partisan warfare erupted when the Democrat administration placed a six month moratorium on all Gulf drilling. To Gulf state governors, this was a devious and politically motivated assault on their economies and citizens. Individuals employed by the oil industry were suddenly thrown out of work. Already depleted state unemployment funds took another major hit. More small businesses shut down. It appeared that a federal government constitutionally mandated to support and defend the people was operating as an impediment to the people.
Joe realized that behind all of the partisanship was a very important question. How could an ever larger and more bloated federal government handle sudden unpredictable future events? The most obvious answer was that it couldn’t. Nothing happened easily or quickly at the federal level, and much that happened was counterproductive. Essentially the founders had it right. Get government out of the way of the American people and let them solve the problems that arise.
Congresswoman Janine Newman-Cortez
The oath of office for an elected Congressman is as follows:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
Joe knew that very few elected officials honored that oath, and Congresswoman Janine Newman-Cortez was no different. And if truth be told, she found it less than useful when the occasional constituent reminded her of the meaning of that oath.
The Congresswoman had “arrived” in Congress through a combination of hard work, a bit of luck when her predecessor died suddenly of a stroke, and a marriage that gave her a very useful last name. On every ballot in her largely Hispanic district, she would list her name as J. N. Cortez. It worked every time to get her elected to the U. S. House of Representative from the State of California.
Long-term office holders bothered Joe. From his experience, Joe knew that most of the best ideas of a “new hire” came to the fore within the first few years of employment. Not only was a new employee learning a job, but questioning established corporate rituals and pre-conceived notions. Conversely, long term employees often became comfortable and complacent in their work, – and then developed a sense of job entitlement.
Notably, Congresswoman Newman-Cortez motivation was to stay in power and enjoy the fruits of office. And thanks to the knowledge accrued through decades in office and an excellent staff, she won her office almost every time with at least 70% of the vote.
Newman-Cortez in Government
Newman-Cortez had few friends in Washington circles. Those who claimed friendship knew she was good at making speeches “with lots of sound and fury signifying nothing” and providing constituent services to those she favored. To anyone who paid attention, however, she was untrustworthy. The kind of friend to be carefully watched.
Her enemies in the Congress, and there were many, referred to her as “Newman” after the post office mail carrier from the long running and successful “Seinfeld” comedy show. The imagery fit like a glove as she was both devious and given to bizarre emotional outbursts.
Newman as a Green
Although the Congresswoman represented a district heavily dependent on agriculture, she was also a member of the “Green” caucus that advocated solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy. The “Green” agenda fit the Congresswoman’s progressive Democrat ideology because it favored the ideas of international governance as the only way to control environmental destruction.
“Newman” constantly railed against dirty coal and big oil. The fact that oil and coal had saved hundreds of millions of lives over the past few hundred years was forgotten or deliberately distorted in her quest to “Stop Global Warming”. As such, she was a reasonably reliable vote against drilling or mining anywhere in the United States and its immediate surrounding waters. She had seen to it that off shore drilling was well away from the Gulf continental shelf.
The Congresswoman was silent on nuclear power because in the early days of her political career she had been ardently against nuclear power plants. Since it was unclear which way the political winds would shift in the future, she viewed it best to stay away from the issue. In any event, a proposal for a nuclear power plant would take at least a decade for the environmental approvals and construction to be completed. She would be retired by then and enjoying her very luxurious federal pension and substantial wealth.
What concerned Joe about “Newman” was that she demonstrated the very problem he had predicted some decades earlier. The politics of the environment had proved to be an excellent way to beat up an opponent and appeal to an uneducated and emotionally propagandized populace. After all, how could anyone disagree with a cleaner and safer planet?
The Politician and the Bureaucracy
The average American citizen was unaware that legislation had little meaning until it was turned into regulation. It was regulation, and of course money, that caused action to occur. And in that transition, strange things could and did happen.
Joe knew from personal experience that it was not unusual for a Congressional action to be transformed magically by regulation into something unrecognizable or even the opposite of what was intended. This translation problem was why Congressmen and women had large staffs, and Congress itself an extensive bureaucracy.
Congresswoman Newman-Cortez seldom followed the creation of regulations. After all, if she didn’t read the law she signed, then things were best left to the bureaucrats and lobbyists. About the only time she got involved was when some well-heeled campaign donor complained that a particular regulation was causing some type of business or personal distress.
It became particularly interesting when the distress related to a conflict between agriculture and the environment. If the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency were in conflict, the question always was which one was more important politically to her and to the folks who kept her supplied with money and votes.
“Newman” had to tread carefully. She had seen the environmental movement attack and the EPA then regulate 30,000 farmers and farm workers out of business over a small fish. To make sure that she was protected to the greatest extent against an environmental misstep, “Newman” relied on Kor for information about the interests of the environmental movement.
The devil’s bargain with Kor was that she had to be the strongest possible advocate for government funding of environmental initiatives. If the EPA budget was large and growing, Kor would see his Federation of the Earth prosper and grow. Between, government grants, corporate contracts, and individual donors, Kor was a success by virtually any and every measure – and he knew the success was at least partially tied to the Congresswoman.
The Politician and the Press
The first amendment to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Joe knew that the reason for this amendment’s focus on the press was that the founder’s knew their experiment in individual liberty demanded an openly informed populace. Citizens who could not easily be fooled or bribed by politicians would act to correct problems with government.
The wisdom of the founders was often seen in other countries where a free press did not exist and where “dear” leaders kept their own reporters and news organizations. In these oppressive countries, it was not unusual for media opposition to be forced underground, jailed without trial, or killed off. Dissent was not to be tolerated when the central government controlled all things and all people.
The founders also understood that the average politician would try to co-opt the press. However, they expected that “freedom of the press” in the Bill of Rights would encourage the press to “speak truth to power”. Unfortunately, over time, it became easy for the politicians to coerce the press into accepting a trade where political access for the news reporter was tied to increased exposure for the politician.
Joe knew that the worse part of this trade was that most news reporters shared a particular ideology and promoted politicians who shared that ideology. When forced by circumstances to cover a politician with an opposing point of view, reporters asked much tougher and biased questions in hopes that a “gotcha” moment would occur. Over time, politicized news reporters mixed opinions, lies, known mistakes, and improperly vetted information with facts.
If caught in an abuse of the news, a reporter would quickly cover bad behavior by simply letting the story die or finding a “more” important story. Move it along was the comfortable way to escape individual and corporate responsibility and accountability. Rare was the reporter who was fired or forced to apologize.
This whole set of behavior angered Joe. The press, in whom so much trust had been placed by the founders, had become lazy, sloppy and biased. Their behavior skewed the views of America’s citizenry and forced the Constitution more and more into the background of American politics.
To Joe, a propagandized citizenry was not the enlightened citizenry envisioned by the founders. The press’ pen that was supposed to be mightier than the government sword had shamefully bowed in allegiance to it, thus abdicating its sacred duty to the American republic.
The Politician and the People
The most often quoted words in the Declaration of Independence are:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
However, there is another set of words that immediately follow and these words carry the power of the People when it comes to the very nature of government itself.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it“.
The relationship between the American people and the American politician was historically one of mutual suspicion. Very few national figures enjoyed legendary status, and George Washington was certainly the greatest of them. Among the amazing leaders in world history, Washington disavowed the opportunity to be a king. Instead, he trusted the American people to do the right and moral thing by allowing them to select the leadership for their new country. For this act of service he was voted into office as America’s First elected President. After two terms in office, he refused to run again and retired into private life.
With the rare exception of great men like Washington, the individual freedoms of speech, assembly, self-defense and religion were always a problem for the politician. It was not unusual for a constituent to lambast an elected official in a town hall meeting, through a letter, or in the news media. When citizens assembled to condemn a politician or political action, removal from office and disgrace was a real possibility. Self-defense meant that citizens were armed, and could potentially threaten revolution. Religion and God constituted an alternative form of power unreachable by the politician.
To combat these citizen created problems, politicians and the courts nibbled away at the edges of the Bill of Rights:
Not only couldn’t someone yell fire in a crowded theater, but the nebulous concept of hate speech was placed into law as a crime with punishment attached. As might be expected, Newman favored the hate speech laws because her progressive philosophy was based on victim’s rights. Joe knew that the founders would have been angered at this turn of events. They would have pointed out that one man’s hate speech was almost certainly another man’s cry for liberty.
Citizen assembly was restricted through the use of quickly granted public permits for favored groups – or delays and costly fees for politically incorrect groups. This abusive political “game” was especially directed at religious events and patriotic groups. Joe had seen this up front and personal when a patriotic group he was working for had been stymied to the point of near abandonment of their event. In the end, although the event took place, it cost thousands of dollars to do what should have cost virtually nothing.
The right of self-defense was hammered continuously by anti-gun politicians and their judicial allies. This in the face of overwhelming evidence that the police could not reliably stop a crime in progress even when it was reported. Of course, Newman was anti-gun even though she carried a gun and was well protected by trained and armed security guards. Kor was anti-hunting but he too carried a gun for self-defense. Joe noted the astounding hypocrisy.
Religion is a powerful force. It stood when governments rose and fell. It offered things that no politician could offer – an eternity with a living God and an earthly set of moral principles to live by. As a result, Congresswoman Newman despised religion. It was clearly a threat to the secular socialist ideals of progressives. She particularly disliked individual and private charity as it competed favorably with the government’s failing welfare system.
Joe remembered the warning from the past. It came in 1840 from then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Robert Winthrop:
“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”
The politician controlled the bayonet. Would he or she succeed in taking away the Word of God?
The Spill and the Politician
Many politicians had benefitted greatly from oil company money, and others from the support of the environmental movement that opposed the oil companies. Lost in the ongoing debate between these two well-funded sides were real risks and costs to the country as a whole. Thus when the spill occurred, it did little good to “close the barn door” by firing a few bureaucrats, creating numerous well-financed study panels, holding hearings, and making a bunch of speeches.
Joe recognized that far too many elected officials had defaulted to the use of a quasi-socialist model of government. Rather using the government structure defined in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, the political elite had contrived an overly complex, stifling and confusing government that perverted the press, undermined the religious and moral foundation of the country, and treated citizens as ignorant inconveniences. The result was that government officials had nothing but a shifting foundation upon which to make clear decisions about and provide straightforward answers for the spill.
Joe realized that the political foundation of the country had become disconnected from and opposed to the needs and desires of the citizenry. Was this obvious to the American people – and, if so, how long could such a situation endure unchecked and unchallenged? He wondered if the American people had the will to fight another revolution if it came to that.