Is the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal becoming America’s version of the Order of Lenin?
The Order of Lenin once being the highest decoration for the Ruling Class of the Soviet Union.
Or is the more apt comparison that those awarding the Liberty Medal are, stripped down to their essentials, the adult equivalent of the high school “in crowd.” The popular kids.
Except in today’s world of political adults, “the popular kids” translates, to borrow that wonderfully appropriate characterization from the title of Angelo Codevilla’s book, The Ruling Class. (Its full title: The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It.)
The other day, the Chairman of the National Constitution Center, former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush, announced that the Center would be bestowing its “Liberty Medal” on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Said Jeb, as quoted in Breitbart:
“Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy,” said Bush, the Republican former Governor of Florida, son of a former president and brother of another. “These efforts as a citizen, an activist, and a leader have earned Secretary Clinton this year’s Liberty Medal.”
The news launched the latest rash of Clinton-Bush stories, the current crop focusing on the assumed presidential candidacies of the latest son of former President George H.W. Bush to seek the White House, this time against the wife of former President Bill Clinton. (Both Bush 41 and Bill Clinton, it must be noted, are former chairs of the Constitution Center -- the job now held by Jeb Bush.)
These stories missed the point of what appears to really be going on with the Liberty Medal.
First, take a look at the National Constitution Center’s description of itself, my bold print for emphasis:
The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution.
…As America's forum for constitutional dialogue, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates.
Then take a look at the list of the award’s previous 23 winners since its inception in 1989 and the pattern is instantly discernible. Note: in the beginning, the award was the responsibility of something called The Philadelphia Foundation. In 2006 the Center took complete control of the medal and those who would be honored.
2011 - Robert Gates
2010 - Tony Blair
2009 - Steven Spielberg
2008 - Mikhail Gorbachev
2007 - Bono & DATA
2006 - George H.W. Bush & William J. Clinton
2005 - Viktor Yushchenko
2004 - Hamid Karzai
2003 - Sandra Day O'Connor
2002 - Colin Powell
2001 - Kofi Annan
2000 - James Watson & Francis Crick
1999 - Kim Dae-jung
1998 - George Mitchell
1997 - CNN International
1996 - King Hussein & Shimon Peres
1995 - Sadako Ogata
1994- Vaclav Havel
1993 - Nelson Mandela & F.W. de Klerk
1992 - Thurgood Marshall
1991 - Médecins Sans Frontières & Oscar Arias
1990 - Jimmy Carter
1989 - Lech Walesa
Nowhere on this list is the name of a single American soul identified as a serious political conservative. Not one.
Three ex-U.S. presidents made the grade. Two liberal Democrats (Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton) and one moderate Republican (George H.W. Bush.) One ex-prime minister of Great Britain -- Labour’s Tony Blair is there. The other American political honorees include the liberal Republican, Obama-endorsing Colin Powell, the moderate GOP Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the liberal Democrat Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the former Democrat Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and one career civil servant who has served both parties as a government official, Robert Gates. Gates was last seen serving both George W. Bush and Barack Obama as Secretary of Defense.
What is the Liberty Medal in the first place?
And what message does this list of previous award winners -- and the newest selection of Hillary Clinton -- send about the National Constitution Center that selects the award winners?
Here’s the Constitution Center on the Liberty Medal, the bold highlights mine:
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Given annually, the medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. The Liberty Medal was first administered by the National Constitution Center in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored for their bipartisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.
So the standard requirement is for the recipient to be “men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe”?
Surely in the almost quarter century since the medal’s creation -- Clinton will be the 24th recipient -- there has been no shortage of conservative “men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe”
Two names missing from this list come immediately to mind. Two very prominent conservatives who were alive, well, and filled with conviction when this award began. An important point as the Center apparently doesn’t do awards posthumously.
Those names would be former President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Reagan, in fact, is the president who signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988 which established the National Constitution Center. Reagan is also, of course, credited with winning the Cold War -- in Thatcher’s words -- “without firing a shot.” Thus securing “the blessings of liberty” for millions in Eastern Europe and well beyond, bringing the old Communist Soviet Union crashing onto the “ash heap of history.”
At his side through all of this was Thatcher herself, hailed at her death only weeks ago as “the greatest peacetime prime minister in British history” and given a ceremonial state funeral heretofore reserved for British royalty and Winston Churchill.
But, alas, no. Reagan and Thatcher never made the grade for the Liberty Medal. A particular irony considering Reagan’s role in bringing the Center to life in the first place.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney? Here’s a man whose career has been longer than Hillary Clinton’s and every bit as controversial. White House chief of staff, Congressman from Wyoming, Secretary of Defense during the successful Gulf War and Vice President of the United States during 9/11 and the successful -- yes, that would be successful -- prosecution of the war to liberate Iraq from the dictator Saddam Hussein.
A Liberty Medal for Dick Cheney?
CNN International won once, which shows the Liberty Medal is not adverse to honoring the media.
So how about News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch? The News Corporation has been the leader in providing that essential first ingredient of liberty -- free speech and intellectual diversity -- to people all around the globe. From newspapers to movies to television and radio to satellite systems, Mr. Murdoch has created a legendary company that is the literal embodiment of how to “strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.”
In this same category is someone right inside the company Murdoch created -- Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. It was Ailes who took Murdoch’s vision and made it the consummate, stunning success that is Fox News. Creating a network that has become the go-to network for news and commentary, Fox News has done what many thought impossible -- overtake and vastly surpass CNN as the gold standard network of choice for the overwhelming majority of viewers both at home and around the world.
A Liberty Medal for Murdoch or Ailes -- or both?
“Securing the blessings of liberty to people around the globe” sounds like the life work of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy would be a walkaway here, right? Here’s a man who, after graduating from Princeton and serving time as a Navy pilot became a successful investment banker, a congressman, the head of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Ambassador to NATO, helped manage the Nixon-Ford transition as the Watergate furies consumed the Nixon presidency, becoming President Ford’s chief of staff and later Secretary of Defense. He is the only man in history to have twice served as Secretary of Defense, returning to the job under President George W. Bush after a successful business career.
A Liberty Medal for Rummy?
How about pro-life champion and staunch defender of traditional marriage former Senator Rick Santorum? Literally fighting to give the blessings of “life” as in “life, liberty and happiness” to millions of the unborn throughout his career, Santorum would be a perfect fit for the Liberty Medal.
Or, for that matter, so would longtime pro-life champion Charmaine Yoest. Yoest, the President and CEO of Americans United for Life, has spent a career championing the liberty of the unborn.
Liberty Medals for Santorum or Yoest or for that matter any other person actively involved in the pro-life movement? A movement seen by some as the American equivalent of Liberty Medal Nelson Mandela’s fight against apartheid.
Uh-uh. Nope. Nada. Nyet.
How about Mr. Radio himself -- Rush Limbaugh? Now here’s a man whose career has made him synonymous with liberty, his show seen as a beacon of liberty by his twenty millions of listeners across America.
Or the man who is the very embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit that is liberty in America -- Donald Trump? The man who built an empire that exemplifies liberty with every tower, hotel or golf course or television show or beauty pageant. The latter, of course, specifically including an international symbol of liberty and freedom at work -- the Miss Universe Organization. In particular, the Miss Universe pageant has been an exemplar of how to “secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe” by providing unimaginable opportunity to pageant winners from places like Venezuela, Russia, Angola, Mexico, Panama and Botswana. (Note: Donald Trump will be receiving The American Spectator’s Entrepreneurial Award this fall.)
Or how about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a truly accomplished woman as an Alaska public servant. Palin has served as city council member, mayor, chair of the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, governor, nominee for Vice President of the United States, television star and commentator. Not to mention Palin is a mother of five -- including son Trig who has Down syndrome. Hillary Clinton won 18 million votes in her run for president, touts the Center in their press release. Palin won almost 60 million votes to be Vice President of the United States.
A Liberty Medal for Rush or The Donald or Sarah?
No and are you kidding, no and no again.
How about former Reagan US Attorney General Edwin Meese III? The man who established understanding and applying the Constitution -- “originalism” -- as a criterion for staffing the federal judiciary? Or Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner? Few organizations have done as much to educate about the Constitution and spread the blessings of liberty than the Heritage Foundation. Or Dr. Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, the liberal arts college that is one of the few to have students study and understand the Constitution as a graduating requirement. What about Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas? Or Mark Levin? The boy from suburban Philadelphia who grew up to serve as both a White House aide to Reagan, chief of staff to Attorney General Meese, head of the Landmark Legal Foundation, successful talk-radio host and, no small thing, a repeated bestselling author of books on the Constitution -- the Constitution a frequent subject of his radio shows. Dare I mention Sean Hannity, whose passionate defense of liberty on radio, Fox News and in the bestseller lists have made also him synonymous with the idea of liberty? What about Glenn Beck? No shrinking violet he in the spreading-the-word-about-liberty fight. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly? Commentator Ann Coulter? How about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, retiring after eight years in Congress and making an impact on both foreign and domestic policy, and, like Hillary Clinton, running for her party’s presidential nomination?
One could go on here -- and on and on. The founder of this very magazine, The American Spectator -- R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is a splendid example of someone who has spent a lifetime of work creating a magazine dedicated to the criteria of the Liberty Medal, securing “the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.” Ditto the late William F. Buckley Jr., alive and well in the early years of this medal’s existence.
That’s a list of very impressive, accomplished people
But while one should never say “never,” the hard cold fact is that the overwhelming likelihood is that none of these people who are still very much alive and eligible -- not a one -- is ever going to get the Liberty Medal.
What is it that is keeping extraordinarily accomplished people like all of the above from getting the Liberty Medal? Do they carry around with them some sort of invisible pox? Are they the lepers of the Constitution?
Answer? Yes. And yes.
Call it the “conservative pox.” Or, in the eyes of The Ruling Class, the leprosy of conservatism.
Each and every one of the people listed above, including those no longer with us but once upon a time very much alive and eligible for The Liberty Medal, are the subject of what might be called Ruling Class scorn. (Fox’s Bill O’Reilly may not be a conservative, but he too is not fondly thought of by this crowd. He is, of course, a Fox star.)
Each of these people in their own fashion and in their own worlds of politics, law, the media, entrepreneurialism, academia and think tanks are the modern American version of what was called in the old Hindu caste system of India the “untouchables.” Those who were considered unclean or impure because of their work as laborers or servants.
The American version of this caste system revolves not around what people do…but what and how they think. If any of the people mentioned above were magically transformed overnight into an American liberal -- the Ruling Class would be pounding on their doors with opportunities and honors. Rush Limbaugh would be a major Hollywood player. Donald Trump would have garlands strewn at his feet like liberal business guru Warren Buffett. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes would be two of the most honored media and business people in American history. Bob Tyrrell would have a calendar full of honorary degrees to accept and awards to pick up. Justices Scalia and Thomas would be cherished by every law school in America, with Thomas a beloved superstar at NAACP gatherings.
The fact of why any of these people are more than likely to never receive a Liberty Medal is as important to understand as the fact that it hasn’t happened.
What all of these people have in common is that they are, in their own individual field and fashion, seen as direct threats to the American Ruling Class. A Ruling Class that Angelo Codevilla described this way:
From Atlanta to Seattle, today’s Ruling Class was exposed to a narrow, uniform set of ideas, and adopted a set of habits and tastes, as well as a secular canon of sacred myths, saints, sins, and ritual language. The class’ chief pretension is its intellectual superiority: its members claim to know things that the common herd cannot.
Codevilla adds that the Ruling Class:
…ordains new ways of living as if it had the right to do so, and from which it asserts that that right is based on the majority class’ stupidity, racism, and violent tendencies.
What all of the names suggested here as potential winners of the Liberty Medal have in common is that each in their own way they have challenged the Ruling Class. They laugh at the pretensions of intellectual superiority and gleefully oppose the “secular canon of sacred myths, saints sins and ritual language” so beloved by the Ruling Class. (Palin violated the secular canon of abortion by not only being a pro-life woman but literally, when faced with the choice, refusing to abort a child she knew would be born with Down syndrome, drawing equal amounts of contempt and scorn from her supposed liberal “betters” for so vividly ignoring the secular canon that is abortion.)
For doing this, all of these people have felt the Ruling Class lash. They -- like millions of their more anonymous fellow Americans -- are regularly assailed as some combination of being ignorant, primitives, racists, homophobes, and all the rest.
Sad to say, the Liberty Medal of the Constitution Center is becoming akin to the late-and-unlamented Soviet Union’s Order of Lenin. Or perhaps worse, the crown won by the high school prom king and queen. The medal must first, last, and always go to a Ruling Class favorite. The moment one understands this, an award that has in fact gone to the actual list above makes complete sense. All of it.
The Liberty Medal may be about many things, but it isn’t about either liberty or, much less, the values of the United States Constitution. This is a medal that is about preserving the bastion that is the Ruling Class. Picking the figurative… and in the case of Hillary Clinton perhaps the literal… queen or king of the socially liberal or moderate politically correct crowd. Conservatives need not apply. Because, as in high school, conservatives of accomplishment today are so, like, oh wow… soooooooooooo uncool. Ya know?
Recall the statement legendarily attributed to the late liberal New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who reeled in shock after Nixon’s 49-state sweep over George McGovern in 1972, saying that she didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon.
Translated to today, the bulk of those voting for this award (and yes, there are a sprinkling of conservatives on the Constitution Center’s board of trustees , but not enough to carry the day for any conservative on the list suggested above) don’t know anyone who voted for Reagan or Thatcher, loved Rummy or watches (that they will admit) Fox News. And if they do, they politely if not always are able to hide their disdain.
Case in point?
The new president and CEO of the Constitution Center is George Washington Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen. Here you will see Rosen on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show nodding with a smirk as Stewart describes Justice Scalia as an “ass” and a “dick.” Here’s Rosen speculating in New York magazine about whether “Cheney and friends could be prosecuted for torture-related offenses.” There’s more… Rosen is nothing if not published. Yet his very selection as the Center’s president is an acknowledgment of the iron hand of the Ruling Class at work in the institution.
Rosen is a typical example of what Codevilla noted as being “exposed to a narrow, uniform set of ideas, and adopted a set of habits and tastes, as well as a secular canon of sacred myths, saints, sins, and ritual language.” Indeed, Rosen has written that when he was a law student, on being seen by his college dean exiting a meeting of the conservative Federalist Society (Rosen had attended to inspect the exotics in their own habitat)…
I felt slightly illicit in crossing ideological lines: once, when the dean spotted me leaving a meeting, I felt as if I’d been caught walking out of an X-rated movie.
All of which, sadly, is sending the relatively new Liberty Medal headlong towards the status of a joke clothed in the Constitution. An unserious, deliberately rigged “honor” along the lines of the once-trumpeted “Order of Lenin” -- the highest decoration of the Ruling Class of the Soviet Union.
The Liberty Medal trumpets its devotion to honoring the “men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.”
In fact, the Constitution Center is clueless about the fact that without both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, without Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, without Rush Limbaugh, Fox, talk radio and the liberal media, without Warren Buffett and Donald Trump they have no Liberty Medal.
And America doesn’t have liberty.
Photo: Creative Commons (Beyond My Ken)
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