What are the limits of presidential power? If you’ve followed the news the past few days, this question has cropped up more and more as we spend billions of dollars we don’t have fighting a dictator that has not attacked us or our interests in quite a while. In fact, he’s pretty much left the United States alone.
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Off The Grid Radio
Released: March 25, 2011
Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to Off the Grid Radio – the audio version of offthegridnews.com. I’m Brian Brawdy, as always along with Mr. Bill Heid. Bill, how are you today?
Bill: Greetings, Brian, I’m well, as always. I’m very excited to talk about some of the things that are in the news with you, and not only with you today, but with our guest because some of the things that we want to talk about today are some of the most important things that should be in discussion today. What we want to do is realign the proper areas of discussion so we’ve got the proper talking points. It’s easy to get lost with respect to what’s happening. If you listen to CNN, if you listen to FOX, you’re not going to hear proper talking points. I’m really excited about talking with our guest today.
Brian: As am I. You know, Bill, more and more in the news now, good golly, you’re up at most times 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning like I am and you log onto the internet, you turn on the news – it’s like every minute there’s another story coming up that’s germane, not only to our listeners but to everyday folks in their walk of like. It’s not like you can say “oh, the news doesn’t personally affect me anymore.”
Bill: It’s overwhelming and I remarked this morning that I looked at the news – other than Liz Taylor’s death, to me it seemed like the rest of the headlines are almost in Armageddon mode and it’s scary. Then you have these bizarre headlines about an actor dying, or an actress rather, but really the guts of the hard news today – you have collapsing Portugal … the Fed saying our country’s going to collapse. Certainly, then, the topic that we want to jump into and that’s what can a President do? What kind of powers does the President have? Can you lob missiles any time you want? Are there any restrictions? Do you have anything that holds you back? And you do you need to get a hold of Congress?
Brian: What better way – I can’t think of a better way, I should say, than to segue into our guest today. Bill, I know you know him. You’re good friends. But for our listeners who don’t know our guest, today it’s going to be John Eidsmoe. I want to take a minute longer to read his bio, because I think all of it is terribly important, Bill, to our discussion today. John Eidsmoe is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, an Alabama State Defense Force Colonel and a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. He is a professor of law at the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy and his various teaching assignments his students have given him an Outstanding Professor of the Year Award five times. Bill, as you know, he is also the author of 13 books – some of our favorites: “Christianity and the Constitution,” “God and Caesar,” “Columbus and Cortez,” just to name a few. Ladies and gentlemen, please say hello – and we are fired up to have him – Mr. John Eidsmoe. John, how are you sir?
John: Good to be with you, Briand and Bill.
Brian: Bill, I know you had a couple of questions for John right off the top, so why don’t you take a rip.
Bill: Let me start by saying John’s a favorite of ours. I can watch TV and I don’t necessarily – we like Judge Napolitano – but I can watch TV and not really get the proper course of action to think about issues like what’s the War Powers Clause say. What I like about you, John, and I just want to give you a little quick comment, is that you were able to in your book on Christianity and the Constitution connect the dots between what preconditions exist for the rule of law to be something that someone should talk about. If we’re going to have the rule of law, there’s certain things about law that we need to think about and we need to understand. Certainly when the country was in its infancy, there was a common notion about what that meant. Today, I think, what’s problematic is we have a very different notion. We don’t have a common idea of what rule of law means. Would you agree with that on some level?
John: Yes, I would agree. I’m not sure that we have a different notion today, it’s more that we don’t have a notion. Where law comes from – I doubt the average citizen, in fact probably the average lawyer, really thinks about that very much. If there is one thing that our Founding Fathers were united on, that would be the Christian majority and the non-Christian minority like Franklin and Jefferson as well, is that there is a higher law that comes from God and that human law, to be valid, must conform to that higher law. Jefferson, I think, summarized it very well in the Declaration when he said that we are entitled to independence by the laws of nature and of nature’s God. And went on to say we are all – let’s see, how did that go? It didn’t say evolved equal, it said created equal. He didn’t say we are endowed by our government with certain negotiable privileges, he said we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.
Bill: So his appeal, John, was something to outside the world as he saw it. I think even during the war, if I’m not mistaken, a lot of the Colonialists carried signs that said – very similar to the English Civil War – carried signs that said “Appeal to Heaven.” Their appeal was not to George III but their appeal was to something outside of George. That’s a radical thought if you look at how President Obama and Vice President Biden view the world. There’s an appeal to something transcendent and I think that’s profoundly different. It’s going to get you – if you have a profoundly different starting point, it’s going to give you a profoundly different ending point.
John: Yes, and I think there was another starting point they had in addition to that. That’s besides a high view of God and his law, they also had a low view of man and his nature. They didn’t believe humans were basically good, they didn’t believe that man is perfectible. They recognized that he is, as the Bible describes him, a sinner. For that reason, number one, they knew that we need law and order. WE need a government that can keep order. Second, those who run the government have the same simple nature as everybody else and so we need to carefully control the powers of government.
Bill: That’s a perfect segue, guys, to start talking about if the President’s bound, if the Congress is bound, by the rule of law – this week – Brian and I have been talking about this John – this week we saw – you can Google the video of Vice President Biden’s talk about how he would impeach anybody that tried to lob bombs indiscriminately. That’s a point of controversy with respect to what he said. But with respect to the War Powers Clause, John, what can a President do? We talked about this earlier this morning a little bit – what can a President do and what can’t a President do, with respect to engaging militarily?
John: That is a complicated question, more so than I think people on either side realize. The framers of our Constitution delegated powers over war and foreign affairs partly to the Legislative Branch and partly to the Executive Branch. Congress has the power to declare war, has the power to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain navies, to make rules and regulations for the governance of the armed forces. But the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, meaning he’s in charge of the day-to-day operations. Now that leaves a little gray area as to where the authority of the President ends and that of Congress begins. It clearly says that only Congress, not the President, can declare war. However, if you read the language, it does not explicitly say that the President can take no kind of military action whatsoever without a Congressional Declaration of War. On the other hand, it certainly wouldn’t seem that it means that the President can do anything he wants – conduct a war involving hundreds of thousands of American soldiers for many years without some kind of Congressional assent. In order to try to establish where the boundaries lie, back around 1973, Congress adopted what we call the War Powers Resolution. It was adopted over a Presidential veto and no President, either before or since that time, has ever conceded the validity of the War Powers Resolution. Essentially, the Resolution said that the President can commit troops into hostilities or situations where hostilities are imminent for up to 60 days without a Congressional Declaration of War or in some other way an authorization by Congress. If the Congress has not authorized the action by a Declaration or some other means, or given an extension within that 60 days, then the President is required to bring the troops home, except it does say that if he needs it he can take an extra 30 days for the safety of the troops which he’s always going to be able to make that argument. Practically speaking, he can commit troops for 90 days and no more without some form of Congressional authorization.
Brian: John, we’re going to have to run to a quick commercial break. I’m sorry to interrupt you but we’re going to have you expand on that in the second segment of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, come on back. Mr. John Eidsmoe will be here answering our Constitutional questions, right after this quick commercial break.[0:10:18 – 0:14:36 break]
Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back once again to Off the Grid News – the audio version of offthegridnews.com. Brian Brawdy here, as always, with Mr. Bill Heid, and today a very special guest. Author and constitutional scholar, Mr. John Eidsmoe. John, you were saying right before we went to the break, that the President – in light of the 1973 War Powers Act – that the President has up to 60 days. The quick question that I had, if you could educate me so that as I move forward from our discussion in terms of the talking points, Section 2 of that War Powers Act, although it says – again, as my read – that he has that 60 days. It gives him three specific situations and when that clock is to kick in. One, when there’s a Declaration of War; two, a specific, statutory authorization, which I took that to mean coming from Congress; or, in the case of a natural emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. So when we think about the breaking news of today, John, how does that fit in that – he didn’t get the specific statutory authorization, there wasn’t a Declaration of War, and Libya – not being our territory or a place that our troops are housed – wasn’t attacked by those revolutionaries. Can you catch me up and teach me how that fits into the idea of the War Powers Act, giving him that right?
John: The things you’re speaking of there are things that would authorize an extension of the 60 day period. Of course we don’t have any of those at this point. I think there are some real concerns there about what the President is doing in Libya right now and one thing else the War Powers Resolution says is that he is to regularly consult with Congress about it. I don’t know if he is doing that or not. I just … question the wisdom of this when we aren’t extricated from Iraq or Afghanistan yet and now we’re getting into something else. We’re working with allies who may take the lead this time but in the past have not done their fair share. We’re also dealing with a situation where we don’t have clearly stated objectives as to what we hope to accomplish by this. We’re fighting against a dictator that certainly is reprehensible but we have no clear assurance as to what would replace him. In fact, just a short time ago I was reading a new item about a British Muslim cleric who says that in Libya right now both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have forces on the ground in Libya and if Gaddafi goes under, they are ready to take over. I’m not at all sure that an Al-Qaeda government is any better than that of Gaddafi. In fact, it’s probably worse. I just think that we have gotten ourselves into something here that’s – I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Think about another factor here too and that’s that Gaddafi has a lot of enemies in the Muslim world, but an attack by the United States and the European powers may be exactly what he needs to rally the Muslim world around him. We may have just done him a big favor.
Bill: It sounds like that’s what’s happening, if I read the news correctly, that he’s sort of bringing a broad coalition together. You’re saying, John, that … where you break here with Obama is really maybe more over a policy decision than what’s articulated in the Constitution?
John: I think I’d have to say that here. I’d have a hard time saying that what he has done so far is unconstitutional. I just think it’s unwise.
Bill: Can a President – let’s … maybe not take the gloves off, but let’s talk about it. Can a President lob – how many Tomahawks did he throw over them at a million dollars apiece?
Brian: 110 in the opening salvo.
Bill: 110, at a million dollars apiece – doesn’t Congress have to authorize the expenditure of that? I mean, I just don’t see where the brakes are here. Why can’t you lob missiles at every country for 60 days, given the context there, and then just pull it out. It doesn’t seem like there’s any brakes. And maybe the Constitution – I’m not asking the Constitution to do something that it doesn’t do – maybe it doesn’t say what we need to do. But if that’s the law, then it seems like anything goes.
John: It does certainly mean that there is a lot of open-endedness here. Let me mention this – there are some things today that really make the situation different from what it was at the time of the Founding Fathers. As we try to assert in their intent, we probably need to look at how they would have applied their principles in a nuclear world. Say some Russian general had a little too much vodka and he pushed a few buttons or pulled a few levers and launched a nuclear attack on the United States. By the time we discover that, we will have less than an hour to act before we are history. Does that mean the President cannot do anything without calling together both houses of Congress and debating it and deciding whether to declare war or can he launch a pre-emptive strike or a mutual assured destruction style of strike? Or if we had the capacity, which I emphasize we don’t, a high frontier missile defense. These things are difficult to figure out today.
Brian: John, at least for me, when you look at the War Powers Act and you look at Section 2(C)(3), it says that the President would absolutely have the right that you spoke of when “a national emergency created upon or created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” I’m agreeing with you that in that situation where there is a Russian guy that kicks back a vodka and decides to launch a – get a code and launch a missile – that that would absolutely, not just his right but his responsibility, under Section 2 of the War Powers Act, to go ahead and initiate a response.
John: And you’re right there too. That does mean that what we’re doing in Libya is a little different because however cruel and evil Gaddafi may be, it’s hard to say that he poses a real direct and immediate threat to the United States.
Brian: I would agree. Bill, you?
Bill: I don’t think he poses any threat. I think he probably poses more of a threat today just like – well, I used to raise bees and if you go down to the beehive and shake it a little bit, you get a totally different response from the bees than if you just walk down there with your smoker and you’re going to spend some time looking at what honey’s been made. I think you really have – a point you mentioned earlier, Brian – more of a problem today, especially when pictures of folks that have been mangled and destroyed and killed and mutilated and all that start showing up. It really – it seems to me, guys, like it’s … and what scares me – what precipitated my call to you, John – it seems like the world is schizophrenic. Bomb ‘em, don’t bomb ‘em. Save ‘em, kill ‘em. Where’s the policy? Where’s the … what is it that we believe as a country? I think what we’re worried about here – what I’m worried about – is when we go to choose a President, just like John is saying, when we go to choose a President, you better be sure that guy’s got some wisdom. In the Biblical sense of wisdom, because there are some open gaps here, so get wisdom. You don’t want some guy just trying to use this law to press it and say to its furthest “bend it,” right? To its furthest possible place, saying “he could have easily bombed us.” That’s what they did with Saddam Hussein. He could have done something to us, so ergo we destroy him. You can say that about every country in the world, including China and Russia. They could destroy us. And they have plans to destroy us. So we should bomb them right now. It seems ridiculous.
John: There’s clearly plenty of other dictators in this world that are at least as bad as Gaddafi so we are being selective about it. I wonder sometimes if the real motivation behind this is Obama’s administration thinks that they have to be able to demonstrate to the American people that they can be tough on foreign policy and this is their opportunity.
Brian: But then, John, you would think in Rwanda, you would think in Yemen, you would think in Bahrain – you would most certainly think that the last thing we would do is take a rather weak position against the Saudi Arabian government at the same time we’re inviting their pilots to come to Wyoming to learn how to fly more planes. If you’re going to stick up, if you’re going to say “I’m for a humanitarian effort and I’ll use the full force of my military as President of the United States …” because I see pictures of mayhem and destruction and people being killed and brutalized, then I can think of a dozen other countries within an eight hour drive from Libya that absolutely fall into that category.
John: That’s been difficult for the United States, not just under Obama but for many years in the past. If the Muslim world were ever to get its act together, they would be a major world power, but in fact, they’ve been fighting so much among themselves that that has been to our advantage. Some of the Muslim countries in the world have been favorable to the United States and I’d say that Saudi Arabia is every bit as repressive as Iraq and probably Iran and maybe more so. But they’ve been favorable to the US and for that reason we have worked with them.
Brian: John, if I could ask quickly, and then maybe after the commercial break we’ll have a chance to kick it around, but would you not say that President Mubarak of Egypt had been favorable to the United States?
John: Very definitely.
Brian: Would we not have done a little more to quell that, like we seem to be doing in Saudi Arabia?
John: There’s another thing too. As much as I’m a believer in limited government and the Constitutional Republic, it requires a populace that knows how to live in freedom. I’m not sure that you have that kind of populace in most Muslim countries. If that is the case, maybe you take somebody who’s a little heavy handed to be able to govern a Muslim country and Mubarak may be the best that Egypt is able to get.
Bill: Brian, let’s break here. John, can we beg you to stay for one more segment? I want to talk about George Washington when we come back.
Brian: Sounds great. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break. Then, as you heard it here first, John Eidsmoe for one more segment and then he has an engagement he’s going to have to get away for. Please come back, right after this quick commercial break.[0:25:39 – 0:29:55 break]
Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Off the Grid Radio – the audio version of offthegridnews.com. I’m Brian Brawdy, as always with Mr. Bill Heid. Today, a really special guest, Mr. John Eidsmoe. In addition to being a Constitutional scholar and an author, he knows his stuff. Bill, I know you had a question right out of the box for Mr. Eidsmoe.
Bill: We talked about a consensus. What’s the belief and faith of a people that girds up and shapes the presuppositions for the rule of law. That you have to have these foundational principles or you can’t have a rule of law. You can’t just go, like President Bush tried to do, to Iraq – the citizens of Iraq – and say “here’s your constitution. Be just like us.” Without realizing that we had a couple hundred years – 400 years, if you add the Colonial content, of a way of life, of a way of thinking that undergirded that constitution. To rip the Constitution out of its context and deliver it to some Islamic nation is ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous. Now you talk about consensus, you talk about Muslim countries where there’s not really a consensus about how liberty should be administrated. John, what’s your take on these countries and what’s your take – I guess I’m thinking about George Washington said – “maybe not …” in his farewell address, “maybe don’t stick your nose everywhere.” Brian, you’re a cop, right? You’ve done some domestic things. What happens when you go to a house and a husband and wife are beating on each other? Who gets shot at?
Brian: My first knitting needle in the back was from a wife that had called me because – I was dispatched because of a family dispute – when I went to arrest the husband, I took a knitting needle in the back. [laughs] So you’re absolutely right.
Bill: John, what kind of knitting needles do we get in the back when go in and we engage our CIA or whatever group and try to effect this outcome versus that outcome and all these various Islamic groups. Isn’t there just a knitting needle in the back or worse for us, ultimately? Wasn’t Washington right?
John: Washington, of course, makes the statement that we need to beware of entangling alliances with other nations. I might say that Washington’s farewell address – I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a speech anywhere outside of Scripture that contains more wisdom than that address did. Some believe that Alexander Hamilton had a hand in the drafting of it and that’s possible, but it was certainly Washington expressing what he believed. Not that Washington wanted to be a strict isolationist, but he saw the dangers of getting involved in other nations. I think he’d be pretty shocked at the way we’ve been doing it today. You talk about the CIA, of course, and there certainly is a need for intelligence, to know what’s going on in other parts of the world and I think under Jimmy Carter a lot of our intelligence network was unfortunately dismantled. When the CIA or other groups like this go beyond that and start trying to play politics in other nations, I think they’re stepping beyond their bounds and they’re getting into an area where we are looking for trouble. If we’ve learned one thing from Iraq, it is that seeking regime change is a very, very difficult thing. My thought at the time we first went into Iraq was we probably had to do something but I probably would have just hit some military targets and not tried to topple Saddam. Leave that to the people of Iraq. The best way to unite them behind somebody is to go in and try to topple the leader from without.
Bill: Exactly. And we have the same problem in Afghanistan. You have the same problem, and again, don’t write me and tell me that we’re against the troops. John’s been a military man and Brian and myself – I love military history – we’re not against the troops, we’re against foolish policy decisions and I think we’re engaged in some of those. Let’s talk about Tripoli a little bit, John. You mentioned Jefferson in Tripoli while we were at the break. I think we need to dig into that and root that out a little bit too. How does that play into where we’re at today?
John: Very, very interestingly, and of course the marine hymn “… to the shores of Tripoli,” is certainly reminiscent of some history that we’ve had in Libya before. Throughout the ages there have been millions of Christians in Europe and other parts of the world who have been enslaved by the Muslim empire, particularly by the Barbary States that were off the coast of the Mediterranean. In order to get these Barbary pirates from the Muslim states to leave ships and to leave people alone, the European powers were paying tribute – annual tributes – to those Muslim countries. Back in the – I believe it was about the 1780s – when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were in England, they had a conversation at which the ambassador from one of those Muslim states was present. Jefferson asked him “how can the United States have peace with your country?” He said “very simple – we love peace. All you have to do is pay us tribute and you will have peace.” Jefferson asked him “what has the United States ever done to offend you?” He answered that “all non-Muslim nations are at war with Allah and we are Allah’s people and therefore we have a right to do anything we want to, to any non-Muslim nation.” Jefferson apparently didn’t find that very persuasive but for the first decade or so of American history, we were paying about a million dollars a year tribute to those various Barbary States. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of money until, remember, at that time a million dollars was about 20 percent of our annual budget. When Jefferson became President in 1801, he stopped the tributes. The Barbary States declared war on the United States. Jefferson sent the marines to Tripoli and you know the rest. That’s where the saying “millions for defense but not one cent for tribute” comes from and it’s a wise policy.
Brian: I’m almost speechless, Bill, thinking about … you read about Tripoli then and you listen to John and you think “wait a minute, where have I heard Tripoli today?” Wait for it … you know what I mean? Hold on – why is Tripoli in the news today?
Bill: You still have Barbary – a form of Barbary pirates there, I suppose. Just the philosophy of Jefferson and the idea – it was similar to Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy, was it not – “I’m not going to mess with you. I’m not going to mess with you. I’m not going to mess with you.” Finally you get pushed enough … it’s like that video, Brian, where the kid finally body slams the little guy that’s harassing him. He just says “enough’s enough. I’m going to make you dizzy for about 10 minutes.” So how’s this thing going to play? John, what do you think – how’s it going to play out over that? It’s going to play out in … how can it not play out in higher oil prices? Because it’s not just Libya. You have the Muslim Brotherhood ready and on the ground there. Ready to take a position there. In other places you have Hamas shelling Israel. How do you see this? I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but how do you see this? You’re a historian – how’s it going to end up?
John: Well, I can see several scenarios. One scenario would be that the Muslim world would increasingly exert its strength and not only by military force like they’re doing in some countries right now, but also by immigration into places like Europe and America. They’re saying that within a few decades, several European countries will have a plurality of Muslims there. Norway, a few years ago, poll showed that of boy babies who were born in Oslo, Norway, the most popular name given wasn’t Sven or Eric, it was Mohammed. That’s not true in Norway as a whole, but in Oslo. Anyway, that expansion – I think we’re going to see that continuing. One of the reasons is that they have a goal and a desire to spread their faith system. As Christians, too many of us don’t. Too many of us don’t really know what we’re fighting for or what we should be fighting for, or don’t think we should be fighting at all. “Onward Christian soldiers” has been removed from some hymnals. We think of Christianity not so much as Christian soldiers but as a Sunday school picnic. I see that happening and seeing us gradually being pushed aside in our own country as well as throughout the world. Another possibility could be that a few things like this might have the effect of galvanizing America and the free world and waking us up to the threat that we’re facing. Possibly getting back to our basics and reasserting ourselves and that can happen. I see either of those as a possible scenario.
Brian: John, we want to be respectful of your time and we got you to stay for an entire extra segment. Bill, any parting thoughts for John before we let him go?
Bill: No, just thanks a lot, John, for your time. We really appreciate your commentary and we look forward to talking to you again soon.
Brian: John, before we let you run, I also want to remind our listeners that it’s www.citizensforaconstitutionalrepublic.com. Has all kinds of John Eidsmoe – in terms of his articles and his books, all kinds of the cool things that he’s done. Again, citizensforaconstitutionalrepublic.com. Mr. John Eidsmoe, thank you so very much for hanging out with us today.
John: it’s been great. Appreciate it, Brian; appreciate it, Bill.
Brian: Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break. When we come back, Bill is going to be talking about events of the day. Stick around. You are not going to want to miss our final segment. Back after these commercial words.[0:40:41 – 0:44:55 break]
Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the final segment this hour of Off the Grid News – the radio version – the audio version of offthegridnews.com. I’m Brian Brawdy, as always here with Mr. Bill Heid. Bill, we had to say goodbye to John Eidsmoe, the constitutional scholar, because he had another engagement. But what an informative opening three segments on today’s show.
Bill: I think John’s amazing. I think John’s one of those – sometimes I think, I tell my son Matt “this guy’s the most underrated player in the NBA” – I think John’s really underrated. He’s someone that’s really done, and a lot of scholars make reference to his work “Christianity and the Constitution.” It’s a book everybody really ought to get and read because it’s meant to tell you who the key players were in the signing and the creation of the Constitution. It tells you a little bit about their world and life and how that made their interest in the rule of law possible. I think it’s that – you know me, I’m always interested in that bridge – why do some cultures produce a rule of law? Why do some not produce a rule of law I’m always thinking – did you see the Robin Hood movie? Did you see the Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe?
Brian: I was hoping you weren’t going to say the Kevin Costner version.
Bill: Or the one – the old one – the men in tights. Men in Tights, the Monty Python one. I don’t think you should watch those. But even in the Russell Crowe version, there’s classic scenes. In every movie there’s classic scenes that people remember and in the classic scene at Runnymede, England, there’s a king that wants to be the rule of law himself. He says, basically, like an umpire that says – not “I calls ‘em as they sees ‘em,” but he says “they ain’t anything till I calls ‘em.” He wants to be the final arbiter of law. He wants to do whatever he wants. Listen, the Founding Fathers recognized that issue. They knew that man was depraved. That doesn’t mean he’s always as bad as he could be. But, you know, we’re messed up. That’s another non-theological way of saying what we’re about to say. So not only are the peasant class, like you and I, Brian, messed up, but also the aristocracy’s messed up and actresses are messed up and presidents are messed up. We create this structure of government, limit the collateral damage of sin. That’s really what we’re talking about here. That king, and of course he went – in the Russell Crowe movie he goes back on his word, right? He said – Russell Crowe makes one of those Russell Crowe classic speeches and then we all thought everything was good and here he goes back on it, as evil people do. They go back on their word. He made a promise and of course that was the Magna Carta promise. Then another one I’ll just touch on and get your feedback on, there’s another great movie and it’s a movie about Cromwell and Richard Harris is in this movie – he plays Cromwell. It’s about the English Civil War. There’s this famous scene – I talk about it with my children all the time and I think it’s a famous scene – where the king and his forces are fighting against the parliamentary forces. Finally, Cromwell’s guys – Cromwell had the new model army and he developed … he was the Aaron Rogers or Peyton Manning of that era, with respect to military applications, and he was just a military genius. He finally beats the king’s guys. He goes back to the king’s place. There’s no one there really. All the king’s family has been taken away, back to France. The king’s sitting there by himself and Cromwell and his buddy Ireton walk up to him. Cromwell’s very respectful of the king and he says to him “your majesty, I’m forced to place you under arrest.” The king looks at him and says “I know of no such law that allows you to do that.” Richard Harris is Cromwell in this scene, he looks back at him and says “your majesty, that’s what this war has been fought over.” You see the locus of what law is at its very basis there. The same thing happened again in this country with the war. They went to George III, the Hanoverian king, German king, and they said to him “you’ve broken your promise. You were supposed to be our covenant leader. We were your people. We’re paying taxes and now you just keep breaking your word, over and over and over. You keep breaking what the rule of law is.” That sin – that’s bugged these Founding Fathers – that people would continue to break their contract, to break their covenant. That just made them madder than all you-know-what. The Constitution’s largely a document that’s basically saying – taking all of this history into account and basically saying “we’re going to try to create a document that best covers the collateral damage in terms of sinful aristocracies,” because there’s always leadership, right? There’s always President Obama, there’s always President Bush and Senate … how can we create a document where they can do the least amount of damage to the rest of the people? I think that’s the beauty of the Constitution. But as you heard John say, Brian, there’s holes there. It’s not a perfect document. It doesn’t cover every situation. It doesn’t cover every situation.
Brian: No, but I would also say in Washington’s farewell address, when he talks about “sacredly protecting the Constitution,” and I know it’s a shocker, I’m going to fall back on a law enforcement metaphor, as a veteran and also an ex-cop. I’ve often looked, Bill, at the Constitution as a bullet-proof vest. It’s a form of protection and it doesn’t give us anything. It’s not like the Constitution gives us our inalienable rights because if you go down that path, you have to admit that those inalienable rights were granted by men and therefore can be usurped by men.
Bill: That’s John’s point, Brian! That’s brilliant. That’s John’s point. WE got these from God, not from men.
Brian: Endowed by their creator. So for me, I’ve always looked at the Constitution as a bullet-proof vest. The government’s going to try to take a shot at you whenever it can. That’s what governments do to keep you in line, not a bad thing, not a conspiracy theory, we’re not suggesting that the troopers are coming to put a scope on your back – I’m simply saying government is designed to keep the fringe in control. Keep everybody moving with the herd. I still, to this day, look at Washington’s address about “sacredly defending the Constitution” and I say all the time “though our Constitution protects us, it cannot protect itself. It’s a bullet-proof vest that we need to protect because it does its best watching out for us.”
Bill: I think that’s brilliantly stated. You remember Franklin’s famous words when he comes out and this woman says to him “Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?” And he says, “a republic ma’am.” Then what’s the final piece? “If you can keep it.” So what’s it take to keep it? That’s really, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about – what’s it take to keep it? It takes a certain belief system to keep the sort of government that those Founding Fathers gave us. There has to be a consensus. Again, I think that’s a Christian consensus, and not the goofy televangelist Christians but basically the faith that the Founding Fathers had. Brian, I think Thomas Jefferson, by today’s standards, would be appalled at some of the – if he watched TV and said this is Christianity, Jefferson and Franklin, both who called on God’s providence over and over and over to bless this nation – if they watched TV and watched television evangelism, they would throw up. They would be tremendous Christians by today’s standards, even though there’s a disagreement about what type of Christianity they believed in or what they didn’t believe in. Deism was obviously a big part of the day. Maybe it would look a little bit different. But men of faith – tremendous men of faith – and men of faith that would make today’s politicians look like stoners and dopers, as far as I’m concerned.
Brian: Bill, you and I have talked before that one of the original sections of the Constitution made it mandatory for senators and members of the House of Representatives – it said that they had to come to Washington, DC, at least two weeks a year. Now we have this Capitol Hill hugger gang – they treat being a member of Congress or the Executive Branch like a retirement community – like whatever golf retirement community you can find in southern Florida. They think once they get there, they’re entitled to stay there for life, but the original Constitution said “if you’re going to be a senator, you’ve got to get your tuchus to DC two weeks a year. You at least have to agree to that.” Now we can’t get ‘em out of there.
Bill: We can’t get ‘em out and you touched on something else, I think, as we’re beginning to close the program out a little bit. You touched on something else that I think’s very important. We realize with President Obama doing his – bombing Libya arbitrarily or going to the UN instead of Congress – and we look at that and we roll our eyes and we can’t believe it. But if you really look at what’s going on, does anything change? One thing I know, Brian, irrespective of administrations, you get a Bush, maybe you’ll get a Romney – whatever it is you get – nothing changes. Basic policy. Basic State Department policy, basic bureaucratic policy, because of what you just said, continues to stay the same. We’re running out of time, I know you want to say a few closing things, but basic policy – something’s got to change and it’s got to change with you and me. It’s got to start – what did Dostoevsky say? “You want a better world? Clean up your garage.” We’ve got to start cleaning up at the street level and then it’s got to be a ground up revolution where we make the world a better place by virtue of making ourselves and our communities better.
Brian: Bill, I could not agree with you more. That is why I’m going to close it this way. Ladies and gentlemen, Bill and I are off to clean out our own garage. If you saw it here in Thomson, Illinois, you’d be like “what have you boys been waiting on?” As always, thank you so much for listening to us here at off the Grid Radio. Please be sure to email us. We want your questions, your comments, your critiques. What do you like? What don’t you like? Email us at [email protected]. Of course you can find us on Facebook, soon to be a new Facebook page, terribly interactive as well. If you haven’t checked us out yet, please do so at Facebook.com/offthegridnews. As always, you can follow us on Twitter @offgridnews. On behalf of everyone, Mr. Bill Heid included, at Solutions from Science and Off the Grid News, until next time, I’m Brian Brawdy.[0:55:40]