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David Axelrod: President Obama Just Too Complex for Americans


In Maureen Dowd’s column today, David Axelrod explains the national funk:

“Reagan significantly changed the trajectory of the country for better and worse. But he restored a sense of clarity. Bush and Cheney were black and white, and after them, Americans wanted someone smart enough to get the nuances and deal with complexities. Now I think people are tired of complexity and they’re hungering for clarity, a simpler time. But that’s going to be hard to restore in the world today.”


Hillary Clinton — Fighting Inequality One $200,000 Speech at a Time


I love this bit in this ABC News story about Hillary Clinton donating her college speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation:

Last week, students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where Clinton is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser in October, asked the former secretary of state to return her fee of $225,000 back to the university. If she does not, the students said they plan to protest her visit.

When asked to respond to the students’ plea during the ABC News interview, Clinton made no suggestion she would do as they’ve requested. Clinton said that as she travels the country speaking, she is presenting new ideas to help strengthen the economy, which in turn, will help lower income inequality.

“It’s been my experience,” Clinton said, “That they’re not worried about my speaking or my household, they’re worried about their own. And that’s the kind of debate I think I’m furthering as I go around the country speaking.”


Good Times at Plymouth Notch


While the rest of you were celebrating America’s Birthday, I was in Plymouth Notch, Vt., where everyone was multi-tasking — marking not just America’s Birthday, but Calvin Coolidge’s. If you are into small-town July Fourths, you can’t do better (or smaller) than this. The whole picturesque place is about five buildings, including the Coolidge homestead where he was famously sworn in as president and the Coolidge museum. It is still redolent of Coolidge’s virtues — of modesty, honesty, and faithfulness. The tradition is that there is a procession to lay a wreath on his grave and then (this is a revival) a reading of his autobiography in its entirety. Thanks to our friend (and NRO columnist) Amity Shlaes and the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation for having me.

Web Briefing: July 22, 2014

D’Souza Warns: Hillary Is Not Bill


Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and Georgetown University professor of sociology Michael Eric Dyson argued Sunday over Hillary Clinton’s connection to Saul Alinsky, with D’Souza saying Clinton is steeped in Alinsky’s ideas and Dyson saying she barely retained any of the radical left-wing theorist’s ideas.

“A lot of people think Hillary is like Bill; they go, ‘We kinda want Billary back in the White House,’” D’Souza said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week alongside Dyson, who appears in D’Souza’s new film, America: Imagine a World Without Her. But D’Souza pointed out that — in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton’s flexible and occasionally pro-market ideology — Hillary’s political thinking was formed by Rules for Radicals author Alinsky, whom she met in high school and about whom she wrote her college thesis.

But Dyson — author of Why I Love Black Women and a perfervid supporter of the Obama administration who has called Attorney General Eric Holder “the chief law giver of the United States, so to speak” and “the Moses of our time” — responded with a prolix defense of the former first lady, secretary of state, and U.S. senator.

“Here’s the reality,” Dyson said. “Yes, she has interpreted and interpolated Alinsky. But she is not, given the suspicions of Mr. D’Souza, somebody who’s trying to bring down American government. She’s trying to make that rare act of a politician in public, to bring ideas to bear upon the forces that prevail that help the nation become its best self and to work against the demons that are bespeaking, if you will, a negative impact on America. So Alinsky, in terms of his impact on Obama and Hillary Clinton, I’m sure the Alinskyites would say it’s barely discernible now, in their political lives.”

Although she started the appearance by saying D’Souza had “conspiracy theory,” This Week host Martha Raddatz concluded, “It’s a very interesting movie; everybody should go see it.”

Tags: Hillary Clinton , leftism , Sunday Shows July 6 2014


Rick Perry Doesn’t Believe Obama ‘Particularly Cares Whether Border Is Secure’


Texas governor Rick Perry said on Sunday that Obama-administration immigration authorities are “either inept or don’t care” about the crisis of unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants.

In a combative exchange with host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week, Perry said border guards are stretched too thin in the Lone Star State, and he cited the administration’s “catch-and-release policies” for driving a nearly threefold increase in the number of Central American children arriving at the border without adult guardians.

“What has to be addressed is the security of the border,” Perry said. “You know that; I know that; the president of the United States knows that. I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure. And that’s the reason there’s been this lack of effort, this lack of focus, this lack of resources.”

Raddatz argued that President Obama is “telling people not to come,” and she blamed a 2008 law signed by former president George W. Bush for the skyrocketing rate of illegal immigration by Central American minors in the last two years. That law governs treatment of illegal arrivals from non-contiguous countries.

“The president has sent powerful messages, time after time, by his policies, by nuances, that it is okay to come to the United States, and you can come across and you will be accepted in open arms,” Perry, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and potential 2016 hopeful, responded.

Raddatz then accused Perry of positing a “conspiracy” to bring illegals into the United States, but Perry stood his ground, pointing out that he has been warning the administration since 2010 about the potential for a surge and sent Obama a letter about the specific issue of unaccompanied minors in May 2012 — to which the administration never responded.

“I have to believe, that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept or you have some ulterior motive that you’re functioning from,” Perry said.

Tags: Illegal Immigration , Texas , Rick Perry , Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Issa: New Koskinen Testimony Will Turn Up Heat on Lois Lerner


California Republican representative Darrell Issa indicated on Sunday that upcoming testimony from Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen could further incriminate embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner.

“Either Lois Lerner’s attorney is outright not telling the truth . . . or the commissioner was inaccurate in his testimony before Congress,” Issa said on Fox News Sunday. “Now the lawyer, Mr. [William] Taylor, is not under oath. The commissioner is.”

Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was referring to statements made by Lerner’s legal team that contradicted claims made by Koskinen during recent House testimony. Lerner, former director of the tax agency’s Exempt Organizations Division, was a leader in an IRS campaign to target conservative and tea-party groups for abuse and suppression. Last year she pled her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before Congress, and she resigned soon afterward. More recently the IRS has claimed that it misplaced a trove of e-mails relating to Lerner’s potentially criminal actions.

Issa noted that Koskinen has asked for a chance to clarify his earlier testimony, adding that the evidence could underscore Lerner’s role in the widening IRS scandal.

“It probably will make us understand that Lois Lerner’s attorney continues to profess her innocence, when we’re long past the question of guilt,” Issa said. “She broke rules, she broke the law, and she continues to hide under the Fifth Amendment, which is her right. But let’s understand: She is in fact a person who’s been referred for criminal prosecution.”

Tags: Darrell Issa , Lois Lerner , IRS Scandal , Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Israeli Ambassador: Murderer of Palestinian Teen Won’t Be ‘Hailed as Hero’ in Israel


Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer on Sunday confirmed the arrest of a suspect in the murder of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent retaliatory attack for the murders, at the hands of Hamas, of three Israeli teens whose bodies were discovered last week.

In an interview with Fox News’s Shannon Bream, Dermer sought to underscore that despite the retaliatory nature of the tack, there is no equivalency between the nature of Israeli society and Palestinian society.

The Israeli perpetrators, Dermer said, if they are Jews, “will not be hailed as heroes by Israeli political leaders, there will not be public squares in Israel that will be named after them, little schoolboys and schoolgirls in Israel will not emulate them as heroes, and that’s exactly what we have on the Palestinian side where you have terrorists who are hailed as heroes by political leaders of the Palestinians, public squares named after murderers, children who learn to emulate murders. That’s the difference between our societies and it’s a difference we should never forget.”

Tags: Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Durbin Points Finger at Bush for Influx of Illegals


“I am really getting fed up with some of the critics of this administration,” the number two ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, told CBS News’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday. He said he is particularly upset with House Republicans who have expressed their anger with the chaos unfolding on the southern border despite their refusal to pass an immigration-reform bill.

Though many have blamed the Obama administration for giving a green light to illegal immigrants, particularly children, to flood into the U.S. by signaling that immigration laws would not be enforced, Durbin instead said the blame for the disaster falls at the feet of former president George W. Bush. “It was the Homeland Security Act signed by President George W. Bush which says we treat these children humanely,” Durbin said.

He added, “I think this administration understands what needs to be done” — that is, he said, to send an envoy to Central America, to make clear that sending children across the border is a deadly decision, and ultimately to target the smugglers bringing the children into the country.

Tags: Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Carly Fiorina: ‘The War on Women Is Shameless, Baseless Propaganda’


Carly Fiorina dismissed claims of a “War on Women” Sunday, saying the concept was an unsubstantiated political ploy and even drawing on ancient Chinese wisdom to scold contemporary Democrats.

“A lot of women, me included, are sick of the ‘war on women,’” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and California Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said. “And we saw it in spades on Monday after the Hobby Lobby case. The women of Hobby Lobby had access to contraception through their company insurance plan before Obamacare; they have access to contraception — 16 forms of it — after the ruling. But somehow, you know, this is the long arm of business and the Republican party reaching into the body of women. It’s ridiculous.”

Fiorina then pulled out a fortune she said she’d received recently in a fortune cookie.

“‘Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause,’” Fiorina read. “And that’s exactly right. The War on Women is shameless, baseless propaganda. There’s no fact to it. But it’s worked because it’s scared women to death. Enough.”

Tags: War On Women , Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Candy Crowley: ‘Oh My Goodness, the Poor Children.’


CNN’s Candy Crowley slammed a small-town mayor Sunday for not taking a harder line against American citizens who are protesting a flood of illegal immigrants into his town.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Murrieta, Calif., mayor Alan Long pointed out that federal authorities, not his office, made the decision Tuesday to divert three busloads of undocumented immigrants from a detention center in the Riverside County city of 107,000.

Crowley repeatedly chastised Long, however, for not clearing the streets of protesters.

“As you look at these protests, the overwhelming concern did not seem to be, ‘Oh my goodness, the poor children,’” Crowley said, “The overwhelming concern seemed to be, ‘Go away. Not here.’ If this is an American concern, are you at all rethinking the idea that a town can turn away busloads of children without documents who are on their way to a federal processing center?”

Long responded that local police had intervened for the safety of the buses, which were reportedly carrying unaccompanied minors to be processed at the federal immigration jail.

“But you could have cleared the streets, right?” Crowley shot back.

According to Long, however, the decision to divert the buses was made by federal authorities. Crowley continued pestering Long to keep immigration protesters off the streets of Murrieta, but the mayor turned the question around later in the interview, saying the massive increase in unaccompanied minors from Central America was a product of bad federal policy.

“We object to inhumane facilities,” Long said of the detention center that the federal authorities were intending to use to house children. “If you look at the facilities, those are jail cells.”

Tags: Illegal Immigration , CNN , Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Will the Illegal Children Be Deported?


Watch David Gregory try to get an answer to that question from Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson:

Tags: Sunday Shows July 6 2014

Slate’s Legal Team Outdoes Itself


The Supreme Court’s injunction for Wheaton College is generating a ferociously ignorant response, and Slate is naturally eager to be part of it. Ed Whelan cuts through the stupidity.

To discern how utterly clueless Lithwick and West are, one need go no further than their assertion that the Court “said” that the accommodation was “unconstitutional.” This assertion is doubly wrong. First, as anyone paying attention ought to know, the Hobby Lobby ruling rests on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not on any provision of the Constitution, and there is nothing in the Court’s Wheaton order to suggest that the Court is relying on the Constitution. Second, the Court didn’t “say” that the accommodation is illegal. On the contrary, it explicitly states that its order “should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits.” . . . 

State Department Rebukes Israel for Arrest of American Teen


Israeli officials have taken an American teenager into custody, a State Department spokeswoman confirmed in a statement calling for a “credible” investigation into whether he was beaten by police.

“We can confirm that Tariq Khdeir, an American citizen, is being held by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force. We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.”

WTSP, a local Tampa media outlet, explains that the high-school student was in Israel “attending a demonstration following the death of his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir,” a 16-year-old who “was killed by a suspected Israeli extremist in a revenge attack following the deaths of three Israeli teens who were abducted in the West Bank last month.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to find Khdeir’s killers. “We don’t know yet the motives or the identities of the perpetrators, but we will. We will bring to justice the criminals responsible for this despicable crime, whoever they may be,” Netanyahu said. “Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism — they have no place in our democracy.”

Psaki “reiterate[d] our grave concern about the increasing violent incidents, and call on all sides to take steps to restore calm and prevent harm to innocents.”

Report: UT President Is Out


For those of you who have been following the University of Texas admissions scandal here and elsewhere, and the equally scandalous impeachment of the UT regent who asked uncomfortable questions about favors given to friends and family of Texas politicians, the Dallas Morning News reports that UT president Bill Powers is being shown the door.

It’s worth noting that among the prime movers in this sorry episode is Jim Pitts, chairman of the Texas House appropriations committee and a Republican — a reminder that Republicans are not always on our side, and that politicians’ first loyalty very often is to their own interests.

For Governor Rick Perry, attempting to reform the self-satisfied and corrupt little fiefdom that is the Texas state university system has been a thankless task, winning him many more enemies than friends, but it is a vital one. It is also another example of the fact that being a governor is a more difficult thing than being a senator, something that conservatives should be keeping in mind in 2016

Congress Could Have Exempted Obamacare From RFRA


In all the hysterical howling from the left about the modest Hobby Lobby ruling, a letter to the editor by one Emmett C. Stanton in the San Francisco Chronicle makes some very cogent points. I repeat them here. From the letter:

People choose to forget that when Obamacare passed so narrowly, it was in large part because the administration misled pro-life Democrats about its abortion and abortifacient coverage.

The legislation never would have passed if the regulation that the Department of Health and Human Services later imposed on employers had been included in the law itself. And, needless to say, Obamacare never would have passed if Congress had honestly chosen to exempt it from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which it had the unquestioned power to do.

All the Supreme Court did was hold that RFRA – introduced in the House by Chuck Schumer, passed unanimously in the House and passed by a 97-3 vote in the Senate with the strong support of Ted Kennedy – trumped a mere administrative regulation.

This is what rational discourse looks like.

Richard Scaife, Conservative Patriot, Dies at 82


It was fitting for a patriot such as Richard Mellon Scaife that he died on the Fourth of July.  Dick Scaife loved his country, and as a philanthropist, political activist, and newspaper publisher he helped to make it and his hometown of Pittsburgh better.

“There would be no conservative movement as we know it today without Dick Scaife,” says Chris Ruddy, the owner of the popular Internet and cable-TV outlet Newsmax.  “Dick was an early funder of almost every major conservative group. He put up the original money for the Heritage Foundation, for example. He had one overriding love in his whole life: his country.”

He himself was a modest — even reclusive — man.  But he felt compelled to enter the political fray through his support of publications ranging from National Review to The American Spectator to his local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  He endured great criticism for his support of the Spectator and its hard-hitting coverage of the Cinton administration.  He later mellowed and reconciled with both of the Clintons.

The attacks on him by liberals as a rich plutocrat prefigured those launched on figures such as Charles and David Koch.  But Scaife never took his critics seriously, arguing in his autobiography, A Seriously Conservative Life, that “private wealth flows back to the public good sooner or later, and with better results than if taxed away by that great middleman, the government.”

Scaife was, throughout his life, a benefactor of the causes of liberty. He will be missed.


Whoever Wants to Know the Heart and Mind of America


America’s 238th birthday is also the 75th anniversary of baseball’s Gettysburg Address, Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. You can read it about here and here.

On Recognizing a Self-Evident Truth or Two


One of so much that those who signed the Declaration of Independence got right was the recognition that working to change the system from within was going nowhere.  The era of “patient sufferance” had, they understood, to come to an end: The time of “petitions for redress” had passed.  

Open Europe runs, I believe, one of the best think tanks on the EU that there is. That is not meant to damn with faint praise: Its research is invaluable. But Open Europe has a blind spot: the belief that the EU can be reformed to a degree that would make it an acceptable place for Britain to stay. Unfortunately, it cannot. The EU has reached a point where (decades late, admittedly) its politics are now roughly in sync with where its founders might have wanted them to be. To imagine that, absent some external crisis, there will now be a turning back or even a significant change of direction is absurd. Ever closer union means what it says.

And yet Open Europe and, of course, Britain’s out-of-its-depth Conservative leadership continue to pretend that ‘reform’ is still possible. In arguing that, they provide useful, if unintended, support for those who want to keep things just as they are.  Open Europe’s new report arguing that Britain should put forward a “heavy-hitting” candidate as ‘its’ EU commissioner (the UK has the right to have one of its own in the EU’s top bureaucratic team) is a classic of that genre.  Don’t get me wrong:  the UK should nominate someone who is a heavy hitter, and, for that matter someone who—unlike David Cameron— understands how Brussels works. But it needs to be clear what that heavy hitter should be hitting. Open Europe would like to see the British candidate land the Internal Market job (he or she would be responsible for ensuring that the EU’s single market works well) or, failing that, the Competition (antitrust) portfolio. This is typical of the thinking that the EU’s facsimile of free trade trumps the loss of control over much of immigration, the arrest warrant (long topic), the micro-regulation, the spending, and the rest of the whole post-democratic bag of tricks. It should not, and it must not.

Even if we do accept Open Europe’s reasoning, and agree that it is important to secure a job like the Internal Market slot, it is essential to recognize that the best such an individual can do is to make things a little less bad.  But a spoonful of sugar should not be allowed to help the poison go down.  If anything, Britain’s nominee should become Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud. The last two parts of that portfolio offer a great deal of opportunity to an energetic person prepared to turn his or her attention to the institutions of the EU.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Open Europe’s stance is the repetition of the myth that Britain has ‘reform-minded’ allies within the EU. Open Europe cites Sweden (set, incidentally, to elect a left-wing government in September) and the Netherlands as two examples. The reality is that Britain does not. Yes, there are countries that see things the same way as the UK on this topic or that, and there are others that have proved themselves adept at murmuring sweet supportive nothings, but when it comes down to it, these allies are nowhere to be seen. Britain lost the Juncker vote 26-2, supported only by Hungary’s pariah prime minister.

Dan Hannan, whose article today on my favorite flag is a must–read, wrote this at the end of last month:

As recently as ten days ago, I thought that a compromise would be found [good heavens, Dan, really?]. Surely the other members wouldn’t actively drive Britain to exit, would they? In the event, they could hardly have been clearer. First, the new Finnish prime minister hectored us, telling us to ’smell the coffee’ and realise how dependent we were on the EU, whatever form it took. Then Angela Merkel, coming out of the meeting, gave a press conference in which she said that ever-closer union must apply to all 28 member states, that ‘reform’ in her mind applied to economic liberalisation, not to any repatriation of powers, and that the process whereby European political parties nominated the Commission President, as if the EU were a single federal electorate, would henceforth be normal.

To talk now of a looser EU, a more comfortable EU, an EU in which powers can be returned to the national capitals, is preposterous. A British leader who tried to take such a line would be laughed out of office. The EU has just entrusted its political direction to a man who has spent his entire life campaigning – perfectly honestly, to be fair to him – for a United States of Europe. Among other things, he wants a common EU citizenship with reciprocal voting rights in national elections; a pan-European minimum wage; a unified EU diplomatic corps; a federal police agency; and EU-wide taxation. And this is the man whom 26 out of 28 governments have just voted to appoint.

There will be no reform. It is in or out. America’s founders would have recognized that reality. They would have known what to do.

The Greatest Founders You’ve Never Heard Of


Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 instead of, say, June 4? Mostly because of John Dickinson. A polymath Delaware plantation owner, Dickinson was trained as a jurist alongside Edmund Burke at London’s Middle Temple, and as the eponymous author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania was the great literary celebrity of the American cause in the late 1760s and early 1770s. “The American Cicero” no less than Voltaire called him, before an impudent ne’er-do-well pencil-pusher name of Tom Paine stole his market share.  

I’ve pimped Dickinson on the Corner before, and highly recommend David Lefer’s The Founding Conservatives, which I reviewed in NRODT last year, as a place to start on Dickinson and some of the other “lesser” Founding Fathers who, in Lefer’s view (and my own), saved the Revolution from itself.

Dickinson, in particular, figured in every significant crisis of the American founding from the Stamp Act on and, in the year before the Declaration, was arguably the man who kept the colonial cause united. The first Continental Congress had a mostly mediatory feel, a civil dispute “between brothers,” as Charlie Cooke puts it. The Congress seriously considered a proposal to create an American “union” with Britain, governed by a crown-appointed president, and its closing banquet ended with a toast to King George III. But there were radicals in the midst who wanted independence tout court, and it made many attendees nervous enough that they secretly wrote each other affidavits swearing they had voted against resolutions they considered seditious.

Dickinson, even then an elder statesman whom John Adams and others held in awe, was critical in reconciling the radical and conservative factions. As I summarized, following the Lefer book:

Even at the Second Continental Congress, convened against the backdrop of the outrages at Lexington and Concord, Dickinson shrewdly split the difference between revolution and rapprochement, arguing that the aggressive provision for war “must go pari passu with measures of reconciliation.” Dickinson may have been privately convinced that both independence and all-out war were now inevitable, but publicly he was instrumental in securing one final petition to the Crown for the redress of grievances, against the huffing of the Adamses and their bloc of New England and Virginia radicals. What Adams and the radicals didn’t understand was that Dickinson’s “Olive Branch Petition” was really about buying time for war preparations, and giving the colonies something to rally around when Britain inevitably rejected it.

In the fateful summer of 1776, Dickinson’s conservatives were instrumental in securing a one-month delay in voting for independence that John Adams, at the time virulently opposed, would admit in 1813 was critical to readying the continent for war.

But Dickinson’s prudence quickly made him a man out of time, in more ways than one. As June turned to July, he could forestall a vote no longer. Despairing of a war he thought his countrymen were ill prepared to fight, much less win, “It was Dickinson, subsequently, who rose to make the final case against the Declaration, well aware that in doing so he was expending every ounce of goodwill and esteem he had accrued.”

Dickinson thought the Declaration not unjust, but imprudent, and wanted to secure both foreign allies and a new government for America before declaring open war on the greatest empire in the world. When his counsels didn’t prevail, Dickinson and his ally Robert Morris . . . decided of their own accord to stand “behind the bar” during the July 2 vote, and were officially marked “absent.” This tipped Pennsylvania toward independence, and, along with the New York delegation’s abstention, allowed posterity to record the vote as unanimous.

Dickinson drew scorn from every corner of Pennsylvania society as a suspected Loyalist, but although he never signed the Declaration, he proclaimed himself “resolved by every impulse of my soul to share, and to stand or fall with [America] in that scheme of freedom she had chosen.” And that he did. In the same week he stood athwart history, Dickinson made it, drafting the Articles of Confederation, [and] legally christening the days-old republic “The United States of America.” Then, as a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia, he led a battalion to join General Washington’s army in the battle for New York. If a tapestry were made to commemorate the founding of American conservatism, these events would be as good a subject matter as any.

Dickinson and his allies continued to serve the cause throughout the Revolution, even though the Congress was increasingly dominated by men who openly detested them. There is still the historiographical fiction of unanimity and accord among the Founders; Richard Hofstadter called it the “consensus school” of the American Revolution. But the reality is that the war was fought and won amid internal regional, political, and class tensions, and ultimately amid tensions between groups that we would today recognize as radicals and conservatives — the former, mostly agrarians and mostly from New England and Virginia; the latter, mostly merchants and aristocrats and mostly from New York and the Deep South.

You won’t be surprised to hear that conservatives were wise and judicious and that the radicals were, well, idiots who almost bunked the whole thing up.

It was radicals who at every stage niggled and undermined America’s first secret agent, conservative Silas Deane, as he snuck French rifles past a British blockade and signed the commissions of young Gallic adventurers like the Marquis De Lafayette.

It was radicals who, in the middle of a shooting war, shredded Pennsylvania’s long-standing constitution in favor of a novelty that wouldn’t have been out of place in post-Bastille Paris. And it was radicals who summarily excluded from political participation the 40 percent of the (white, male) population they considered political enemies.

It was a murderous radical mob that in 1779 forced James Wilson, a prominent lawyer and signatory of the Declaration, to barricade himself inside his Philadelphia home for having the gall to speak out against the radical government’s arbitary seizures of private property.

It was radicals in the Congress who second-guessed each and every of General Washington’s moves and sought to have his deputies replaced with political allies. And it was radicals who debased the Continental currency into oblivion, bankrupting the revolutionary government and inciting mutinies and near-mutinies across army ranks.

Of course it was conservatives who were left to clean up their mess. My favorite is Dickinson’s pal Robert Morris, the shipping magnate who became the Revolution’s smuggler-in-chief and later both its treasurer and sugar daddy. As the mostly wealthy, landed radicals railed against the ignobility of financial capital (sound familiar?), the conservative Morris had consecrated his personal fortune to the cause of liberty, issuing his own “Morris notes” to backstop the Congress’s floundering fiat money and bankrolling the Battle of Yorktown in hard specie at Washington’s beseeching.

To be sure, all patriots helped win the war for America’s independence, but the conservatives won the war for its character. Not only did Dickinson and acolytes like Morris and John Jay play critical roles in the framing of the Constitution, but their number were augmented by both converts and upstarts. With age and experience John Adams went from Dickinson fanboy to Dickinson foe and back again (hilariously calling Paine’s Common Sense a “poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass” late in his life). And it was Morris who recommended young Alexander Hamilton for the post of secretary of the Treasury, after himself declining it.

Meanwhile it was the radicals, by and large, who became the anti-federalists, and the radicals who were written out of the post-Yorktown story. Sure, a few radicals stuck around long enough to undermine American diplomacy or bungle their way into disastrous wars (::cough:: Jefferson ::cough::), but thankfully, the damage was limited.

So on this Independence Day, in addition to venerating the usual suspects, why not take a second to tip your cap and pour one out for the John Dickinsons and Robert Morrises of the  world — the greatest Founders you’ve never heard of. 

4th of July links


Independence Day links: the most bad-ass founding fathers, forgotten founding fathers, how news reports of independence spread in 1776, Independence Days from sci-fi, and the top 10 movies for today. And for inspiration: the full text of the Declaration of Independence, excellent speeches from Coolidge (1926) and Reagan (1986) and (my favorite) from Lincoln in 1858: “Let us stick to it then. Let us stand firmly by it then.”

All about The Statue of Liberty.

Dave Barry’s 1998 column for the 4th of July.

Videos: The Science of Fireworks and of Barbecue.

PBS’s description of various fireworks effects, and a quiz.

America The Beautiful: the story of the song.

ICYMIMonday’s links are here, and include a map of the hometowns of Marvel superheros, the science of mermaids and of chocolate chip cookies, and a video showing how to peel an entire bag of potatoes in under a minute.


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