Tuesday, May 16, 2017


"May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." ~ President John Adams

There is something seriously wrong when Benedict Arnold's good qualities dwarf those of the gentleman from New York.
     "Mr. President, have we ever had a President who was financially dishonest?"*

     "No, no.  We've had Presidents who've had crooked men around them.  Grant and Harding and perhaps some others who don't come to mind at the moment.  But so far as I know, we have never had one who was himself dishonest.  We've been very lucky in that regard, and I just hope our luck holds out."  (Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller, 132)

     "...(T)he only way free government works is if the men in charge of it have got the welfare of the people in mind at all times.  If a man loses sight of that even for a minute, you don't have free government anymore."  (Miller, 134)

     On the twenty-ninth, we celebrate a double secular Sabbath, Memorial Day and the birth of the thirty-fifth President of the United States.  Throughout his service to the nation, JFK donated his salary to charity.  And there has never been a better time to remember his remarks to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961.^

HISTORY will not judge our endeavors--and a government cannot be selected--merely on the basis of color or creed or party affiliation.  Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.

     For of those to whom much is given, much is required.  And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us--recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state--our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

     First, were we truly men of courage--with the courage to stand up to one's enemies--and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's own associates--the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

     Secondly, were we truly men of judgment--with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past--of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others--with enough wisdom to know what we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

     Third, were truly men of integrity--men who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them--men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?

     Finally, were we truly men of dedication--with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?*^

     Courage--judgment--integrity--dedication--these are...the qualities which, with God's help, this son of Massachusetts hopes will characterize our government's conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead.

(c)2017 Marvin D. Jones.  All rights reserved.









Friday, May 12, 2017

General Examples

"An army takes on the character of its commander."*

The fellow from the Tower did not put on a top hat but tripped over his tails and sang off-key.  They watched and listened and followed--with bad impressions of Ginger Rogers.  But what she did backwards and in high heels, they could not match in flats and moving forward.  So, with two left feet and a pedestrian speech, the pervasive pattern of all the New Yorker's men continued.  He had set the tone.

     "One, two, cha-cha--ouch!"

     The lessons paid off, as shown by a general's remarks.

     "If lawmakers do not like the laws they've passed and we are charged to enforce--then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws.  Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines."

     Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 concerns legislative privilege.

     "The Senators and Representatives...shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place."

     Justice Harlan explained the significance of "the culmination of a long struggle for parliamentary supremacy" in United States v. Johnson.

     "Behind these simple phrases lies a history of conflict between the Commons and the Tudor and Stuart monarchs during which successive monarchs utilized the criminal and civil law to suppress and intimidate critical legislators.  Since the Glorious Revolution in Britain, and throughout United States history, the privilege has been recognized as an important protection of the independence and integrity of the legislature."  (383 US 178)

     Ignorance is not an excuse.

     "Sixteen times in my life, I have raised my right hand and solemnly sworn before my God that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States."

     Before he was Governor of New Jersey and President of the United States, Professor Woodrow Wilson studied the role of Congress.

     "Quite as important as legislation is vigilant oversight of administration; and even more important than legislation is the instruction and guidance in political affairs which the people might receive from a body which kept all national concerns suffused in a broad daylight of discussion."

     Sixteen times in my life, I have raised my right and solemnly sworn before my God...

     "It is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees.  It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the wisdom and will of its constituents."

     Sixteen times...I have...solemnly sworn...that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

     "The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function.  The argument is not only that discussed and interrogated administration is the only pure and efficient administration, but, more than that, that the only really self-governing people is that people which discusses and interrogates its administration."  (Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics by Woodrow Wilson, 297 & 303, Fifteenth Edition)

     In a republic, arguments from authority make about as much sense as a submarine with screen doors, and they should be given as much deference as the ridiculous deserves.  The falsetto bravado of a would-be Pavarotti--"We will never apologize for enforcing and upholding the law.  We will never apologize for carrying out our mission.  We will never apologize for making our country more secure."--fools no one.  The deliberate disrespect of a co-equal, co-ordinate branch of government is part of the pervasive pattern of insult and intimidation that opens to bad reviews.  Comity--institutional courtesy--is a necessity in a system of checks and balances under the separation of powers.  And anyone who does not understand that--even if supposedly experienced--should be in another line of work.

     Words matter; they arise from thoughts; and they are a preview of coming attractions--deeds.  The General spoke of the country, the nation, and the value of a republic.  A general has adopted an alien word.  Instead of continental--another word favored by the General--he embraces H_ _ _land, a variation of Motherland or Fatherland, a place for a particular ethnic or racial group.  But their use in a nation of immigrants sets off the tweets of a canary.  For alien words and alien ways can corrupt and lead us astray, and they can ultimately destroy freedom.  Yet a general has adopted Orwellian words with policies to match.

     "Sixteen times" or "Sixteen Candles"?  He mocks the oath.  And expects us to bake him a cake?  If a general will never apologize for imaginary demands that he do so, it is unlikely that he will respond to requests regarding his actual offenses.  Thus, the actions of such a general merit a letter of concern from the Senate, which if unsatisfied, can be followed by calls for his resignation, then censure, contempt, or, finally, impeachment.

     "Danger close."

     We do not slither and follow the lead of a general.  We walk in the footsteps of the General--the Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces, who, despite the frustrations and disappointments of dealing with politicians, refused to become what he fought against--a despot, which was one of the complaints made against the King in the Declaration.  We walk in the footsteps of the General, the President of the Federal Convention where the Constitution was written.  We walk in the footsteps of the General, the first President of the United States--a man totally committed to the supreme law of the land, who was aware that his deeds would set precedents for his successors.

     George Washington knew the difference between a Cabinet and a Privy Council.  For a monarchy--with the attendant nepotism and bowing courtiers--is one thing, a republic another.

     "Danger close."

(c)2017 Marvin D. Jones.  All rights reserved.

*An old saying