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Text Box: Vol.5, Issue 29-rev
Text Box: December 27, 2012

I. W. Parkins

Front Page

 Links to Articles and Items of Interest

· George Will on “Rewriting History on the Filibuster

· Daniel Henninger on “Obama’s Ruinous Course”

· Walter Williams on “Middle East Democracy”

· Charles Krauthammer on “The Roots of Mass Murder”

· Thomas Sowell on “Random Thoughts”

· Ann Coulter on “We Know How to Stop School Shootings”

· Thomas Sowell on “The Fallacy of Redistribution” (more articles)

· Breitbart.com– stories which are not seen in “the media”

· The Drudge Report— Current events website by Matt Drudge

· The Heritage Foundation Blog

Text Box:  IN THIS ISSUE– The Last Issue of 2012
Popular Votes and Recent Presidents
Lots of Checks, What Balance?
Our Very Controversial Chief Executive Officers
It is time to Disassemble the House
A Reprise of my Letter to Editor “Gorbachev Borrowing ...Democracy…”

American Political Commentary

 

Veritas Veneratio Virtus

Gouverneur

 Morris

George

      Washington

     OUR VERY

CONTROVERSIAL CHIEF

EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     Controversies over our chief executives are older than the United States.  Governors of the several original colonies were selected in a variety of ways, but increasingly by Royal appointment.  One original step in the war for independence was replacing the Royal Governors.  Popular confidence rested mainly in the legislatures.  As new state constitutions were adopted, many gave to Governors terms of only two years and those years with only minimal powers.  But, with legislatures in session only a small part of the time, realities soon intervened.  Who could react effectively to an Indian raid, or to a new trade barrier raised by a neighboring state?

     Fortunately for both the design and the initial performance of the office, George Washington was the obvious choice for our first President.  Also fortunate was the fact that Gouverneur Morris, who had had a major role in creating the constitution of New York and its strong executive, was able to do much the same thing for the nation.  Article II of The Constitution of The United States assigns to the President broad powers and imposes few limits other than his term of office.  Now, it has generally been those Presidents who used their powers boldly who have become our greatest political heroes.  Often they have, in fact, served as tribunes of the people.

     John Locke, a favorite authority of our forefathers, says in his Second Treatise on Civil Government:

      “ Many things there are that the law can by no means provide for, and those must     necessarily be left to the discretion of him who has the executive power in his hands, to be ordered by him as the public good and advantage shall require;”  I.W. Parkins 22709

“Gorbachev

Borrowing

 U.S. Model

for Democracy,”

by David Broder

 

My response in a

LETTER TO THE EDITOR,

St. Petersburg Times, 2/23/90

St. Petersburg, Florida

 

 

     Let us hope that Chairman Gorbachev understands what he borrows.  For instance, many discussions of presidential-congressional conflicts terminate in citations of our traditional check and balance system.  But, in 34 years of teaching American Government I never encountered a good analysis of what the word “balance” means in the context.  It is my opinion that “balance” is chiefly a euphemism, added by commentators after the Constitution was adopted and not really descriptive of how our system works.

 

     During the two millennia of Western political thought from Aristotle through Montesquieu to John Adams, “balance” referred to a balance of the social classes, each represented in a different branch of government.  No doubt, that concept was relevant to the diverse ways in which offices of our several federal branches were originally filled.  Now, however, we elect presidents and senators as well as representatives, and we expect all branches to represent all classes of people.

 

     Very little use was made of the word “balance” by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay in THE FEDERALIST.  That term does appear in my copy, but chiefly in remarks and subtitles added by later editors.

 

     Does “balance” really help one to understand how our system works, or is it a euphemistic term for what is actually a check and checkmate system?

Based upon recent events, it is time to seriously consider my proposal to:

“DISASSEMBLE THE HOUSE”

    By Ivan W. Parkins

    

     One concern of those who drafted the Constitution of the United States was that representatives should not have such small constituencies that the office would fail to attract able candidates.  Even so, Chairman of the Convention, George Washington, called for a minimum constituency of 30,000 instead of the already approved 40,000.  This was his only suggestion regarding details of the Constitution and it was adopted. 

     THE FEDERALIST, No. 51 states that “dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.” No. 52 adds “… it is particularly essential that ..” the representative “… have an immediate dependence on and an intimate sympathy with the people.”

     Now, with the congressional districts having average populations of about  690,000, and with only 524,160 minutes in a year, we face a very different situation.  All Representatives, whatever their origins, become members of the upper class by virtue of their salaries and perks alone.  The long sessions and  increasing details of their involvement in nearly all matters of government, keep their minds and bodies within the confines of the “Beltway” most of the time.  National journalists, pollsters, lobbyists, and congressional staff members, along with legislative “earmarks,” get them reelected.  Meanwhile, it is literally impossible for them to allot one minute of their time per year to each constituent. 

     Our representatives should be much more numerous; they should spend most of their working time in their districts; and they should have infrequent, but authoritative votes on major public issues.  In order to add that to the Constitution, go to the proposed amendment here:

NOTE: With the recent illness of George H.W. Bush, I thought that it would be appropriate to reprise the following article.  President Bush (41) was the most prepared individual ever to take the office of President.

  POPULAR VOTES

AND RECENT PRESIDENTS

By Ivan W. Parkins

             President Reagan left us his Vice President, and G.H.W. Bush won the office with 53.4% of the popular votes, a larger majority than has been attained by any President since.  Prior to that, Bush had piloted a torpedo bomber in 58 combat missions during WWII.  He finished education at Yale, helped to pioneer oil drilling in the Gulf, and won two terms in the House as Representative from Houston, Texas.  He also served as Ambassador to the UN, National Chairman of the GOP, Liaison to China, and Director of the CIA.  In his one term he arrested Noriega from a corrupt control of Panama. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Bush organized and international coalition, quickly degraded the largest military establishment in that region, and did so with minimal coalition loses. The operation was financed, almost entirely, by our allies.  But, Bush was vexed by a slowly recovering economy, “Mainstream” television networks that even   boycotted a major press conference, and the third party candidacy of Ross Perot.

             Democrat Bill Clinton’s 43% of the popular vote carried the election of 1992.  In four years Clinton would win again, with a larger but not quite majority share of the votes.  He began with a House majority slightly larger than Obama has begun with, but finished the six years remaining in his Presidency with small Republican majorities in the House.  In fact, he was impeached by the House and faced a quick, but much less than two-thirds, condemnation in the Senate.  The possible charges supported by evidence included illegal campaign money from China and illegal grants of citizenship, but he House had charged him only with his much more widely publicized sexual dalliances and lies relating to them.  Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration enjoyed the formal end of the Soviet Union and the flowering of the Dot-Com Boom.  But, the first attempt to destroy the World Trade center had fizzled, and we lost two African embassies with heavy casualties.  Given a mostly sympathetic press Clinton finished his two, less than a popular majority terms, with a substantial public following.  Few, if any, retiring from America’s Presidency, have profited so greatly after having held that office.

             George Bush was winner in the Electoral College, 2000, without having won a majority of popular votes.  That win, and the already increasing partisanship of American politics provided him with a very unpromising term.  Furthermore, he would have only small and uncertain majorities in Congress.  By the time that he getting well adjusted to the office the Twin Towers were destroyed by some of the same people who had failed earlier, and months after that the Dot-Com Bubble burst.  Bush would face years of difficult wars and economic struggle.  Not only was Muslim terrorism more extensive than we had noticed, our military had been on short budgets and long restraints since the beginning of Clinton’s two terms.  Bush won a slim majority in his reelection, 2004, but lost his slim partisan control of the House in 2006.  He also faced especially severe harassment by the old “Mainstream” media, but with increasingly active newer media in his support, Now, President Obama has entered with a majority only slightly less than that of the first President Bush (the best of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson).  His is now still an administration in the making, and I will not comment further about it here.

Note: (Of course my opinion of Obama here has changed dramatically since this was written.  As compared to Bush (41) there is no comparison)

Gouverneur

 Morris

Alexander

 Hamilton

 LOTS OF CHECKS;

WHAT BALANCE?

By Ivan W. Parkins

 Our economic crisis? 

      No, I’m referring to our constitutional system.

       We owe some of the vision, plus most of the words and syntax in our Constitution to Gouverneur Morris.  He was the most frequent speaker in the Constitutional Convention.  As a member of the committee assigned to draft one document from numerous motions and amendments to motions, he created one concise and mostly coherent summary in just a few days. Morris (Gouverneur is his name and was never a title.) had many talents to offset his funny name, withered arm, and wooden leg.  He is now a too little appreciated Founding Father.

      Those among us who seek to attribute their check and balance theories to the Constitution will find little explicit evidence in the document.  Nor will they find a lot more in THE FEDERALIST commentaries expounding upon it.  There are some checks in the legislative process and in that for treaty ratification.  But, in 1787 the concept of balance in constitutions had, for more than two millennia, applied chiefly to the representation of several social classes in separate branches of the government—and not as equals.  King, Lords, and Commons is now the most familiar example.

       At least from the time of Roman Tribunes, and extending through some European monarchies, it was the executive who was expected to protect all of a nation’s subjects.  In colonial America, and other parts of the British Empire, abuse of native peoples was often by white settlers and done in violation of orders from the Crown or its Governors. Something similar continued after America gained its independence, but not enough central authority to really maintain the peace.  It may explain in part Alexander Hamilton’s contention that energy in the executive is the measure of good government.

        Yes—even the mention of Alexander Hamilton often raises some popular notions of “elitism.”  That is ironic; Hamilton was a “bastard,” grew up an orphan, and became one of the few Founders who worked actively against slavery.  It’s just one small part of the maze that is our national history, as it too often has been simplified for popular consumption. I.W.Parkins 22709