L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 257, February 1, 2004
"It's up to you, Democrats"
In His Own Words
Special to TLE
If you're an incumbent politician, you have it made. Your every move is reported to the public, ensuring name recognition. Campaign donations are easy to come by, since you are already in a position to reward contributors. No one can question whether you possess the requisite gravitas for the jobyou already hold it. Yet, being an incumbent has it downside, too. For one thing, your record is in plain view, for all to see. Your policy blunders are front-page news. Your words in a major public speech, such as the State of the Union Address, can and will be used against you.
The timing for this year's State of the Union Address couldn't have been better. The Iowa caucuses had been the big story all week, putting the Democratic contenders in the spotlight, and waking up a sleeping electorate. President Bush could respond with an hour of prime time television coverage, making the case for his reelection in his own words, appearing Presidential at the same time. Instead, he spelled out in dramatic detail why anyone who cares about freedom, or the Constitution, or the future of the nation should vote against him. With one big government proposal after another, he confirmed what independents and libertarians have been saying for yearsthere is no discernible difference between Republicans and Democrats.
The free-market Cato Institute counted 31 new or expanded policy intiatives in the speech, but no plans to end any existing government program. There were calls for more taxpayer money to be spent on job training, housing, and mentoringfor released criminals. More taxpayer money for Christian, Jewish, and Muslim charities. More taxpayer money to broadcast propaganda in the Middle East. More taxpayer money for all levels of a failed government-run educational system. More taxpayer money to be transferred from younger citizens who don't vote, to older citizens who do, in the form of expanded healthcare benefits. More taxpayer money for teaching abstinence. Although the Constitution requires the President to inform the Congress annually of the state of the union, the man who swore just three years ago to "uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution" failed to mention what clause of that document authorizes any of his proposed programs.
Not all of the new programs on the President's wish list would require more taxpayer dollars, of course. Some would merely add new levels of regulation and legal complexity where less is needed. President Bush made it clear that he wants to continue Drug Prohibition, despite the increasingly obvious evidence that it has given us more violent crime and government intrusiveness, while failing to decrease drug use at all. After proposing a half-dozen new ways for government to interfere in what should be a free market for medical care, he topped it off with an admonition that "a government-run health care system is the wrong prescription." He also requested new legislation to "modernize our electricity system," legislation that would be wholly unnecessary if a free market existed for the generation and distribution of electricity.
The President was severely criticized for lying about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction in last year's address, and was expected to be more careful with his facts this time. He may have avoided any outright falsehoods, but a few significant deceptions leaked through. When applauding Congress for passing his tax cuts, Bush stated, "the American people are using their money far better than government would have." Someone who hasn't been paying attention might take that statement to mean that the government had curtailed spending following the tax cuts, rather than increasing it by 23% in three years.
When pointing out that parts of the Patriot Act would expire next year (a line which by itself drew unintended applause), President Bush asked for them to be renewed, claiming absurdly, "We have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers." He failed to identify any embezzlers or drug traffickers who are sitting in military brigs, denied their 6th Amendment rights to a speedy public trial, to be formally charged, and to have competent legal counsel. The President instead continued a disturbing pattern of deception, saying something that's partly, almost true, in an attempt to downplay what's really happening, in hopes of satisfying the concerns of a largely gullible public. Bill Clinton would be proud.
Another deceit centered on the President's hugely unpopular proposal to allow illegal aliens to become legal temporary workers. Immediately after describing his proposal to unfairly reward those who break our laws, Bush claimed to "oppose amnesty, because it would.... unfairly reward those who break our laws." I suppose it depends on what the definition of "break" is. He also explained that, "a temporary worker program will help protect our homeland," somehow oblivious that his prospects for reelection were sinking as fast as his grasp on logic.
Given the chance to explain to an attentive nation why they should select him over the Democratic candidates, he instead described a platform that could have made him a Democratic candidate. Rather than use the "bully pulpit" of the Presidency to advance conservative causes such as protecting unborn human life or vowing to defend the right to keep and bear arms, he instead urged professional sports to crack down on steroid use, apparently a grave threat to our liberties.
I suppose those of us who expect our elected leaders to obey the Constitution should thank President Bush, for making the case against his own reelection so clearly. We should thank one of his anonymous speechwriters as well, for providing everyone in the freedom movement with a new rallying cry, from so unlikely a source:
...God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.
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