Fresh off coming in first place in the presidential preference poll at the Values Voters Summit this past weekend, Mike Pence tonight is making a speech on the nature and conduct of the presidency at Hillsdale College. We at the Spectator secured an advance copy of it, and it is powerful stuff. It is thoughtful, wise, eloquent, inspirational, and timely. It also takes some barely veiled, beautifully targeted shots at the current occupant of the Oval Office. The theme is that the presidency is not an office for a ruler, but for a servant; not for somebody to “transform” us, but for somebody who will listen to us and work for us, to make our visions a reality rather than to impose his vision on us. Obviously, this is not what one B.H. Obama is doing, or at least trying to do.
What the nation says — the theme of this address — What it says, informed by its long history, impelled by the laws of nature and nature’s God — What it says quite naturally and rightly, if not always gracefully, is that we as a people are not to be ruled and not to be commanded. It says that the president should never forget this; that he has not risen above us, but is merely one of us, chosen by ballot, dismissed after his term, tasked not to transform and work his will upon us, but to bear the weight of decision and to carry out faithfully the design laid down in the Constitution and impassioned by the Declaration of Independence.
The presidency has run off the rails. It begs a new clarity, a new discipline, and a new president. The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or ruler. He does not command us, we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision. It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law and beliefs; to appropriate industries; to seize the country, as it were, by the shoulders or by the throat so as to impose by force of theatrical charisma his justice upon 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power of decision away from them, and to him and the acolytes of his choosing.
Take that, Barack!
While most of Pence’s best passages are paragraph-long, a few pithy sentences stand on their own. They stand well because they are rooted in the best of American values. For instance: “The powers of the presidency are extraordinary and necessarily great, and great presidents treat them sparingly.” And: “A president who slights the Constitution is like a rider who hates his horse: he will be thrown, and the nation along with him.”And: “The sun will burn out, the Ohio River will flow backwards, and the cow will jump over the moon 10,000 times before any modern president’s conception is superior to that of the Founders of this nation.”
And, stirringly, on America’s prudential place in the world, as oft by example as by direct engagement, but always steadfast: “We can still astound the world with justice, reason and strength.”
But what am I doing by doling this out in dribs and drabs? Here, yes here, is the whole speech. Read the whole thing and marvel. Maybe Mike Pence will run for the presidency in 2012, or maybe not. But he definitely belongs in the conversation for it, and as a potential leading light among the candidates. And even if he does not run, the other candidates should call upon his eloquence and his wisdom.
To Rep. Pence, we should all say: Good job, good sir. Good job.