Charles Krauthammer – Constitution Day Celebration 2011
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Charles Krauthammer – Constitution Day Celebration 2011

October 9, 2019

country tis of thee. Sweet land of liberty. DOUG JEFFREY: Ladies
and gentlemen, if I could have your
attention, again, please. First off, I’d like to welcome
back our online audience. As you’ve heard,
over 50,000 people registered online
for tonight’s event. And second, for those
of you here present, please continue with your coffee
and desserts as we proceed. It’s my duty now to
introduce, again, my boss– the president of
Hillsdale College– for some remarks. And I thought I’d
do that tonight by giving you an idea of
how he manages the college. And in doing that,
also draw a contrast between the governing
of Hillsdale and the way government operates
here in this city. So I won’t provide you
the details or the context exactly, but suffice it to
say that just this past week, a controversy arose involving
a staff, some students, and one or two faculty members. And President Arnn stepped
into the discussion of this controversy
with an email. And I’ll quote you from
the end of his email. Quote, “it is worth
saying, if too general, that the ultimate standard we
seek is [GREEK] this is a Greek word– like-mindedness that allows a
community to act in concord. For the sake of
this, Aristotle says, it is not good enough
for people to be just, while if they are friends,
there is no need to be just.” “So far, he continued, “this
sounds as though friendship is merely something advantageous
for the social and political good. But Aristotle immediately
adds that it is also beautiful or noble. Like-mindedness is more than
justice, but it is not less. We need to have
both,” end quote. So my first point is,
this is not typical email from the president
of Hillsdale College, reflects the fact that he
is an atypical president. And my second point goes to the
difference between Washington DC today and Hillsdale and that
is that unlike in Washington– for those of us who have a hand
in managing Hillsdale College– emails like this are
what we call, a stimulus. [APPLAUSE] Please welcome, again, the 12th
president of Hillsdale College, Dr. Larry Arnn. [APPLAUSE] LARRY ARNN: Thank you, Doug. I did write that weird thing. See, I’m teaching
Aristotle this term. And so, if you’re a hammer,
everything looks like a nail. I’m trying to remember– what was the controversy
that led me to write that? Probably had something to do
with the college newspaper. So I have some thanks to
say, is my main point, and then I have to frighten
you and then we’ll be done. It’s an unusual night because
a large number of my women folk are here. And it’s also unusual
because there’s 900 people or 850 or
something in this room and then, there’s a very large
number watching on TV– hi. And because the great
majority of the people are not going to be able
to see the women that I’m going to mention, I can
describe them however I please. I’m married to an English
girl and her name is Penny. And her sister is here. And our younger
daughter, Alice, is here. And her sister, Jane, is
her name, and my mother, Georgia– now
deceased, and Alice all have something in common. And because they’re
two in her lineage– Alice’s– that contribute this,
Alice is particularly that way. Alice is very stubborn. But also, they’re
all very beautiful and so, Penny and Jane and
Alice, please stand up. [APPLAUSE] Turn around, turn
around, turn around. And to you people out
there, I want you to know, none of the people in this
room think that Alice is good looking because of me. I thank the speakers today. [APPLAUSE] I think we’re in the middle
of a long period of strife and trouble and eventually, war. And I think that we’re not
going to lose our country. And one of the
reasons I think that– [APPLAUSE] –is that God has provided
us people like Paul Ryan and Michael Mukasey. And Tom West, and Doug
Jeffrey, and Paul Marino, and John Shattuck are
colleagues of mine, and they’re astonishingly good. And Martha Derthick. And I didn’t get
to hear them today because I had to go
over to the Kirby Center and show the Kirby
Center to Alan Kirby– who liked it, I’m
happy to report. We’re having this conference
because a choice is coming. We don’t think that it’s our
business to push or compel anyone to do anything. We believe in free government. But it does so happen,
that facts are facts, and especially, if one
understands the principles according to which
they operate, you can figure out what they mean. And I’ll name you two. And in combination, they
mean danger and hope. Danger– I read that last
week, the Department of Health and Human Services– you ever seen that building? It’s ugly. And I favor the
architectural method of constitutional reform. In this city, many things
operate in beautiful buildings and many things operate
in ugly buildings. And one can tell which
is constitutional by that distinction. And the Department of Health
and Human Services last week, gave $700 million in grants to
state agencies and contractors to begin the
implementation of what we call the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act– Obamacare. And think about
700 million bucks. That’s a small city,
except full of people who are very interested and smart. And they now are
enrolled in the job of bringing that thing to be. And for that and for
Dodd-Frank, this week, they’re doing rulemaking–
and the next week, and the week after,
and the week after. And the rule making process
works in the most wonderful way because what happens
is, they call a hearing and they start working on it. And everybody, all the
various trade associations and all the stuff that’s
going on in this town– and by the way, in 1960, there
was no Fortune 500 company that had a telephone number
or an address in this town because you didn’t
need to be here. They were busy
governing the country, not taking everybody’s property. And so when you start the
rulemaking, what happens is all these people
show up and they want to get their
seat at the table and so they all get
their chit to intervene and be of influence, by agreeing
that the whole process is legitimate and endorsing the
final outcome in advance. Now that’s going on right
now, before the next election. And that means that even
after the next election, it’ll be very hard to
do anything about that. And I don’t even need
to argue tonight– and I probably don’t need
to argue to any of you– that that’s not a good thing. The point that is
important to make is that that’s a
different way of doing it than it used to be done. It is entirely different. And that there is a way, long
proved and long established, now uprooted of governing
the country that precedes by different methods. And those methods are– since Doug read that memo– my own theory is you govern
people best by goals. You have to have a very
clear line of authority and you have to get
everybody to agree to the same goal– say the
Declaration of Independence or [GREEK]. And then, watch them work. Its marvels unfold. And you have to intervene
once in a while, when you’ve got something to say,
but mostly, they just do wonderful things and you
get to take credit for them. That’s the constitutional
method of rule. And wherever it thrives,
everything thrives. And that’s the
opposite way and that’s the gloomy thing
that is entrenched. And all over the world– by the way– while
we subject ourselves to those in efficient methods
that waste our substance and produce poor
results, our enemies grow in power with every passing
day and we need to be strong. [APPLAUSE] So that’s the gloomy part. And then the happy part is,
how would we get strong? And I’ll tell you a sign of it. I’m going to mention a
particular guy– there’s a bunch of congressmen
here tonight, I think, and this guy’s not here. Shame on him, but I’m
going to praise him anyway because he’s great and
an old friend of mine. I got a call in the middle
of the debt ceiling debate and I was watching
the thing and I didn’t know what to
think about it exactly because I had the honor never
to have been a legislator. And there’s a congressman named
McClintock from California. And a long time ago at
the Claremont Institute where I used to work–
and Brian Kennedy, it’s current president,
is here somewhere. I think he’s here. Anyway, I don’t like him
because he used to work for me. He’s a really
great guy and I was confident nobody could run
that place after I stopped. And it’s just very angry
making to me that he can. But McClintock used
to work with there and he’s a really great guy. And you know him? You He’s a really a great guy. And he’s a sophomore congressman
from northern California. Going to help save the
country, he will do that. And one of our boys– one of my boys, a
kid I had an class named Will Dunham–
very bright kid. He might be here tonight. But if he is, he says to sit way
in the back because he’s young. And Will called me
one day and he said, do you think we’re right
about the debt ceiling vote? Tom was one of the 20
some votes against it. And I said, I don’t know, I
haven’t thought about it much. What are you doing? And he said, we’re
going to vote no. And I said, yeah, but what
if the country defaults or something? Won’t that be bad? And he said, yeah, I’m a
little worried about it. Tom’s going to call you. And they’re busy. They’re voting on
a Thursday night. And it’s coming down to the
short strokes– it was finally settled on that Sunday. And my phone rings in
a little while and it’s my friend, Tom, on the phone. And he says, well,
how am I doing? And I said, I don’t know. What are you doing? And he said, well, I’m
going to vote no on this. And I said, well, explain it. You got a good argument? I said, anyway, Tom, you’re
a legislator, I’m not. You know more
about it than I do. And he said, “well, you
taught me everything I know. And I want you to understand
that phenomenon, by the way, because I didn’t. He knows more than I do
about a lot of things. I taught him some things as some
people taught me those things. And I remember the
power of that bond, and I’m talking about a man,
Tom, that I used to work with and we learned some
things together. And a man, Will, that I used to
have in class and we work with. And we learned some
things together. And we’re friends. [GREEK] And I said, so tell
me your argument. And he said, my
argument is simple. And I think you’ll like
this when you hear it. He said that all of this
is a storm in a teacup because it very often happens
every week, every month, every year. That something comes
up and something has to be done for sure,
but the parties don’t agree. That happens all the time. And there’s a way of
dealing with it, he said. And the way is prescribed in
the Constitution of the United States. We have a bicameral legislature
and separation of powers. And by the way, now this
kids telling me this and it’s repeating
back to me things. And he said, what we
do in a case like that is that one house
passes its bill and becomes
responsible before God and the American people
for what it wants to do. And the other house
passes its bill and becomes responsible before
God and the American people for what it wants to do. And then everybody knows
what they want to do and that empowers the
people to make a judgment. And then after that, they
have a conference committee. And the conference
committee makes three steps. And only three and it
always makes the same three. And the first one is, it
takes everything in both bills and it puts them in a bill. And the second thing it does
is, it makes a strict judgment about what else must
be added to the bill to make a bill that works. And then the third
thing it does is it takes things from
each bills, wherever possible within the
parameters of the two bills, within the extremes
of the two bills, and it puts those
together to make a bill and then both houses
get to vote on that. And they get compromised
at the same time, having had an
opportunity to stand for what they stand for first. So we can all see it, you see. Because we need to
see it because we need to judge because they
are our representatives. And for the three powers– the president, and the speaker,
and the leader of the Senate– to meet in the White House and
decide in advance what to do is an obscuring of the things
that people need to know, says my friend Tom McClintock. [APPLAUSE] I, said Tom McClintock,
took an oath and I will not participate
in such a thing. I will compromise. I know that it is
needful to compromise, but I will not hide the facts
from the people of the United States. Now, my point is that thing
is happening right now in the Congress of
the United States and Tom is not the only one. And that means that we
might lose our country, but we are not going to
do it without an argument. And in 1940, Churchill– with
his photographic memory– asked a young man– just like my
kids, Will, and my kids, Kyle, and my kids, Craig
who work around here. John Colville was his name
later a knight, now dead. He said, John,
there’s a prayer that was made famous at the siege
of Gibraltar by the Spanish, would you find it for me? And he said, gladly, sir. Fear not the result,
for either thy end shall be a majestic and an
enviable one or God will perpetuate our
rain upon the waters. Let us save our country. [APPLAUSE] DOUG JEFFREY: Well, our
main speaker tonight is recently becoming,
it seems, a regular at Hillsdale College events. One reason for this is that
he is undeniably brilliant. He earned a degree in– [APPLAUSE] He earned a degree in political
science at McGill University, studied politics as a
commonwealth scholar at Balliol College,
Oxford and earned a MD from Harvard Medical School. The deeper reason is
possibly, that as an MD, his area of expertise
with psychiatry– which means that he is
increasingly qualified to comment on contemporary
American public policy. We know him and owe
him primarily today for his Pulitzer Prize
winning syndicated column for The Washington Post. For his articles in journals,
such as The Weekly Standard and The New Republic. And for his unsurpassed
commentary on the best TV news show going, Fox
News Special Report. It’s a great pleasure
to introduce him again to a Hillsdale audience, please
welcome, Charles Krauthammer. [APPLAUSE] CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:
Thank you very much for that kind introduction. The definition of
a kind introduction is when they leave stuff out. [LAUGHTER] He left out that I was
once a speechwriter for Walter Mondale. I expected that reaction. And I know what
you’re all asking, how do you go from Walter
Mondale to Fox News? Answer is short and simple– I was young once. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] Sat all the way in the back
with all the young people. But he did mention the
psychiatry part, which was not unkind, but not essential. But it is true, I
was a psychiatrist. I’m still licensed, actually. I am a psychiatrist. But the best way
to explain it is to say that I’m a
psychiatrist in remission. Doing very well, thank you. I haven’t had a
relapse in 25 years. People ask me the
difference between what I used to do as a psychiatrist
in Boston 25 years ago, from what I do now, as
a political analyst here in Washington, and the
answer is rather simple. In both lines of
work, i deal every day with people who suffer
from delusions of grandeur. The only difference is that here
in Washington, these deluded have access to
nuclear weapons, which makes the stakes a little
higher and the work a lot more interesting. I’m really happy to be here
at another Hillsdale event. The reason is– as you
know, as so many people know– you do extraordinary
work in your teaching, in the institutions you support,
in the values you promote. Although, I have to admit that– truth be told– I’m happy
to be anywhere where Juan Williams can’t interrupt me. [LAUGHTER] I’ll tell him what kind of
reception he got [INAUDIBLE].. It will warm his heart. Why do we celebrate
Constitution Day? Let me start with an incident
that happened 30 years ago. When Anwar Sadat
was assassinated, the networks ran over
to Egypt and began covering the events
all day and all night. And the only thing I
remember of all that coverage it was a news anchor bringing
in a Middle East expert and saying, we’ve just looked
at the Egyptian constitution. And our researchers
tell us that the next in line for the presidency is
the speaker of the Parliament. And the Middle East expert
burst out laughing, and said, nobody in Egypt has read the
Constitution in 30 years. No one knows it exists. And no one cares what’s in it. He said, who’s the
leader of the military? Anchor says, Hosni Mubarak. And he says, he’s
your next president. What struck me about
that was two things. First of all, how naive we are
about what constitutions are and what they mean
around the world. And the second thing,
the reason for the first, is how much reverence we
have in the United States and in very few other
countries for this document. There are many things
that are miraculous about the Constitution. The first is that
somehow on this edge of the civilized
world 250 years ago, there could have
been a collection of such political geniuses
to have actually written it. The second miracle is the
actual substance of it. The way that these
people are drawing from a Locke and Montesquieu,
and from the Greeks, created an extraordinary
political apparatus that a quarter of
a millennium later, works and has worked
with incredible success over these many years. But the third miracle– and the one that I think
we appreciate the least– is that fact of the reverence
that we have for it. This is as rare as
the other two elements that I mentioned before. This reverence is
so deeply ingrained that we don’t even see it. We just think it’s in
the air that we breathe. But it is extraordinarily rare. It exists in a handful of
countries in the world. I remember when the
British de-colonized Africa in the late
’50s and early ’60s. And they had these
great ceremonies transferring the power to the
local new institutions, which are all established in
imitation of the British system. And you’d see the governor
general arrive wearing the wig and he would invest power
in the new prime minister, in the new high court. And within six months, it
had all been swept away because it was artificial. It was not intrinsic. And there was no reverence
for those institutions. It takes time. In Britain, it’s been
around for eight centuries and they manage a constitution
that’s actually written, which is even more
difficult than what we do. But here it is ingrained in
the consciences of the people. Consider the oath of office
that we take for granted. And I remember doing
this 30 years ago and how moved I was by
the words and by the idea. Whenever we bestow upon
anyone the authority to wield the power of
state over free citizens, we make him swear to protect not
the people, not the nation, not the flag, but the Constitution
of the United States– a piece of paper. Of course, it stands for the
pillars of the American idea, the structures, the philosophy
that define limited government with enumerated powers whose
mission is to preserve liberty and individual rights. But this is a gift
that we have that. That people intrinsically
have this sense of reverence for the Constitution. And it’s important to remember
that it’s a gift from the past. It’s not something that we can
in any way credit to ourselves. If anything, our generation,
recent generations have allowed that kind
of reverence to diminish, to bleed away over the
decades as we try– as it were– to adapt
constitutionalism to modernity. This is, in particular,
a liberal specialty. This idea of the
living, breathing, ever-changing, ever-whimsical
new Constitution day-by-day. And that is why the new
conservative idea is now focused on the kind of
revival of constitutionalism. We can almost say that
the new conservatism is, in essence, a
constitutionalism, in and of itself. First, let’s start
with a bit of history. In the 20th century, liberalism
outgrew its 19th century roots– the classic
individualism of John Stuart Mill and others. And it fell into the thrall of
the progressivism of the age. Mill held that truth emerges
from a competition of ideas and that individual character
is most improved when allowed to find its own way
unfettered by government, when allowed to develop
with government standing to the side. But that vision was
insufficient for the ambitions of 20th century liberalism. It lacked glory and
it lacked sweep. 20th century liberalism new
found perfectionist ambitions reflected in its current name– progressivism– sought
to harness the power of government, the
mystique of science, and the rule of experts to
shape society and individual character and bring them both– willing or not– to a
higher state of being. Contemporary conservative
is a reaction to precisely that kind of
overreaching, overarching ambition. It’s deeply skeptical of a
belief in progressive history or redemptive politics. It believes that the
first duty of government is to conserve what is. And most especially,
the great gift of the Enlightenment, the
autonomy of the individual, and the essence
of civil society– what [INAUDIBLE] called,
the little platoons– that are created beneath,
against, and apart from the behemoth of government. [APPLAUSE] This is why the
conservative choice among all the great
revolutions is always the American Revolution with
its constitutional structures, limits, and
containment of power, the checks and balances that
frustrate tyranny, and the view that government is subordinate
to the individuals from whom it derives its power. The conservative instant is
skeptical and individualistic. And in the American
context, constitutional. What’s so remarkable
about this is that constitutions are
extremely reactionary documents. The very essence of a
constitution is to constrain the enthusiasms of a future
that one cannot even see. In America, constitutionalism
demands that even the most distant
progeny swear allegiance to a past embodied
in a document that was written in the late 1780s. If, as Chesterton said,
tradition is the democracy of the dead, then
constitutionalism– which is wisdom rendered
into legal code– is the tyranny of the dead. The ultimate reach of
the past into the future. And in America, it succeeded. Lincoln Steffens–
the propagandist– famously said after visiting
Bolshevik Russia shortly after the revolution, I
have been over to the future and it works. American constitutionalism
declares, we have seen the past and it works. Which is, again, paradoxical
because we Americans– the most forward
looking, blue sky, futuristic people
on the planet who have developed this system that
looks back to the past, that reaches from the past into
the future to constrain us, and have produced the
astonishing stability of the American
experiment which owes its power, and its
stability, and its majesty to the inherent restraint
of the original blueprint. Compare the American Revolution
and its prudential institution building with the
near contemporaneous French Revolution,
which was the apotheosis of political romanticism. With its worship of
reason and abstraction, it is no accident that France
is on its fifth republic and we are on our first. [APPLAUSE] But we don’t have to look
that far back into history to understand why we
celebrate Constitution Day. Consider what has been happening
in our contemporary world. Today, Americans
are in the midst of a great national debate
over the power, the scope, and the reach of
government that was established by this document. The debate was sparked by this
administration’s bold push for a government expansion,
a massive fiscal stimulus, with apparently, a second
attempt at son of stimulus right now. Obamacare, the
financial regulation, various attempts at
controlling the energy economy, and otherwise, regulating
the private and economic life of Americans. This engendered a popular
reaction, but let me say, before I mention the reaction– the way to best understand
this, of course, is to see Obama and the
vision he has, as someone who wants to move America from
its traditional constitutional and restrained individualistic
system to a system more like the social
democracy of Europe. I think he’s been rather
open and honest about that and for that, I give him credit. He failed to plan– very openly speaking– in
those terms of changing America fundamentally within a month
of his extension to office. The best way to
understand this vision is a story famously told
about Winston Churchill shortly after he
lost the election during or at the very end
of the Second World War. And Clement Attlee
the socialist, became the prime minister. Well, Churchill was, of course,
the leader of the opposition and he went down to the men’s
room at the House of Commons– that’s as risque as it gets. It’s OK from now on. And he sees Attlee standing
in one of the urinals. Now, the men’s room
is empty, otherwise, and yet, Churchill deliberately
walks to the other end of the men’s room– 18 stalls away. And Attlee is rather surprised. And he calls out and
says, feeling a bit standoffish today, Winston? Churchill said, no,
my dear, Clement. It’s just that any time
you see something large, you want to nationalize it. [LAUGHTER] I like it as much as you do. No matter how many
times I tell it. So on the one side,
we have American hyper liberal government
trying to push us to a more social
democratic system. And then, miraculously or
astonishingly– however you want to see. You can believe in
providence or not– but amazingly, there’s
a spontaneous reaction. It was not a lead. It was not organized. There was no conspiracy. People reacted against
this push to the left. And the movement has
been called Tea Party, but in reality, it’s
much more widespread. Expressed itself in
the November elections of last year, which calls
for a more restricted vision of government, more
consistent with the intent and the aim of the founders. I would call it
constitutionalism or a return to constitutionalism. And what’s interesting is that,
in essence, constitutionalism is the intellectual counterpart
and the spiritual progeny of the originalism movement
that we see in the law. Judicial originalists–
for example, Antonin Scalia and other
notable conservative jurists– insist– yes, go ahead. [APPLAUSE] Wouldn’t it be nice if
he ran for president? But I digress. These judicial
originalists insist that legal interpretation be
bound by something, namely, the text of the
Constitution as understood by those who wrote it
and their contemporaries. Originalism originally
skewing as a kind of a fringe tendency– has now grown to
become the major challenger to the liberal living
constitution school, under which high
court is the channeler of the spirit of the
age, free to create new constitutional
principles that occur to people in dark robes. What originalism is
to jurisprudence, constitutionalism
is to governance– a call for restraint rooted
in constitutional text. Constitutionalism as a
political philosophy, represents a reformed self-m
regulating conservatism that bases its call for
minimalist government for reigning in willful
presidents and congresses, in the words and the
meaning of a constitution. Now what does this mean
in practical terms? Let me give an
example to contrast constitutional conservatism
with its nearest predecessor– the compassionate
variety of George Bush. Its heart wasn’t
in the right place, but that compassionate
conservatism failed. Not just for practical reasons
because of profligate spending and expansion of
government, but because of its philosophical
inadequacies. First, its very name implied
that other conservatives are not compassionate, conceding
the central liberal premise that small government
and belief in markets is hard-hearted rather
than being a philosophy. That it is better suited
to organizing society and among other things,
helping the poor and the disadvantaged
to flourish. The second problem with that
variety of conservative thought is that it believes
in small government, except when the president
wakes up on one side of the bed and decides it’s time for
a prescription drug benefit or a massive program
for African AIDS. Now I have no
particular objection to either of these
initiatives, and I don’t mean to be as
dismissive as I sounded. I really did sound dismissive
of these initiatives. But here’s the problem. Why AIDS and not
river blindness? Why Africa and not the
scourges of the poor precincts of South America or Asia? Why prescription drugs for
seniors or not for children? It is very undisciplined
and arbitrary and that’s why it fails as
a philosophical proposition, as well as having all the
practical difficulties that I mentioned of encouraging
rather arbitrarily and engendering a large
expansion of government. The new constitutionalism
is a kind of self-enforced discipline. And it is held by consciously
grounding itself in the text– constitutional text. The first symbolic
moment of that occurred in January, when the
new House of Representatives opened with a reading
of the Constitution. Remarkably, this
had never been done before in American history, but
perhaps, because it had never been so needed. The reading reflected the
feeling expressed powerfully in the last election,
that we had moved far– especially in the
last two years– from a government
of constitutionally limited and enumerated powers
to the direction of government constrained only by its
perception of social need. The most galvanizing example
of this expansive shift was, of course, the
democratic health care reform, which was and might yet one
day, if it’s not repealed, revolutionize one sixth
of the American economy. But note the nature of the
popular reaction against it. The most interesting and
encouraging part of the push back against this kind of
expansion of big government was the form it took. There was, of course, the usual
opposition on the grounds– the usual grounds– of objecting
to welfare state expansion. That it’s ruinously expensive. It’s unsustainable economically. It introduces vast
inefficiency and arbitrariness as we see in all the waivers
that HHS is granting. Again, arbitrarily that
would be a system that would be so complicated
and so unwilling that it would degrade the
entire medical system itself, as well as contributing to our
looming national insolvency. Now, that kind of protest– all of those arguments– would have been the
norm and we might have stopped there
in preceding years, but it didn’t stop there. This time there was
an additional argument that arose and became
very powerful– constitutional illegitimacy. And that objection manifested
itself in two forms– Popular opposition and political
argument on the one hand, as well as a serious legal
challenge on the other. The object of the aversion on
the part of the conservatives was, of course, the heart
of this monstrosity– the individual mandate. The requirement by
the federal government that every citizen
buy health insurance from a private entity
under the penalty of a fine from Washington. Now, from town
hall to town hall, from campaign
debates to arguments on the floor of the
Congress, people felt and saw this
as, instinctively, a bridge too far. That on principle,
even if Obamacare was economical,
beneficence, and efficient, this would be grounds enough
to declare it impermissible. Impermissible to compel a
citizen to do something, to do something positive. Not just omit to do
something, but to do something under compulsion, simply to
promote what the government saw as some social good. Interestingly, it
spawned a legal challenge that, at first, was
dismissed by the better thinkers in this town as simply,
the work of fringe elements– something to be dismissed. And the Democrats were
extremely dismissive of this constitutional path to
object to it at the beginning. Yet within several months,
the legal challenge was joined by a majority
of the 50 states. The basis of the argument
was that government has exceeded its enumerated power. Now, I want to make one
point about how refreshing that line of argument is. It’s a subtle one,
but I think it’s important to
understand and to see. The traditional defense
against government encroachment over the last two
decades has been not to argue about
enumerated powers, but to argue on the grounds
of the Bill of Rights and to claim individual rights
in the inviolable sphere of freedom and sovereignty
of the individual. You can’t do X because it
goes against individual rights and the Bill of Rights. But that idea, that
kind of defense tends to concede that outside of
that private sphere surrounding the individual, the government
is free to roam and to rule. The attack today on the
basis of enumerated powers is a stronger attack
on big government. Because now, it argues
that it is government, not the individual,
that is constrained by a sphere around it. And that sphere
constrains the government because of the enumerated
powers in the Constitution beyond which it may not go. So you limit government
to that sphere and that means that everything
else outside of it, which is everything else in life,
is the sovereign domain of the individual
end of civil society. It’s kind of a distinction
between the figure and the ground. If you focus on
enumerated power, the ultimate objective is
to restrain the government, to keep it in a box
and everything else, it cannot touch. Rather than the
traditional defense against encroachment
of government, which is I’m the individual. You draw a circle around me. You can’t penetrate it, but
everything outside of it, is yours. In some ways, it’s a
kind of a recapitulation of the argument on the
basis of the 10th Amendment, but it has– I think– a larger
implication because once you talk about enumerated
powers, you’re going to the heart of the
expansion of the state ever since the New Deal. And that, I think, is
why it’s so important. The challenge to the individual
mandate is not, at its heart, a claim of one or
another individual right under the guarantees
in the Bill of Rights. The argument is that the
use of the Commerce Clause to compel the
individual to enter into a private contract
in the name of promoting interstate commerce
is stretching the clause beyond
recognition, beyond reason. And to the point where there
would be no conceivable limit to the indefinite and infinite
expansion of government power. And the conclusion of
that line of argument is that if you allow
this, how can you possibly prohibit government from
doing anything in the future that it seeks to promote
a preferred policy option? This– to me– is the
frontal judicial attack on big government. The Commerce Clause,
for 80 years, has been the high road to the
expansion of government, which is why the framers
of Obamacare were so contemptuous and
dismissive at the beginning of any constitutional challenge. That they’d just assume
we’ve been using it ever since the ’30s and we’re
going to use it again. And now it’s under challenge
and these Democrats are not dismissive anymore. They’re scared. They’re afraid of two things. That they will be rebuked
and defeated by the courts. And even if not, that they
will be rebuked and defeated by the people at the polls. That’s why I have reasonable
hope for the future. I do think that this popular
reaction– again, incohaint, unorganized, undirected– that developed into this tsunami
that we saw on election day last year and that still
animates the opposition, is one unbelievably
wondrous sign of the health of the
body of politics. And the fact that
it has concentrated on exactly the correct
constitutional issues that it refers to. Finds its strength in
constitutionalism itself. Is encouraging. It’s not just the
traditional arguments that Obamacare or these other
expansions are inefficient. They are not economically sound. They lead to
bureaucratic efficiency. That would be OK, but
it wouldn’t be enough, not at this time. The argument now, the
resistance now is emphasizing, is rooted in an attack on the
constitutional illegitimacy of what is being done. And that in a
constitutional republic is the heart of the matter. This does not in any way
denigrate the other kinds of conservative critique
of mine and liberalism, but it serves to reinforce it. In choosing to focus on a
majestic document that compares both study and
recitation, this kind of reformed conservatism
of the Obama era has found not just a
symbol, but an anchor. Constitutionalism as
a guiding tendency will require careful and
thoughtful development, just as its counterpart in
jurisprudence originalism has required careful
thought and development. But its very existence of
the power of this critique and the popular and
spiritual support it receives is reason for hope,
if not for change. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] I believe we’re going
to have about a quarter hour of questions and
answers, but before you ask any questions, let me
just say that if nominated, I will not run. However, if elected,
I will serve. I’m just lazy. I don’t want to bother. So I think we’ve got
microphones– do we set up? Or do I have to ask
myself questions? SPEAKER: We only have time for
three questions this evening, and please, wait to
ask your question until you get the microphone. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:
Three questions– it sounds like a
merchant of Venice. Three boxes– yes. We’re having a debate
over who gets to ask it. AUDIENCE: Who’s first? Here I am. First of all, I want to
tell you that I honestly believe that our
founding fathers were a miracle for this country. And when I look at somebody like
you, I think, you know what? They still happen. Thank you. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Thank you. AUDIENCE: My question is this– this is absolutely basic– [INAUDIBLE]? CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. AUDIENCE: That’s all. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’m
not much of a believer, but there’s something
about American history that truly makes you think that
there is a providential hand. Starting with the
Constitution, the fact that this unbelievable
assembly of geniuses could have found themselves in
one place in one time at the edge of the known world. [APPLAUSE] And the other part of this
about American history is astonishing to me. Apart from the fact
that Jefferson and Adams died on the same day exactly
50 years after the signing of the Declaration– what are the odds on that? I know it’s only a
superstition on my part. But the other serious
part is the fact that our history
has always given us, at the time it needed,
the leader it needed. It’s miraculous that
when we needed a Lincoln, we got a Lincoln. And we may have difficulties
with FDR’s domestic policy, but when we needed that to
win the war and somebody who prepared us for that war in
a country that did not want to go to war, he was there. Then we had Reagan
when we needed him. Now, I don’t see or expect or
wait for the next great figure, but I do think– the one
thing I mentioned earlier, this spontaneous reaction to
overreaching by government, which nobody had predicted,
and manifested itself so extraordinarily
over the last two years is another sign of hope. I’ll leave it to you to decide
whether it’s providential or not, but it is what makes you
think that America will endure. Absolutely. [APPLAUSE] Do we have a
question on the left? Yes, Juan. AUDIENCE: Well, I’m a great
supporter of Hillsdale– stand up? And I think one of
the greatest things is when you have an
educational system that puts up with all of
us and encourages us, that our future is
going to be great. And I want to thank
you and the editors for letting us all come
and enjoy you Thanks. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That
was very generous of you, and I won’t count it as a
question so we’ve got two left. AUDIENCE: Sir, you’ve answered– to you right, the other
right– there we go. You have answered– CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:
The far right. AUDIENCE: Far right, thank you. You and the other speakers
have answered all my questions, so I would only
like to point out that your discourse was
interrupted by far more frequently by applause than
our current sitting president and I thank you. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But I would
attribute that to my eloquence, I had the much easier argument. I guess we’re down
to the last one. Two more? All right. You’re sovereign in this
room, that’s for sure. AUDIENCE: Now that we’re
at the 10th anniversary of the September
11th attacks, I was wondering if thought it had
been investigated well enough. And if you think it would be
constitutionally advisable to restore the House Un-American
Activities Committee, especially since
there are riots– I believe– planned
this Saturday, as well? CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The
answer to that is no. I don’t believe in conspiracy
theories for several reasons. The facetious one
is that whenever I’m given the
choice of explaining a phenomenon in Washington
by either conspiracy or incompetence, it is
always incompetence. People here don’t have the
intelligence or the energy to carry out a
successful conspiracy. So always assume incompetence. And second, I think
it’s particularly, offensive to talk about
conspiracy theories regarding 9/11. Usually, that is implying that
there was some collaboration by the American
government or agency of the American government. And I think it’s a
disgraceful implication that deserves no respect
and no investigation. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Charles, I hear
you on the Fox News often, critiquing some of our
Republican candidates for president. Would you care to give us a
rather succinct recommendation to the various
knew that was coming. I always try to hide from it. I hope maybe, we’ll
run out of questions before we get to it because
I only make enemies. You should see my mail
when I say anything about any of the candidates. Let me just put it in the
most benign way I can. I go by the Buckley rule. Bill Buckley had this one rule– I always vote for the most
conservative candidate who can win. Keep that in mind– who can win. Actually, you remember he ran
for the mayor of New York City and while he was
running, he was asked, what’s the first thing he would
do if he were elected mayor? And he said, I’d
demand a recount. That was just an aside because
we’re running out of time, I had to get that one in. The Buckley rule applies and
it especially applies now. If you look for the
ideal candidate, I think you are
going the wrong way. Obama is the most
left wing president we’ve had in our lifetime. His ambitions are
to change America in a social
democratic direction. He’s not a socialist,
he’s a Social Democrat. There’s a big distinction
and I think we ought to give him that respect. Social democracy is
what you see in Europe. It’s not an awful system. It’s a benign and a lovely
place, but it’s not America. It’s not what we want. It’s not in our tradition. But because he is
in office and we’ve seen what his ambitions are– Obamacare cap and trade,
changing education, getting government
control over as much as they can under the idea
that Clement Attlee idea and this idea that
is rampant in Europe and has been for 50 years, that
government experts, et cetera, have a better way
to direct society than the market or
free individuals. That is the idea underlying it. And it’s rather
ironic that that idea ought to be the
idea of a governing administration in
the United States precisely at a time in history
when that idea in Europe is collapsing in
front of our eyes. If you’d argued it 20
years ago, then we’d be arguing, theoretically,
that it doesn’t work. But the theory is
no longer needed. Look at Greece. Look at Spain, Portugal. Look at France, Germany. Everybody is teetering there. We know what happens
when you do this, which makes it all the more ironic
that it’s actually now the governing philosophy
of a sitting president. And all the more important that
that be stopped next November. If Barack Obama
is re-elected, we will have Obamacare
and I guarantee you, that within a decade because
of its absurd inefficiencies and the way it will
wreck the medical system, there will be only one way
out after it’s instituted in a second Obama term. The only way out will
be socialized medicine, as in Canada, as in Britain. So that is a guarantee
if this election is not won by the Conservative Party. There are other
kinds of consequences I don’t have to go into. You know them– Supreme Court,
energy policy, et cetera. Foreign policy, which I didn’t
even mention here tonight. All of that is at
stake and I think for those who want to
be ideological purists, Jim DeMint said when he
supported Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and I
said, in a column, that was extremely irresponsible. She didn’t have a
chance of winning and we needed every Senate
Republican that we could, even if it was a rhino
like governor Newcastle. Even though it was a
liberal Republican. In the Northeast,
you aren’t going to get anything other
than a liberal Republican. And yet, superior to having
a Democrat because unless you have Republicans in, you
get Democratic control of the Senate. He said, at that
time, I’d rather have 30 real Republicans
in the Senate than 60 who might not be. And I would say, that’s nice
to say, but at this time, when Obama and the
Democrats are changing America, that is irresponsible. SPEAKER: This will be
our final question. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But that’s
not my final answer quite yet. Sometimes I pause because
I have no idea where I am or where I’m going. And that was one of them. But in the end,
what’s important is to win and not to win
with just on principle for the power in and of itself. It’s because it’s a
moment in history where the ideological trajectory
and the future of the country will be decided. We often say this
election is the most important in our lifetime and
it’s often, an exaggeration. This time, it’s really not. And therefore, among
the candidates, think about if they
meet your threshold as a conservative– which
is the Buckley rule– a conservative who has the
best chance of winning. Then once you have
the list of candidates who meet your threshold, think
which one has the best chance. And I would support
that candidate. Now, I don’t want to go
through a list of who they are, but keep it in mind. And I’ll simply add
one empirical fact. If you look at all
the polls, whenever you run a generic
Republican against Obama, the generic wins. When you run a real
Republican with a real name and a real history against
Obama, it’s rather uncertain. Often, they lose in the poll. So my advice is to
elect a candidate who’s the most generic. Who stands out the least. Who has the least baggage. Who has the fewest peccadilloes. Who presents the
smallest target. And I’ll give you one example. This country has tried
charisma four years ago and it doesn’t work. I would like a candidate
with no charisma. My childhood hero
was Henry Jackson– democratic senator from
the state of Washington, whom I loved. And it was said of
Henry Jackson, who was exceedingly dull, that if
he ever gave a fireside chat, the fire would go out. So the very short
answer to your question, find the candidate who
makes the fire go out. I think we have
one more question. AUDIENCE: Doctor– CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I
have no idea where you are. I have no idea I am, actually. AUDIENCE: Here’s the question. If we can only win one– either the presidency
or the Senate– which one would you prefer? CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:
The presidency. The presidency for many reasons. First of all, you run foreign
policy almost single handedly. You’re the commander in chief. I think what’s going to
happen to the Pentagon budget under a second Obama term
will be truly catastrophic. And I’m not even
sure it’s either or. I think we’re either going
to get a Republican sweep or we’re going to get a
Republican Senate and an Obama re-elect. I think we’re looking
at those two outcomes. Remember in the
Senate, the Republicans are defending only 10 seats. The Democrats are defending 23. And they have a lot
of wobblers and they got a lot of incumbent
senators in trouble. And a lot of open seats
held by Democrats, where the Democrat is either
so old or so in trouble that he or she is not running. So the chances of winning
simply numerically, the Senate are pretty high. I think the prize
is the presidency. And I think a lot hangs on it. And I do think in
some sense, this is a chance to
return to my theme where a new kind of
constitutional conservatism can show itself and
can lead the country. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

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  1. After the past three years of incompetence, it’s good to see that Obie has suddenly been anointed “the great one.” In a Jimmy Carter sort of way? At least he can claim he’s smarter than Behner and the Country-Club RINOs. The Dem’s strategy has worked with me. I give up on both of the corrupt political parties. I’ll attend my caucus and try to get votes for Ron Paul and then only need to decide which INDEPENDENT candidate gets my vote.

  2. He's right, however, the fact is that the constitution was built on the basis of christian beliefs directly from the Bible and the founding fathers believed that no government could come between man and God, therefore the rights we have are directly because of a religious belief that people's liberties and freedoms are natural rights and I think it's important that more people respect this aspect of the constitution. Atheists even have these Christian values to thank for their freedoms today.

  3. I would just like to point out that I am not religious lol I just love the constitution and the history behind it and I recognize that certain values influenced it and I am thankful for those values, otherwise we may not be the country we are today.

  4. So it's a dead document.Isn't there an amendment process? If the Constitution was so perfect, why amend? Where were you fukkers when GW was trying to shit on our rights? OK because he was a conservative?

  5. Dammit, I forgot! Conservatives and other rightists never have, or will abuse nor act counter to the Constitution.

  6. Krauthammer should remove FOX news from his credentials, he works with tons of morons…Other than him, Chris Wallace is my other favourite conservative journalist

  7. You know, I was reading something on the club of Rome and this man's name came up at the end making fun of the critics (why he was even meantioned I haven't the foggiest). I found him here and said, "oh, that ugly crypt keeper"? But before this I clicked on his name and putting my fingers on my temples, concentrated really hard guessing what and who he is, I got 9 out of 10 correct. He's also a psyciatrist along with the rest of his damning qualities. darn, if I thought for a second more…

  8. I think his physical appearance and stiff posture ("crypt keeper") may be the result of his medical condition. After earning an honors degree in economics and politics at McGill and pursuing those subjects as a Commonwealth Scholar at Oxford University, he studied medicine at Harvard. An injury left him immobilized by paralysis. He turned his attention to policy studies, worked as a speechwriter for Walter Mondale, remaining a conservative Democrat while serving in the Reagan Admin.

  9. "Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven". The Lord in this phrase is, of course, Christ.

  10. The Rebublicans slavish adherence to the "Buckley Rule" is their most tragic mistake. It is the reason that party is now irrelevent. It is the reason we are now living under a one-party tyranny. Reagan was not regarded that way, was he? The man with the nice haircut, Romney, was. It is too late for the Republicans to fine-tune any more dials.

  11. i'm wondering if this anti jewish state of yours was fueled by your lack of sophistication or simply you weren't tipped by a jew at some point

  12. Regardless of opinions expressed here (or anywhere for that matter), truth will always win. Truth is real and tangible. It does not simply change because people "feel different" about certain things, and certainly not because certain people can express their opinions louder than others (and very often with more expletives). The fact remains, the Constitution of the United States is an inspired document, inspired by that source of truth that many people deny, to their peril I'm afraid.

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