The Constitution Then and Now

Presented at the Bill of Rights Rally, Denver, Colorado on June 22, 2002.

Thank you for coming out this afternoon for the Bill of Rights Rally. The fact that you are here today tells me something very important and exciting: that you care deeply about the rights given to us by God and guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

My name is Doug Newman. I live in Aurora, I am retired from the Naval Reserve, and I work in sales. I am the Libertarian Party's candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives in District 41, which comprises the west central area of Aurora.

I have been doing the freedom thing for ten years and two things never cease to impress me. The first is that, wherever I go, I find that people like Libertarian ideas.

The second thing that impresses me is the diversity of people who are excited by the Libertarian message. The Libertarian Party has a reputation as being from the land of camouflage, polyester, and tie-dye. Now, I find camouflage very comfortable to wear, I spend too much time on the web, and I like the Grateful Dead.

But I find that people from all walks of life are excited by the freedom philosophy and the message of the Libertarian Party. Moreover, they are profoundly concerned about the ever-increasing rate at which our freedoms are disappearing in this country.

On Monday, September 10, 2001, I was leaving my job at the Diamond Hill office park, just north of Invesco Field. I remember being just a little hot under the collar about traffic being rerouted in the neighborhood that evening, as the Broncos were hosting the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

Oh well, I figured, this inconvenience is temporary and everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

The next morning, over breakfast, I heard The News. The talk show host informed us that an airplane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I turned on the TV set and watched in horror as a second airplane crashed into the other tower. I was running a few minutes late to work, so I called inform my boss. I just remember saying something like "This is not a normal morning in this country."

The horrific events of September 11, 2001, constituted the largest single news event of my life. Period. That day, many emotions ran through my mind, but two stood out. First, naturally, was the urge to retaliate and retaliate hard against whoever perpetrated these atrocities. Second, I kept asking just how much of their remaining freedoms the American people would be willing to give up in the name of security.

The natural reaction to anything so cataclysmic is to make sure that such an event never, ever, ever, ever, ever happens again. In the aftermath of September 11, too many Americans have shown little if any regard for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If the government does something in the name of safety and security, they will support it no matter how ineffectual it might be.

In a recent speech, George W. Bush said something to the effect that "We have gone from a country whose motto is 'If it feels good, do it', to a country whose motto is 'Let's roll.'"

Actually, we now have two mottos that govern our thinking about these events. The first is "If it sounds good, do it." The second is, "let's roll over."

Let's roll over while the Bush Administration shows greater contempt for the Second Amendment than the Clinton Administration ever did.

Let's roll over while they eviscerate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the name of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Let's roll over while they arbitrarily detain people in violation of the Sixth Amendment.

Let's roll over while they give us a national ID card in violation of the First, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments.

But we feel so safe and secure because of the post-September 11 agenda.

There is a whole lot of difference between feeling safe and being safe. Throughout history, the greatest enemies of personal security have been governments. Ben Franklin said that those who will give up freedom for a little temporary security deserve neither freedom nor security.

How secure has your government ever made you feel?

Do you feel secure when half your income is stolen from you before you can even buy groceries?

Do you feel secure knowing that the tax police know all kinds of things about you that you would not even divulge to your best friend?

Do you feel secure knowing that the drug that may one day need to save your life -- and that is saving thousands of lives overseas -- may be banned by the FDA?

Do women feel secure walking home alone at night -- even in affluent suburbs -- notwithstanding the 20,000 gun laws on the books in this country?

Do you feel secure about your children's future knowing that their education is in the hands of bureaucrats thousands of miles away who do not even know your children's names?

Do you feel secure when your nation has troops in dozens of nations around the globe, while lower Manhattan and Arlington, Virginia, are naked in the face of terrorists?

Then why is there such clamor for greater federal intrusion in every aspect of our lives in the name of "security"?

How "secure" would you feel as a subject of the Nazis, the Soviets, the ChiComs or the Khmer Rouge? Of Castro in Cuba? Of Kim Jong-Il, the fat little playboy psychopath in North Korea? As Barry Goldwater once said, a government that gives you everything you want, must take away everything you have.

And if you will trade some of your freedom for some additional security, why not trade all your freedom for total security?

If you want to give up all your freedom in the name of security, I know a place where they do things your way. To get there, go to Key West, Florida, build a raft, and paddle 90 miles to the south. Somehow I get the feeling that you will be the only person paddling in that direction. You will note that this stinkhole has no immigration problem. Indeed, immigration is the only problem Communism has ever solved.

You cannot have it both ways. More freedom means more security. Less freedom means less security. Personally, I would rather have no sense of security than a false sense of security.

They tell me that September 11 was the day America changed.

I don't think so.

Republicans say that Clinton's policies got us into this mess, and that Bush's policies are necessary to prevent another September 11.

They say that the Clinton Administration was the administration from the bowels of hell, and that the Bush Administration is purer than the driven snow.

They would have you think that September 11 happened because we were too free under Clinton, and that a "strong leader" is necessary to prevent another such attack.

Republicans are highly indignant that anyone would even suggest that Dubya had prior knowledge of the attacks. I am not going to speculate about conspiracy theories today, but can you even begin to imagine the accusations leveled by Republicans had the attacks happened on the watch of a Bill Clinton or an Al Gore?

The truth is that none of our current cultural presuppositions about government have changed. The two policies that led to September 11 had become so ingrained in our culture that no one even questions them. We merely split hairs over whom we would prefer to have implement those policies.

The first such policy was the ban on firearms aboard commercial aircraft. For years, we had dutifully gone through airport security lines with the reassurance that such measures were necessary to prevent something bad from happening aboard airplanes.

As someone remarked last fall, when guns are outlawed, outlaws will use box cutters. When you disarm innocent people, as night follows day, bad things happen. Had the American people not been required to surrender their constitutional rights when they walked through airplane doors, the terrorists would have decided that hijacking a plane would be futile and would have scrapped the project altogether.

The second policy was our military presence in just about every country on earth. American troops are now stationed in 140 countries around the globe. It is doubtful that the Soviet Union could make this claim. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution spells out what "common Defense" means. To justify a military presence around the world would take an incredibly creative interpretation of the words "suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions".

Interpreting the Constitution to suit a partisan agenda is not just a Democrat's disease.

I know we feel we are doing good around the world, but do others feel that way? September 11 happened because millions upon millions of people throughout the Islamic world positively seethe with an indescribable, unimaginable hatred toward America's military presence in the holy land of Islam, i.e. Saudi Arabia.

It was and is fashionable to say that September 11 happened because we are free and good and virtuous. If they simply attacked us because they wanted to take away our freedom, why did they not attack the Cayman Islands or, better yet, Switzerland?

You will note that nobody -- not Napoleon, nor Kaiser Bill, nor Hitler - has invaded Switzerland. Why? Because the Swiss mind their own business! Unlike the United States, they stay out of everyone else's affairs.

You cannot meddle in the affairs of other nations to the extent that the United States does, and expect to have everyone love you. The Founders had it right: peace and commerce with all, entangling alliances with none.

If we had simply paid attention to the Constitution for the last 100 years, we would not be in the mess we are today.

Yet what do George W. Bush and the Republicans want to do? More of the same! In the name of "defense", they want to continue committing offense throughout the world.

Ten years from now, when your son's dead body is dragged before cheering mobs through the streets of the capital of some Third World hell hole that had nothing to do with September 11, will you feel "secure", or will you finally start asking a few questions about the direction our country is heading?

As Socrates once remarked, "The unexamined life is not worth living." To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined nation will not be worth living in.

There have never been a people more deluded into thinking they are free than the American people in the last few decades. Oh sure, they tell us we are free. And they tell us, in true Orwellian fashion, that if we just give up a little more freedom, we will be freer. And the American people keep buying these lies.

Thankfully, there are Americans like you who are examining America's bobsled ride into tyranny, and who are willing to do some unfashionable things in order to reverse it. We need millions more Americans like you.

Americans who realize that self-government means more than having voted in the last election.

Americans who realize that self-government means more than being able to criticize their government without being sent to a forced labor camp on the North Slope of Alaska.

Americans who realize that rights come from God, that government exists to preserve these rights, and not to usher in someone's notion of utopia.

Americans who realize that "rights come with responsibilities" does not mean that the government must force us at gunpoint to be responsible.

Americans who realize that it does not take a village to raise a child, nor does it take a police state to raise a child.

They tell us that libertarianism equals anarchy. I would ask them to look around and see where anarchy exists in America today.

Anarchy exists in the inner cities and on the Indian reservations.

Anarchy exists in Washington, D.C., which epitomizes socialism at its worst.

Anarchy exists wherever personal responsibility doesn't exist.

Welfare does not only take the form of a monthly check from the government. It exists wherever people believe that the government is handling their responsibilities for them. The welfare state mentality was alive and well on the morning of September 11. We felt so secure in the belief that federally mandated airport security would prevent bad things from happening.

Yet what happened that morning?

I would call it anarchy.

But what about traditional moral values and the integrity of the family?

You have to love the story of Jenna and Barbara Bush, the president's twin daughters, who at age 19 got busted for entering and Austin, Texas, nightspot using fake IDs. If the president's daughters will find a way around such laws, what makes you think a president can instill traditional morality in 290 million people across America?

There is a bumper sticker that says: "Focus on your own damn family." I am sorry if my language is a bit harsh, but this bumper sticker makes a pungent point. People no more like government ramming morality down their throats than they like government ramming compassion, or responsibility or anything else down their throats.

Now I am a Christian, and I believe that James Dobson and Focus on the Family do a lot of great things when it comes to educating families. The problem is, they do a lot of rotten things promoting their social agenda that endorses imprisoning us for our every vice.

Big government is bad government. And no matter how noble the intention, government can only do so much. The Founders, many of whom were Bible-believing Christians, knew this. They knew about history and they knew about human nature.

The provisions in our Constitution are not there because they sound nice. They acknowledge the few legitimate capabilities of civil government.

To govern is to set limits. Most limits are best set by individuals, by families, and by private organizations such as churches, synagogues, businesses and private entities.

A hundred years ago, it was perfectly legal for a ten-year-old to walk into a drug store and buy heroin. And yet we had no drug problem, because the duty of instilling virtue was clearly on the shoulders of parents and churches, right where God put it.

Nancy Reagan caught a lot of heat for urging America's teens to "just say no" to sex and drugs. Unwittingly, she was promoting the libertarian philosophy of personal responsibility and self-restraint.

Someone recently asked me if, with all the problems we have with drugs today, would I feel comfortable ending the Drug War? Absolutely, I would.

The government can no more "solve the drug problem" than it can solve the race problem or the poverty problem. Its efforts in all these areas just make bad problems worse. Two words that you will not find in the Constitution are "solve" and "problems." Republican pleas for the government to "do something" to "solve problems" are just as intellectually vacuous as such pleas from Democrats.

Human nature is the same now as it was 200 years ago. Government can only do a few things. The Founders spelled these out in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights -- especially the Ninth and Tenth Amendments -- forbids the feds from doing anything else.

But won't voting Libertarian take votes from Republicans and put Democrats in office?

Who cares?

Republicans have shown themselves to be just as tyrannical as Democrats. I used to be fond of saying that favoring less government than Bill Clinton was like having fewer bad hair days than Don King.

Since September 11, Republicans have been even more tyrannical than Democrats. At least if Al Gore had been implementing the post-September 11 agenda, there would have been more opposition to it.

If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If you want something different, you must do something different.

If you seriously want to stop America's bobsled ride into tyranny, you have to be like Edgar Allan Poe's raven and say "Nevermore".

You have to be like boxing legend Roberto Duran and proclaim "No mas!"

You have to just say no to supporting the two privileged parties and support a party that is firmly on the side of limited government. My suggestion would be to vote for every Libertarian candidate you can.

The Libertarian Party will have dozens of candidates on the ballot in Colorado this year, and over 1000 nationally. We are on the ballot in all 50 states and have elected over 300 people to public office.

Libertarians believe you can run your life better than the government can, and have a right to be left alone in order to do it.

Do we always agree on everything? No. Indeed, I have heard it said that there may be two Libertarians in the world who agree on everything, but I am not one of them.

But you can count on one thing: the Libertarian center of gravity is firmly on the side of limited government. Putting the right people in charge of Clintonism will no more make Clintonism work, than putting the right people in charge of communism will make communism work.

Libertarians want to eliminate unnecessary and unconstitutional laws, taxes, and programs, not just put our guys in charge.

Libertarians may not always tell you what you want to hear, but you can count on us to tell you what you need to know.

"Slowing the growth of government" still means bigger government. Libertarians want to real shrinkage of government.

And we want it now.

What this means to you is giving you your money back, giving you your freedom back, and giving you your life back.

That is what we Libertarians pledge to do for you. The rest, we believe you can do for yourself.

A wit once remarked that, while Democrats want to be your mommy and Republicans want to be your daddy, Libertarians believe you are an adult, and will let you run your own life.

I want to close with the Libertarian Limerick, the author of which is anonymous:

There once was a man from Nantucket,
Who wanted to sell me a bucket.
But he couldn't because,
There were so many laws,
So he threw up his hands and said…"Vote Libertarian!"

Thank you and God Bless You.

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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