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Constitutional Opinions

Democrats Are Trying to Rewrite the First Amendment

By 6.25.14

Our First Amendment is under attack. Forty-four Senate Democrats support a constitutional amendment that would give Congress unbounded power to regulate or prohibit just about any speech concerning an election or a candidate for office. This would-be 28th Amendment is poorly drafted, extremely dangerous, and has the potential to uproot our most cherished freedoms. Its supporters should be embarrassed and the amendment should be stopped immediately.

Trumping the cherished ten words, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” the amendment would make the Constitution read, “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections.” This unprecedented langauge is radically different from the amendments in the Bill or Rights: instead of limiting the power of the federal government, the proposed amendment would expand it. We’ve gone from “Congress shall make no law” in 1791 to “Congress can make any law” in 2014.

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Political Hay

Primary Musings from Oklahoma, Colorado, and Mississippi

By 6.25.14

With a surprisingly wide margin of victory, Congressman James Lankford won the Oklahoma Republican U.S. Senate primary, defeating former Speaker of the State House of Representatives T.W. Shannon by 23 points and avoiding a runoff election. Lankford now becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace outgoing Senator Tom Coburn, who is retiring with two years remaining in his current term.

This was a very different race from the one taking place in Mississippi. Despite negative ads run against Lankford by conservative groups, the Oklahoma contest was not an example of an “establishment” Republican or RINO versus a Tea Party candidate. In short, both Lankford and Shannon are credible, likeable conservatives, both are qualified for higher elected office, and both are likely to be on the scene in the future—to Oklahoma’s credit.

A former Baptist minister (or is a Baptist minister, like a Marine, never “former”?), Lankford directed a large Christian youth camp for more than a decade before winning election to Congress in 2010 in the Tea Party tsunami.

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Revenge of the Good Ol’ Boys

By 6.25.14

I was at a boozy Washington function a few years ago when in walked Bob McDonnell, then-governor of Virginia, and Haley Barbour, then-governor of Mississippi. McDonnell hung back with a beer in his hand and rarely in his mouth, making small talk at the edge of the crowd. Barbour stormed into the middle of the party brandishing both a whiskey and a long-neck, slapping backs and shouting in a marble-mouthed southern accent, good to f—king see this one and it’s been too f—king long with that one.

At the time I thought I was witnessing the difference between a man who was running for president and a man who wasn't. But there was also a cultural difference on display: a governor from a Southeast purple state where politics can be unpredictable, versus a governor from the Deep South where GOP power is nearly absolute and concentrated in a good ol’ boy power structure.

Thad Cochran is one of those good ol’ boys. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1972, Cochran served three terms there, then ran for the Senate where he’s been for the past thirty-six years. In 2005 he was appointed chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

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Media Matters

George Will Meets the Clerisy Media

By 6.24.14

The Clerisy Media strikes again. This time the target is longtime conservative columnist George Will, who was dispatched by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over a column on rape. But before that? The Los Angeles Times refused to publish letters to the editor from what the paper called “climate change deniers.” The Arizona Daily Sun has done the same.

A while back it was National Public Radio firing Juan Williams for comments made on Fox News about Muslims.

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Main Street U.S.A.

Of 1914 and 2014

By 6.24.14

And there before us, b'golly, was…the car!

THE car. You know? The one positioned, in blood and early 20th-century elegance, at the center of modern history; the open car carrying the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, when a teenage terrorist in Sarajevo shot them dead on St. Vitus Day — June 28 — 1914, setting off nearly uninterrupted shockwaves of horror. Or so we generally hear. I will come back to that point.

I saw the car nearly half a century ago at the Austrian Museum of Military History in Vienna: large, dark, eerie. The sight was akin in my mind to the notion of inspecting the cutlery employed by Brutus and Cassius on mighty Caesar's carcass.

March 15, in 44 B.C., and June 28, 1914 have historical consonance. They unleashed large and bloody events: the more recent of which we have begun already to commemorate.

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The Obama Watch

Obama Sings a Smug, Self-Satisfied, Falsely Optimistic Tune

By 6.24.14

Ronald Reagan and Louis Armstrong appeared together in the popular movie Going Places in 1938. Though Reagan is one of the featured stars, no one remembers his role. Instead, we remember Armstrong as Gabriel the horse trainer, his alabaster grin and bulging eyes charming us as he capers gracefully, trumpet in tow. Jeepers Creepers, the horse in his care, is as wild as it is fast. Gabriel discovers that the way to calm the horse down is to sing to it—putting its name to music. In turning the skittish horse into a champion, Satchmo plays his trumpet and sings the words:

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?

The same tune came to me upon reading President Obama’s latest speech, which was filled with self-congratulations on every front but one, that being the terrible peril of climate change. Never has there been a more smug and self-satisfied philippic than this one. It made me think:

Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get that focus?
Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get those “facts”?

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Tonto and the Washington Redskins

By 6.24.14

Those of you who follow my writing will know that my taste in music is decidedly retro. The same can be said of my taste in TV programs. Give me The Bionic Woman over Mad Men any day of the week.

A few months ago, I began spending late Saturday and Sunday nights watching episodes of The Lone Ranger. I had not seen The Lone Ranger since the early 1980s when I lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I would watch it as part of the Matinee Money Movie that aired weekdays after school on the ABC affiliate based in Duluth, Minnesota.

I must confess that when I was younger I preferred John Hart’s portrayal of The Masked Man over that of Clayton Moore. But looking on it now, Moore’s interpretation resonates far more with me. Meanwhile, no matter which man led, Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, stayed true.

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Flick Story

Disney’s ‘Maleficent’: Another Ho-Hum Gritty Reboot

By 6.24.14

My initial reaction on hearing that Disney was remaking Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of Maleficent was, “Oh God, not another one.” Batman, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White: Must everything get a gritty reboot? I'm surprised the recent My Little Pony show wasn't called “My Little Pony: Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death.”

And the villain's-eye view is also really played out. Grimmed-up, self-pitying tales of misunderstood outcasts are everywhere these days, simmering with Nietzschean ressentiment. It's like watching two hours of rationalizations: Other people never gave me a chance, you'd be like this too if you'd suffered like I have, I am secretly better than everyone.

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The Presidential Spectator

A Lame Duck Country?

By 6.24.14

Pundits are pointing to President Barack Obama's recent decline in public opinion polls, and saying that he may now become another "lame duck" president, unable to accomplish much during his final term in office.

That has happened to other presidents. But it is extremely unlikely to happen to this president. There are reasons why other presidents have become impotent during their last years in office. But those reasons do not apply to Barack Obama.

The Constitution of the United States does not give presidents the power to carry out major policy changes without the cooperation of other branches of government. Once the country becomes disenchanted with a president during his second term, Congress has little incentive to cooperate with him -- and, once Congress becomes uncooperative, there is little that a president can do on his own.

That is, if he respects the Constitution.

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Latte Nation

Gluten for Punishment

By 6.24.14

We recently had dinner with another couple at a very fine restaurant. My friend’s wife, whom I'll call Alice, is a delightful and very intelligent woman, but also an uncompromising health fanatic, a virtual nutrition Nazi. As a result, placing our dinner order turned into an excruciatingly tedious ordeal.

“Good evening. My name is Jennifer, and I’ll be your server this evening.” She flashed a welcoming (don’t-forget-that-generous-tip) smile and added, “May I get you a cocktail or a glass of wine to start?” 

We ordered two martinis and a Pinot Grigio. Alice demurred and announced, “I don’t drink alcohol; what kind of fruit juice do you have?” Our server/waitperson/waitress wrinkled her brow: “Why, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask the bartender.”

“The appetizers are listed on your menu,” she continued. “I highly recommend the foie gras, it is really exceptional. And, we have two specials tonight that are not on your menu, the blue point oysters and simply delicious Maryland crab cakes—they’re our house specialty. I’ll be back in a minute with your drinks.” 

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