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Information Age

The Media is Wrong About America’s Election “Anger” Problem

January 20th, 2016 // 7:52 am @

The New Myth

internet-politicsSomething significant has occurred during the 2015-2016 election cycle. The mainstream media has effectively portrayed “anger” or “being politically angry” as bad. “Good” citizens, in this context, are those who aren’t upset, frustrated, or angry about…well…anything.

Indeed, the media has created an interesting picture of what politics should be (in their opinion). This is multifaceted, but actually quite simple. With careful camera shots, and a clear agenda in the editing room, the media has portrayed two Americas–both of them far from accurate.

On the one hand, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina have become the faces of American anger. When the media shows clips of these candidates, they are animated, usually upset about something, and speaking in strident tones with extreme words.

Their supporters are portrayed in nearly all of the video images as rowdy, unthinking, and a bit star-struck. The clips are carefully selected to show middle- and lower-class-looking Americans waving flags, wearing campaign t-shirts, and sporting sweats, jeans, un-manicured hair and waistlines that are larger-than-normal (at least on television).

In contrast, Bernie Sanders is portrayed as an apostle of decorum. Like other candidates, he waves his arms, speaks in extreme terms, and jabs his finger repeatedly at the crowd—but this is nearly always aired without actual audio. We often don’t hear what Sanders is saying; instead a reporter or commentator uses moderate tones while these pictures run in the background.

We are left with the soft, soothing and studied commentaries of professional journalists, while Sanders’ visual antics communicate energy, passion, and political strength. The juxtaposition of these cues and messages is subtle, but effective: “Sanders has great passion and momentum, and his ideas are credible and intelligent.”

Behind the Curtain

When we are allowed to actually hear Sanders speak, he is usually sitting in a one-on-one interview, conversational, and politely direct. No finger-jabbing, no waving arms. His hair may be a throwback to an episode of Back to the Future, but he looks confidently and humbly into the camera and speaks like an economics professor. “He is just the messenger. Hear his truth…”

Most clips of his audiences emphasize trim, handsome, young people (many of them students), often with jackets and ties. Indeed, they are exact replicas of Ron Paul crowds from past elections. The older participants mostly look like academics… Once again, the message is clear.

In contrast: When Trump or Cruz are interviewed in person, the cameras invade their personal space and close in on the face. Every “angry” wrinkle is visible. The camera backs off for Sanders and Clinton, showing the whole body—dressed for an episode of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The message is obvious: “This is a genuine man, or woman, of the people.” Clips of their intellectual discourses-of-the-day are played and replayed. As for Trump and Cruz, the sound bites are sensational and extreme.

But watch the full videos, where they are available. In reality, all four of these candidates have moments of extremism and other moments of intellectual depth. The same is true of Christie, Fiorina, Carson, and O’Malley, for that matter. Yet ask most TV viewers, and the word “intellectual” will apply to the Democratic candidates, while the Republican candidates are “extreme.”

A lot of artful and conscientious camerawork reinforces these stereotypes.

To be clear: Sanders’ stump speeches are every bit as “angry” as Trump’s. His rhetoric is patently extreme. “Wall street is ruining it for everyone else. Greed controls our nation. The 1 percent must pay their fair share, including free college for everyone. A much higher minimum wage is absolutely necessary—anyone who disagrees is part of the lies and greed.”

Likewise, Cruz is every bit as intellectual and studied as Hillary.

Anger Management

Perhaps the most interesting thing in all this: The typical ways the mainstream media portrays the Democrats are also applied to Marco Rubio. Not to Huckabee or Rand Paul. Not to Santorum or Kasich. Not to Christie or Carson. Just to Rubio.

The media has so far portrayed him as intellectual, credible, wise—like the Democratic candidates. Also, Rubio doesn’t wear the typical Republican uniform (suits and ties that scream “Mr. Smith Owns Washington.”). He frequently wears a sweater-like casual jacket with a zipper down the front. Very pedestrian. Very academic. Again, the mainstream media frequently portrays him like it does the Democratic candidates.

Fascinating.

[Why is that, do you suppose?]

By the way, the same thing occurred with John McCain during the 2007-2008 primaries. Later, once he was the nominee, the media shifted its approach and portrayed him the same way it had other Republican: extreme, out of touch, slick around the edges, uncaring, silver platter.

Romney didn’t get this stylized media treatment in 2012, and no other Republican is getting it now. Just McCain and Rubio. Interesting…

And, again, the real message of the 2016 election, if you accept the cues and innuendos of the mainstream media, is that:

  1. “Anger is bad!”

and

  1. “The Republicans are all angry.”

Let’s consider this idea seriously. If anger is bad for politics, then we must of course be happy with everything President Obama has done. “No anger. Just smile. It’s all good.”

Steps to Solutions

The problem is that it isn’t all good. In his last State of the Union address, the President painted a rosy picture of a more prosperous and safer American than when he took office. Both are false. The national debt has ballooned from $10 trillion when he entered the White House to $19 trillion today. ISIS is a real threat, along with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, other terrorists, North Korea, Iran (much worse than before), China, Russia…etc. We aren’t a bit safer.

There is much to be concerned about—very concerned. Calling such concern “anger” and equating it with being unintelligent or uninformed is, in fact, totally out of touch. It’s also ignorant. False. And insulting.

The economy is still facing serious problems, and the last seven years have only made things worse. Are many voters “angry?” Yes, in both parties. And with good reason.

A smug, arrogant media isn’t helping. Let’s be honest. The mainstream media are at least as responsible for today’s widespread American “anger” as the White House.

Anger isn’t the ultimate solution, to be sure. But it actually is a reasonable first step. Or, perhaps, the second step, after first recognizing that something has gone wrong. There’s a lot to be angry about, and only people who aren’t paying attention—or actually like the status quo—feel great about the country’s current path.

Determination and Change

Being angry about the bad directions Washington is taking doesn’t mean voters are unintelligent, uninformed, or unsophisticated. It means they care. It means they’re watching, and they expect Washington to do its job—a lot better than it has recently.

It means they’re still part of a democratic republic and they still believe democracy works. They take their citizenship seriously, and they’re gearing up to take action on election night.

The truth is that this is what scares the mainstream media. They label it “angry” because they don’t want to admit that the majority of voters disagree with the elite media and want a lot more government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

If you’re an elitist, freedom scares you. So you call it names, like “angry” or “uninformed.” In truth, it is angry, but it’s actually very well informed. It’s the power of the people focused on an election with an intensity not seen in a lot of years.

The people want real change, like they did in 2010 and 2014. And they’re determined to make it happen. But this time, their intensity is pointed at a presidential election.

The mainstream media knows what’s coming, but they’re going to try to stop it if they can. This approach will make a lot of voters even angrier—and even more determined.

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What Should the U.S. Do About ISIS?

November 17th, 2015 // 9:53 am @

After Paris

Construction_tour_eiffel4In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, here’s what we know:

  • ISIS is cheering the Paris massacres, and vowing that this is only the beginning. They promise that more such attacks on Europe and the United States are ahead.
  • One of the terrorist attackers in Paris had a passport on him that showed he came into Europe with the Syrian refugees on small boat through Greece. (It may or may not have actually been his, but whoever put it there must have been sending a message.)
  • The terrorists were highly trained, well equipped, and functioned in a way that requires additional support beyond the known attackers.
  • ISIS isn’t content to focus on gaining territory in Syria and Iraq. It is a key part of their strategy to take the war to Europe and the U.S. This has been true for a long time, but it is finally hitting home to most Americans.
  • Another part of ISIS strategy is to create a Western backlash against Muslims in Europe and the U.S. ISIS wants to create a situation where all Muslims are pushed to choose between the West and ISIS—with no middle ground.
  • According to numerous reports on the news, ISIS is calling for supporters who live in Europe and the United States to take initiative and make terrorist strikes on people without waiting for top-down orders.

If ISIS is in fact behind the Paris attack, ISIS has killed over 400 people in less than 10 days—including the Russian airliner, the Beirut bombings, and the 6 coordinated attacks in Paris. Even if ISIS isn’t behind some of these events, they all play directly into the ISIS strategy.

The U.S. Response?

But where does the United States stand on ISIS? Just hours before the Paris attack, President Obama announced that ISIS has been “contained.” The timing couldn’t have been worse for such a statement. After Paris, Obama spoke in strong terms of supporting France, but said little about any response to ISIS.

In contrast, just the night before, Donald Trump announced that his plan for ISIS was to bomb the s%&t out of it. News reports the next morning featured experts pointing out why Trump’s extreme words were out of touch and bad for America. By that very evening, after events in Paris, some of the same channels put on experts saying exactly the opposite. Other candidates spoke strongly of the need to stop ISIS.

The Big Debate

In all this, there is a big debate about what the U.S. should actually do about ISIS. After all, ISIS isn’t likely to just go away.

What should we do? Before Paris, the debate was mainly about whether or not to put American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria. After the Paris attacks, it’s a whole new world.

Here’s how the debate is now developing:

View A: Airstrikes will never beat ISIS. To seriously stop them, we must put a lot of ground troops into Iraq and Syria-enough to really destroy ISIS once and for all. We’ve waited too long, and President Obama hasn’t been truly committed. Now, with Paris, we know that the terrorists are coming after us in our own nations. It’s time to go destroy them, and that means real ground troops and a “win at all costs” strategy. Find our Patton and go win.

View B: Hold on a minute. Slow down and think. Every time we intervene in the Middle East, we make things worse. Just look at how we armed Saddam Hussein to fight against Iran, and then he turned on us. We eventually intervened to stop Saddam, and most of the weaponry from that war is now in the hands of ISIS. And Iran is still a major problem. Also, look at Libya, which is arguably much worse off than before we intervened. Likewise, Afghanistan is another nation that our intervention made worse in some ways. Let’s stay out of the Middle East.

View A: We disagree. The reason Iraq went to pieces is that we moved our troops out. If we had stayed, the region would be stable. Same with Libya—we intervened but didn’t keep troops there to stabilize things. Same with Afghanistan: it’s only getting bad again because we keep reducing troop levels. As for Syria, if Obama had followed through on his “red line” promise and taken out Assad, Syria would be stable and ISIS would be a minor group with little or no power. That’s the reality.

View B: Really? You actually wish the U.S. had lots of ground troops right now in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and probably Iran? You think that the Middle East can only be stable if the U.S. intervenes in all these nations—and any others where terrorists gather to train and plan—and kills the bad guys, then posts troops in those nations for decades to keep the peace? This is your strategy? U.S. troops in half a dozen nations for the next six decades, like we are in Korea? And the same in any other Middle East nation that has problems? Really? That’s a horrible plan.

View A: ISIS is a new and more modern kind of terrorist group, and its strategy is to take the war to France, Britain, Germany, the United States, etc. It plans to ramp up Paris-like terrorist attacks far and wide in Western Europe and North America. We are at war with these people! Whether we like it or not, they are waging war on us, and this will not only continue but actually escalate as long as we don’t entirely destroy them in their home base—Syria, and even Iraq. What choice do we have? If we don’t destroy them, they’ll keep waging terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. They’ll kill hundreds, then thousands. Then they’ll keep killing our people until we absolutely destroy them in their home base. And air strikes won’t do it. Ground troops are essential.

View B: Actually, after four years with ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we still haven’t solved the problem of terrorists coming from those places and attacking Western nations. Ground troops don’t seem to be a real solution. We need something better.

View A: Like what? Ground troops is what works.

View B: But it hasn’t worked. Seriously.

View C: Can I join this debate? I have something to interject here. What about literally bombing them back into the stone age? Bomb their oil. Bomb their buildings, where they might be on computers running their huge financial resources or posting their online recruiting videos. Bomb all their buildings. Flatten them. Leave nothing but dust. We know what areas ISIS controls. Let’s flatten them. Period. It’s us or them. Let’s win this war before it gets much, much worse. Let’s don’t be like Chamberlain appeasing Hitler, hoping ISIS will start being nice. Bomb them until they’re all destroyed.

Views A and B: That’s so barbaric. That’s not the kind of country we are. Think of all the women and children we’ll kill or maim.

View C: The women and children are either slaves of ISIS or supporters of ISIS. For the ones who are slaves, our actions in ending the slavery would be merciful. Just look at the way ISIS treats such people—repeated rapes and maiming and torture and slavery. It’s unspeakable brutality. THAT’S the barbarism. Bombing will create chaos and free a bunch of them, and the ones who are casualties will at least be released from the ongoing torture. On the other hand, those who aren’t slaves are nearly all supporting ISIS. Cut off their support. Destroy them. It’s us or them, and they’re getting stronger. If we let them keep spreading, they’ll eventually gain an air force, missiles that can reach Europe and America, and probably even nukes—given how much money they’ll have. Stop them now.

View A: We can do this humanely, if we get serious about this war and put enough ground troops into Iraq and Syria, and leave them there long enough to really turn things around.

View B: But that might mean a thirty-year war, or more. We’ve already been in Iraq and Afghanistan for fifteen, and we haven’t made much progress. Let’s rethink this. What if we put all our resources into protecting the United States? Let’s protect our borders and protect our cities and states. Let’s focus on our national defense, not on the security of the Middle East.

View A: That sounds good, and we should certainly do that too, but it won’t work if that’s all we do. Just look at the nation of Israel. It is so much smaller than the U.S., with only a few cities and populated areas to protect—like the U.S. trying to protect New Jersey, or to make the point, even New York. Yet in Israel, with armed soldiers on every corner in times of terror threats, and with a huge portion of the adults trained in the military and prepared with weapons to fight, hundreds of terrorist attacks still occur. The U.S. cannot stop a committed ISIS (and other groups like it, of which there are many) that finds ways to recruit homegrown American terrorists online. Nor can Europe do it effectively.

Moreover, if we give ISIS a free rein in the Middle East, by just pulling out all U.S. involvement, it will drastically increase its funding, and its online influence around the world. The number of terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. will significantly increase. In fact, if the U.S. pulls out of the Middle East, ISIS will take over more oil, territory, and gain intercontinental missiles and naval and air power.

Make no mistake. ISIS intends to weaken and eventually take over the United States. That’s what the Caliphate is all about—taking over the whole world, starting with anyone who stands in their way. That’s their plan, as many experts on ISIS have been telling us for months.

If the U.S. pulls out of the Middle East, ISIS will grow, strengthen, gain more funding, and eventually attack us with missiles, warships and nukes. We must stop them now. Not barbarically by wiping them out with bombs, like View C wants, but humanely, with ground troops.

Specifically, put enough U.S. and allied troops into Iraq to push all ISIS fighters back into Syria. Then Assad and Putin and Western air strikes can get rid of ISIS. But it starts with ground troops.

View C: No. Let’s not send another generation of our young men and women into a Middle Eastern war zone. Bomb ISIS into oblivion. ISIS doesn’t even have an air force. At least not yet. Let’s do this now, before they expand and gain an air force, missiles, even nukes. Bomb them into the dust. Right away. France will help. Britain will help. Russia might even help. We might even get Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arabic nations to help. Flatten ISIS. Now. It will save more lives and ultimately be more humane—with fewer dead and injured—than any other strategy.

View B: Wait. Think this through. There’s got to be a better way.

Conclusion

This is basically where the discussion in Washington stands right now. What do you think? Ideas?

Do you have any great alternatives to these three main viewpoints? If so, share them.

This is worth thinking about deeply.

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Welcome to the Era of Drones! by Oliver DeMille

March 31st, 2015 // 5:57 am @

(Transportation without Representation)

Question:

Drone w PowerlineIt’s a big thing in the print media, right now. It shows up in article after article. Where do property rights end and airspace rights begin? When the jet planes or smaller Cessna’s were flying above at 21,000 feet or even 900 feet, most people didn’t care if they went directly over one’s property.

But what happens in the coming Drone Era when drones fly 10 or 20 feet above your backyard on their way to deliver a book, a box of peaches, or toilet paper to your neighbors? (Popular Science, January 2015, page 71) Is that a violation of your property? Or your privacy? Certainly, if they run into your tree or hit your power line, you’re going to call it a bit intrusive, but what if they just fly past?

And, as more people are asking, how can you tell if they are simply delivering the morning paper or taking video of your family as they fly by? Or both? And who owns that drone that will be flying past, anyway? Amazon? WalMart? The government? Which government—state, local, federal? Or a private individual, like your teenage daughter’s stalker who is hoping to catch a glimpse of her in a swimsuit?

Sound creepy? A lot of people think so. In fact, Audi has taken advantage of this rising realization that drones are going to be part of our lives and made a commercial—a “horror” commercial, if there is even such a genre. Here’s how it unfolds:

A group of business people are standing in a lobby, waiting to go to the parking lot. A company spokesman tells them to act normal, “don’t run.” We all wonder what he means. Then the crowd leaves the building and we see the menace: a fleet of drones hovering above the parking lot like attackers in Hitchcock’s classic horror film “The Birds.”

“Stay calm,” everyone is told. But, of course, they all run away instead—sprinting for their cars, briefcases and handbags with coattails flapping in the wind as they go. There is screaming, drones dart down at the people like fighters on a sci-fi movie; everyone panics.

Except one guy. He quickly but calmly opens the door to his car, which just happens to be an Audi, and gets in. He tells the car computer to plot him a course to what seems to be his off-the-grid getaway—a cabin by the lake.

As he drives, the car is pursued by attacking drones, targeting it like an army of invading Cylons, or like X-wings racing along the surface of the Death Star. “The force, Luke. The force…”

But the Audi evades them, causing two of them to crash into each other. And “Luke” races off to safety. The voice in the commercial tells us that some technology is very helpful—no need to be afraid. If technology attacks, other, better technology will help us fight back.

It’s funny. It’s catchy. And it hits on a theme that is all too real for many people: Do we really want drones invading our personal airspace, every few minutes, all day long? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Or is it just a fait accompli?

Big Brother is Coming?

For decades, Hollywood has sold the dangers of technology gone wrong. The huge, awkward “communicators” of 1970s Star Trek have become a reality; in fact we now have phones much tinier than those once imagined on screen. On the one hand, technology is fascinating, and interesting to us all. On the other, are there real threats? Could fleets of robots be flying past our homes every day, every hour, without our permission? Answer: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Is this just “A Happy March to the Future” or should we be sounding the alarm, Paul Revere-like: “Big Brother is Coming”? Is it “A Better World!” or are we facing a major case of “Transportation without Representation!”?

Will the government be the problem in the Drone Era (sending its drones to spy on its own citizens), or will it be the solution (protecting us from private drone infringements)? Here are three thoughts on this:

  • 13% of those polled by The Atlantic believe that within ten years 75% or more of Americans will own a personal drone. (The Atlantic, November 2014, page 84)
  • Instead of checking your bags and paying the extra fees, travelers might be able to ship their luggage directly via their personal drone—the bags will be waiting for you at your hotel’s front desk. Nice.
  • From an article in Popular Science: “Humphreys [director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas] thinks regular Joes will want to defend their privacy too [just like governments and corporations do].” Humphreys said: “I have a sense that a shotgun is going to be first thing they’ll grab…” (op cit., Popular Science) Joe Biden will prefer a double-barreled shotgun, no doubt.

But just like in Biden’s neighborhood, in many places shooting within city limits or populated areas is illegal. And shooting the drone itself is illegal as well. (Ibid.)

Behind the Curtain

So, what about your property and privacy rights? There are a lot of questions here. If the government considers a foreign drone flying over U.S. airspace a breach of national security, how can it logically argue that a drone flying over your private property doesn’t reduce your rights—especially if it is taking pictures or shooting video?

But make no mistake, this is exactly what governments are going to argue. If the water and mineral rights for your property are separate from land ownership, for example, why would airspace be any different?

Maybe there will be an airspace market, with special plat maps and zoning commissions, and lots of extra fees paid to attorneys—so that some people can own their own, personal airspace above their yards. Certainly the Clintons and Bushes will want to get in on this, just like they owned their own computer servers.

And, if airspace goes up for sale on the private exchange, maybe some of your neighbors—and various corporations—will want to license or own the airspace just above your yard.

In all of this, one thing seems to stand out: it’s not really the drones that are scary. Audi got it wrong. It’s the people who make the decisions. Heck, now it seems that they even own the air…

Solution:

Checks and balances could help. If only the majority of voters truly believed in them anymore.

Only parents and educators have the real power to resurrect a society that truly believes in checks and balances. This is a generational battle, and if we lose it again in the current generation (like we did in the last 2), it will likely remain lost for a very long time to come.

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The Bad Guy in America

December 2nd, 2014 // 9:52 am @

Question:
“How much of the First Amendment would you like us to ignore?”

 Answer:
“How many lives would we want to save?”
State of Affairs television debut

The Enemy?

Hawaii_Five-0_2nd_Season_CastAlmost every police drama and movie has a similar bad guy. The hero, usually a dedicated police officer or government agent with a painful personal past and an interesting partner or sidekick, takes on this bad guy in every possible way.

The more forcefully this great agent fights against this bad guy, the more the audience loves him/her. And the more aggressively he overcomes this bad guy, the higher the ratings.

If the bad guy were a murderer, a terrorist, or a rapist, this would be great drama. Unfortunately, however, in modern American TV and movies this bad guy is almost always the United States Constitution.

At first blush, this is surprising. But to anyone who has watched today’s police dramas, it’s no shock at all. According to most current producers and directors, apparently, the big roadblock to justice in the United States is the Constitution—with its “terrible justice-killing checks and balances, probable cause and warrant requirements, inalienable and property rights, etc.”

Idea War

This system of checks and balances was designed by the Founding Fathers to keep the government and its agents from abusing the people, but on television the checks and balances are pesky, frustrating, justice-blocking bad guys that keep good police officers and federal agents from making everything right for all of us.

As I’ve discussed in earlier writings, this pattern shows up repeatedly on some of the top rated TV shows in our nation—from the Law and Order franchise to three NCIS series, and from Hawaii Five-0 to Blue Bloods, CSI, White Collar, State of Affairs, Chicago PD, and a dozen other very popular television programs.

The lesson is portrayed over and over—the best government officials are those who routinely find creative ways to ignore or circumvent constitutional rules and use government power to bring about their brand of personal justice.

If anyone is watching these programs—and millions are watching, for hours every night—then a chunk of our citizens are learning the false view that the Constitution is outdated or ill-conceived, and that real freedom and justice in society come from Constitution-breaking government agents. The Constitution is almost always portrayed as the bad guy.

This reminds me of two important thoughts. Nietzsche taught that art, entertainment, media, and ideas are incredibly powerful in society, even more powerful than government, because media, arts and ideas have huge influence on how the people see the world and what they want from their government. And, as Victor Hugo put it, “One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.”

What It Is

This is a huge problem for the future of freedom. If the Constitution is the bad guy and these are the kind of police officers and government leaders young people are being trained to desire, imagine what kind of leaders they’ll want in Washington and the White House.

Most people today have already been conditioned to want a government that is never gridlocked, meaning that checks and balances don’t get in the way of government agents, bureaucrats, or top decision makers.

This is the opposite of freedom.

Period.

Where are the artists, producers, writers, and actors who will teach our generation that a good Constitution with effective checks and balances is the best chance of the regular people ever being free?

Exactly the opposite lesson is now mainstream, and its influence is growing.

Not good.

If you or members of your family watch television or movies, it’s important to have a talk with them about this reality. These programs provide excellent examples of how freedom is being lost—if only we’ll look for this lesson and discuss it together. Without such discussion, the wrong lessons are being internalized.

 

*******************

odemille Should We Have A Constitutional Convention or Not? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah

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SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for President

September 15th, 2014 // 10:34 am @

Diverging Paths

Constitution_We_the_People

The good news is that the 2016 presidential election has the power to put America back on the right track.

The bad news is that same election could make things a whole lot worse for us.

If the United States votes for eight more years of a White House philosophy that believes in more big government, 2016 will be the year we officially endorsed the decline of America.

In a recent article I suggested that Rand Paul or Mitt Romney have a real chance in the next election. I received a lot of responses to this article—more than usual.

Some of them agreed, others showed support for these or different candidates (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, etc.), and still others suggested that the Democratic party is our best hope.

In all this, nobody addressed my main point. It went something like this:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we elected a president who actually believed in following the letter of the Constitution? How refreshing! What a great boost that would be for freedom—in the U.S. and around the world.”

Freedom President

I suggested that Rand Paul would likely be that kind of leader, and I’m convinced that Mike Huckabee, Mike Lee, and perhaps others would fit this mold.

Think about it! What a powerful concept: A president who reads the Constitution and simply follows it. Now that’s a truly great idea.

The problem is that presidents don’t do this anymore. Worse, the American people don’t even expect them to do it.

The truth is that most recent presidents would tell you they did follow the Constitution, but when they say this they’re talking about the Supreme Court’s definition of the Constitution. That’s not what I mean.

I’m referring to following the Constitution the way the American founders used the phrase: by reading what it says, and following it. Not by using Supreme Court rulings or Attorney General letters as excuses or grants of executive authority.

This is a really big deal. If we don’t read the document and just follow it,* we aren’t really benefiting from what the Constitution is all about.

And freedom will continue to decline.

Contrast Politics

For example, when President Obama announced major airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he made sure to point out that he had the authority to order such military operations without any vote from Congress.

He called this following the Constitution, but it isn’t. The document is very clear: only Congress can vote for long-term military operations.

The president can act to stop a direct, immediate threat to the U.S. homeland, but anything beyond that requires a decision by Congress.

In contrast to Obama’s words, when Rand Paul was asked if the president needed Congressional authority for his long-term military plan, he responded that yes, this is exactly what the Constitution says.

It was refreshing to hear a top potential presidential candidate refer to the authority of the Constitution instead of the interpretations of the Court.

Sadly, Americans aren’t accustomed to hearing such words. Politicians refer to past precedents, the War Powers Act, Supreme Court decisions, earlier Congressional approvals that could be interpreted to apply in the current situation, and other policies—and all these distract from the real point.

The framers wrote the Constitution so the regular people could read and tell—with no help from experts—when their government officials were following it and when they weren’t.

False Authority and Failing Checks

It has become commonplace for the White House to simply ignore the Constitution, to intervene when and where it chooses, without regard to the document, and to claim that the Court gave it such power or that Congress allowed it such powers.

But the Constitution doesn’t give the Court or Congress the authority to grant the executive any powers. The Court can check the Oval Office, as can Congress, but neither have the Constitutional power give the Executive additional authority.

The people, not the Court, are the final experts on the Constitution. Presidents routinely pay little heed to the Constitution because the people let them get away with it.

The people keep electing candidates who openly say the role of the president is to go beyond the Constitution—especially in foreign relations, but also in domestic policy. As long as we keep voting this way, we keep losing more freedom.

Recent presidents from both parties have egregiously ignored the Constitution. And among the current potential candidates for president, it is commonplace to speak of following the Constitution and mean the modern, Beltway view of the president’s powers—ignoring the actual words in the document itself.

That’s why I’m so impressed when I hear Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee talk in a totally different way. Or Mike Lee, though he’s shown no interest in the 2016 presidency.

Again, wouldn’t it be great to elect a president who doesn’t consult Washington insiders but rather the pages of the U.S. Constitution when an issue arises.

Imagine a president who would tell Congress that we need serious military action but he won’t take it without their approving vote.

That kind of leadership is sorely missing in America, and one of the top causes of our decline.

Keepers Above the Law

One root of the problem is that most Americans today don’t really believe in limits on government. For example, just watch how the police behave in almost every cop-oriented television drama and movie.

They frequently don’t wait for a warrant, they smash in doors of homes and apartments with guns waiving and SWAT units swarming. The good cops, the best officers in these shows, are the ones who push the law to its furthest limits and even break it when they deem it “necessary.”

The more they ignore or circumvent the Constitutional guidelines and get away with it, the better cops they are. Or so they are portrayed.

I’m not saying that the Hollywood version of police actions is always accurate in real life (though the increased militarization of law enforcement is a serious, growing threat to regular citizens).

I am saying that these TV dramas and movies are a very real portrayal of how most Americans believe the cops are and should be.

This is what our culture has come to consider good police work—finding ways to sneak around or get away with just ignoring Constitutional limits, protections, and due process.

Vice as Virtue

Most Americans won’t say it in so many words, but they are used to thinking of police officers as above the law in many—if not most—situations, and of expecting the good cops to bend the “annoying” Constitutional limits and just do whatever is needed to go get the bad guys.

And if this is how they see the police, consider how much more they admire this same bravado in the President.

Of course, both parties whine when a president from the other party exerts unconstitutional influence or executive orders to expand his power. But they frequently defend their own party’s president in the same, or worse, abuses.

It’s literally endemic in our modern system. It bears repeating until we realize what a major threat this is!

Hawaii_Five-0_2nd_Season_CastThe way our majority culture now sees it, the best cops and government leaders do whatever it takes, even bending or ignoring the Constitutional rules, to “do the right thing.”

Think of the most popular police dramas and movies—the main character(s) is always the “good guy” who breaks the Constitutional boundaries in service of the greater good.

NCIS, CSI, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, Law and Order, Chicago PD, Arrow, Bones, Castle, Criminal Minds, NCIS Los Angeles, Agents of SHIELD, Scandal, Covert Affairs, 24, The Blacklist, and many others, all follow this plotline.

These aren’t obscure programs; they are among the most popular in our era. One or more of them is almost always playing on American prime time, and our culture is inundated with their messages.

The Power of 2016

This is how we see government officials, and especially the government agents who carry guns or work in the Oval Office. Again, I’m not saying people openly support this view in polls; I’m saying it is now part of our gut-level cultural expectation.

A majority of Americans now think government agents can and even should routinely push and even break Constitutional limits.

Yes, some people watch cop shows or government dramas and think, “That’s terrible! How can our leaders consistently get away with just disregarding and even flouting the Constitution? They should be reprimanded and removed.” But such Americans are a small minority.

Most of the electorate considers such behavior by police and top executive officials as the norm, and as what is needed to get the job done.

When someone they personally know or identify with gets pushed around, they cry unfair. But when it’s just other people suffering at the hands of abusive government actions, most voters turn a blind eye.

Would I like something different, a president who reads the Constitution to see if he has the authority for a certain action and then realizes he doesn’t and chooses to stay within the bounds of that great document? You bet I would. The future of freedom depends on it.

The thing is, I think we actually have the power to elect such a leader in 2016. Watch what the potential candidates say. So far, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are excellent examples of leaders who talk a lot about following the Constitution and really stand for this approach. Regardless of political parties, that’s the kind of President we want.

                                                          

* Of course, the people have made changes to it over time, including the Amendments and the end of slavery and reduction of racism (there is more work to be done on this). Note that these changes were made by the people, not the federal government, and following them is in keeping with the people overseeing their leaders and holding them to the Constitution.

 

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odemille SPECIAL REPORT: Mitt Romney Will Run and Win  Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah

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