Political Hay

Mark Levin: The Constitution’s Churchill

IRS, NSA, Obamacare, auto black boxes vindicate author of back-to-Constitution basics.

By 6.11.13

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“Do they even understand the founding of this nation?...Look at the Constitution!”

So begins another Mark Levin radio show in which the third most popular talk show host in the land ( behind Rush and Hannity) does his distinctly unique brand of radio, a brand that is focused on educating Americans about the nation’s founding document: The Constitution of the United States. A brand that includes a lengthening series of bestselling books discussing a subject that many once considered arcane at best if not embarrassingly irrelevant.

Mark Levin has become the Constitution’s Churchill.

Churchill, recall, the man who for years in the 1930s stood almost alone in his warnings of the dangers in appeasing Nazi aggression. Dismissed contemptuously by what biographer William Manchester called the British “social and political establishment” of the day, Churchill was the man nobody in England took seriously for years -- until his predictions of disaster came all too vividly true with Nazi bombs eventually raining down on London itself.

With countless radio shows plus three New York Times bestsellers out there on the vital importance to America of the U.S. Constitution, (Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America; Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto; and Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America ), Levin has become the Constitution’s Churchill -- repeatedly warning what can happen to Americans when the founding document of the United States is ignored.

Suddenly, awash in headlines about the abuses of the IRS, the Justice Department seizing the phone records of the Associated Press, monitoring the calls and emails of Fox correspondent James Rosen and now the “metadata” gathering activities of the National Security Agency -- Levin’s constant warnings of the dangers in ignoring the Constitution are gaining considerable traction with Americans well beyond his already huge radio audience. The American “social and political establishment” be damned.

The reality of today’s news headlines reflects in an up close and personal fashion exactly what Levin has spent so much time warning against.

Liberty -- every American’s individual liberty -- is at the very heart of issues like the IRS, the NSA, Obamacare and so much more. 

Here’s Levin in his 2012 bestseller Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America, with bold print provided here for emphasis:

In Liberty and Tyranny, I described the nature of individual liberty and the civil society in a constitutional republic, including the essential principles of America’s societal and political order. I also discussed the growing tyranny of government -- statism, as I broadly labeled it -- which threatens our liberty, the character of our country, and our way of life. At the time I warned that if we do not come to grips with the significance of this transformation, we will be devoured by it.

The symptoms of the tyranny that threatens liberty and republicanism have been acknowledged throughout time, including by iconic Americans. For example, Supreme Court associate justice Joseph Story, among America’s most prominent legal thinkers, explained in 1829, “governments are not always overthrown by direct and open assaults. They are not always battered down by the arms of conquerors, or the successful daring of usurpers. There is often concealed the dry rot, which eats into the vitals, when all is fair and stately on the outside. And to republics this has been the most common fatal disease. The continual drippings of corruption may wear away the solid rock…”

During the three years since the publication of Liberty and Tyranny, and despite growing alarm by an increasingly alert segment of the public, too many of our fellow citizens remain oblivious to the perilousness of their surroundings, not realizing or accepting the precariousness of their liberty and the civil society in the face of the federal government’s dramatic, albeit predictable, engorgement of power, This is the grave reality of our day.

Levin was prophetic.

One year later Americans wake up to the news, as noted here by my colleague Jed Babbin yesterday, that:

  • The IRS’s defense to the targeting of Tea Party-related groups for illegal treatment rested on the assertion of the Fifth Amendment by one of its high-ranking people.
  • The Attorney General evidently committed perjury by denying any connection to the search warrant used to obtain Fox News reporter James Rosen’s emails.
  • The Justice Department isn’t even contesting the impropriety of subpoenaing the telephone records of the Associated Press.
  • Various senior members of the Obama administration, past and present, have admitted that they used email accounts under fictional names for official business (to avoid government record-keeping laws).
  • The courts are considering the impropriety of President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege last year in hope of protecting Eric Holder in the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, a program that was created to obtain political leverage in favor of gun control.

In addition to Babbin’s list there is a new EPA scandal (hat tip to Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy) breaking over the last few days. This one:

The Free Beacon reported this week that 24 senators signed a letter demanding to know why the EPA leaked the personal information of more than 80,000 farms, includes names, phone numbers and personal addresses, to left-wing environmental groups like Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

And all of that before one gets to the issue of the NSA collecting “megadata” -- hundreds of millions of phone records of perfectly ordinary, law-abiding Americans, not to mention this from the NSA leaker Edward Snowden:

The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

And none of this mentions Obamacare, or this story in the Hill back in December, headlined this way:

Obama administration proposes making ‘black boxes’ mandatory in new cars

Black boxes -- data collectors.

The other day on Neil Cavuto’s Fox show, Levin, having just learned of the NSA story, let loose, the bold print supplied here for emphasis:

I tell you what I make of this — we have the elements of a police state here, and I’m not overstating it. When you step back and realize the Supreme Court the other day ruled 5-to-4 that law enforcement can take DNA from you even if you’re arrested — by the way, you’re arrested even when you’re stopped for a speeding ticket, and Scalia was right, concerned about a national database. That goes way over the line of our traditions.

You look at the Internal Revenue Service, what’s going on there today, and they collect extensive financial and personal information, and they put it on a database. This Obamacare is a massive data collection as well of our private personal medical conditions, procedures, drugs, mental, physical illnesses. The Transportation Department, people forget, has proposed black boxes in all of our automobiles to track how they function and how far they go in accidents. We now have domestic drones from EPA to make sure farmers aren’t stepping out of line.

The Department of Homeland Security now is checking laptops and iPhones and other data, making copies of it and keeping it, and now we have this. And some of my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, prosecutors, are saying, ‘Look, look, this is permitted. We need to be able to go through and match —’ wait a minute. You don’t throw a whole net on the entire country and everybody’s phone numbers and check the duration and see if you can come up with some overlaps. That’s not law enforcement. That’s not how national security works. I don’t care what the hell the Supreme Court said 30 years ago or what some judge said 15 minutes ago. This is America, and our government is collecting way too damn much data on we the private citizen.

….This is what happens when our country becomes unmoored from the Constitution. The function of the federal government are without limits. We have this all-powerful centralized government with concentrated power. Stomping all over the First Amendment. I mean look at these warrants with these reporters. I was chief of staff to an Attorney General of the United States. We didn’t take a back seat to anyone who leaked information to the media, but twenty phone-taps, a hundred reporters, James Rosen's parents? What kind of mindless idiocy is that?”

I think people had better wake the hell up and understand something. That we are not a constitutional republic anymore. I don’t know what we are. I’m not saying we’re the most oppressive regime on the face of the earth either, but we are not a constitutional republic anymore. When you look at the first amendment, the assault on free speech under these campaign laws, the assault on religious groups, under the first amendment. When you look at the effort to create a registry under the second amendment on guns. When you look at the fourth and fifth amendments turned on their heads, the ninth and tenth amendments, they pretend they don’t even exist. We have a chief justice of the Supreme Court who twists the words of the commerce clause and the meaning of tax in order to uphold Obamacare. This is lawlessness. And at some point we need to unravel this federal government, unravel the ruling class and push power back to the states, municipalities, and the people, or we’re going to get more of this.

As with Churchill, Levin’s problem was that not enough people in the ruling class elites took him seriously in the beginning. But just as Churchill persevered, quietly doing the serious thinking and research that led him to have an almost clairvoyant sense of the German rearmament program and the evil intentions that drove that rearmament, so too has Levin made the time to do the quiet, serious thinking about the Constitution and what can and must result when it is abandoned. Abandoned either through deliberate intention or sheer, careless ignorance.

In addition to being a lawyer, serving as president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, and serving in the Reagan Administration as chief of staff to the Attorney General of the United States, Levin is a life-long student of the Constitution, its philosophical underpinnings and the debates that led up to the founding document’s writing and ratification.

He does not believe we are where we are by accident.

While he noted in Ameritopia that the architects of what he correctly calls a “post-Constitutional America” are “too numerous to list” he focuses on President Woodrow Wilson, the progressive hero of the early twentieth century who was himself a liberal academic as professor and author before becoming president of Princeton. Levin notes of Wilson, who used his presidency to vastly increase the power of the federal government, that he “proved the insight of Madison’s fear -- that is, without the Constitution’s limits on the federal government’s authority, an election could empower a temporary majority or faction to fundamentally alter the governmental structure in ways that threaten the individual’s liberty and rights.”

The other night Levin asked this question of those, particularly conservatives, who had taken to television and print to defend the NSA’s collection of a massive database:

“Do they even understand the founding of this nation?”

The Levin question is basic, fundamental. Without understanding that question and its implications for all these scandals the country is in very, very serious trouble.

Said Levin: 

Many of these people are new to conservatism, relatively -- do they even understand that?….Look at the Constitution. Did the Framers in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention, did the Framers, the state delegates in the state capitals debating whether to ratify the Constitution…did they trust big government?....The Founding Fathers did not trust big government. One of the main reasons that the Constitution was developed as it was and one of the main reasons the States agreed to confer authority on this new federal government while retaining most of their authority by the way ….was to promote and secure liberty, private property rights, trade, commerce, a stable law, a transparent law, equal justice under the law and yes to secure the nation from foreign threats…but then they made certain that not only would they divide power within the federal government , not only would they enumerate powers, specific powers to certain branches of the federal government…they would make it damn clear that the people under the Ninth Amendment, and the states under the Tenth Amendment, that their sovereignty would be preserved and all the other amendments in the Bill of Rights are intended to insure that the individual is protected…Otherwise the Constitution would not have been ratified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by the Commonwealth of Virginia by the State of New York. Three of the big states that objected most and were concerned most about the centralization of power in the federal government. This is our history.

And of those conservatives and Republicans who have dismissed the NSA scandal as no big deal Levin added: 

They have no concept, no concept whatsoever about what took place in these state ratification debates. None. Or they wouldn’t be talking the way they do.

This nation was founded to nurture the individual….not the federal government.

I hear conservatives, people who claim to be conservatives, they’re not really conservatives and no I’m not putting out a litmus test but this is basic stuff …who seem to think that we need to accept the New Deal and everything that’s come since and ignore the Constitution. That is ignore everything that came before the New Deal. We just have to accept this fate. A massive bloated government, trust it, embrace it, live off it…I say hell no. No we’re not.

(This is about the desire) to intimidate, to prevent lawful, civil dissent. To intimidate people… We’re the target, not the criminal, not the illegal alien and when it comes to something like this…not even the terrorist. We’re the target.

This is a big deal….I believe in the Constitution and I believe in unalienable rights…This is what the whole Founding was about. Where does this end…how many more rights will be obliterated?

What is erupting here -- at long last -- with no small thanks to Mark Levin -- is a full-scale, all-out battle to return from what Levin calls a Post-Constitutional America to a constitutional America.

Does America need to be defended? Of course it does. Does America need high-value intelligence? Of course it does. But a national security structure that is so mammoth it couldn’t even discover the Tsarnaev brothers when they already had them in their sights -- and quite notably had no clue what Edward Snowden was doing right under their noses -- is obviously too big to function correctly much less constitutionally.

Rule Number One of conservatism is that the nature of man is imperfectability. That there is no government that is not tempted to tyranny.

It is not enough -- it is not enough -- to simply say that the way the government has been doing business in gathering massive quantities of data is just no big deal because, after all, we can get the bad guys.

This is about more -- far more -- than the NSA. It is in fact about the IRS -- the poster child for governmental abuse. It is in fact about the Justice Department and its spying on the Associated Press and Fox’s James Rosen. It is in fact about the EPA spying on farmers and giving personal information to left-wing environmental groups. It is a debate about the size, scope and very existence of a government so big, so out of control that quite literally every piece of information about your life is going to rest in a series of mammoth glass boxes in the Utah desert, or the Cincinnati branch of the IRS or in some nook and cranny in the Department of Justice or the EPA or whatever bureaucracy is at hand.

This is about the transformation of America into what Mark Levin has, with unerring accuracy, called Ameritopia. Ameritopia, a Post-Constitutional America that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the America that was, in Lincoln’s words, “conceived in liberty.”

This is why someone can apply for tax exempt status for a Tea Party and find themselves seated across the table from the FBI Domestic Terrorist Unit.

On August 13, says Amazon, Mark Levin will be releasing his latest book, described as “Untitled.”

After all of the barrage of news in the last few months that have shockingly revealed just how out of control the federal government of the United States is, the new Levin book will be awaited with more than considerable interest.

Winston Churchill spent years trying to warn his fellow countrymen of the dangers they would face by ignoring the rise of Adolf Hitler. The fact that he was vindicated by the arrival of Nazi bombs on London and the plunging of the entire world into global war was, in Churchill’s view, a sad, brutal and unnecessary vindication.

Mark Levin has spent an adult lifetime warning of this moment in American history. A moment when, the Constitution repeatedly cast aside, Americans would find themselves at the crossroads of liberty -- or tyranny.

Let the debate begin. Or, correctly, let the debate finally be joined.

Without doubt, the man who is the Constitution’s Churchill will be asking yet again that most important of all questions that separates America from Ameritopia:

“Do you even understand the founding of this nation?” 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Mark G. Taylor)

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.