Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Poster Children for Not Thinking Things Through
The current edition of the JBS Bulletin contains one of the most astonishingly wrong-headed statements ever published in the history of that organization.
It is either a product of culpable incompetence -- both authorial and editorial -- or a deliberate intent to mislead the members regarding an indispensable constitutional principle.
On page 8 of the issue, in the "Talking Points" column -- a feature intended to serve as a template for member-written letters to the editor, and contributions to call-in radio talk shows -- Jack McManus addresses the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. He mentions her membership in La Raza, a Ford Foundation-funded lobby that promotes the Latino version of collectivist identity politics.
Jack also invokes the dreaded specter of Aztlan, a rallying cry for student radicals and full-time purveyors of ethnic grievance. The notion behind that odd term is that Mexico, through "demographic warfare," will re-conquer the southeastern United States.
In terms of plausibility and immediacy, this "threat" finishes a distant second behind the prospect of an invasion of the Earth by the planet Romulus.
Yes, I did my share to inflate the Aztlan threat as a JBS writer and speaker. Sure, I'm aware that this demented dream pollutes the minds of many people whose mouths are firmly fastened to the teat of some tax-exempt foundation or the other. I'm also willing to change my mind when the evidence demands it.
Recently it's become clear to me that, first of all, the immigration wave from Mexico -- both legal and illegal -- is abating, as the U.S. economy collapses; second, that the all-encompassing desire of most Mexicans residing in the U.S., however they got here, is to make money, not to be agents of an ethnic revanche. Which is to say that Mexicans are pretty much like Euro-Americans, only darker and blessed with superior culinary skills.
Jack is notoriously content to recline on assumptions he's too lazy to challenge, and the JBS is too tightly welded to the petty nationalist wing of the Republican Party to change its line regarding the "reconquista" and Aztlan plot.
So Jack trots out this glue factory-bound horse for a ritual flogging. Do the Senators from the state destined for amalgamation into Aztlan know of the Latina nominee's secret affiliations? he inquires; are they willing to surrender their states to Mexican hegemony?
And then he commits a grave sin against sound constitutional understanding, prefaced by a routine invocation of original intent: "Judges serving the nation, not only at the level of the Supreme Court but every level, should have only the Constitution of the United States as their guide. Nowhere does the Constitution contain authorization for the nation to break apart and commit suicide." (Emphasis added.)
Could Jack possibly subscribe to the position expressed in that second sentence? Could he be that ignorant of essential principles found under the heading, "Constitutionalism 101"?
The Constitution did not create a "nation" or a "national" government; it created a federated republic of sovereign states that were perfectly capable of reclaiming their sovereignty when necessary. This would mean secession from the voluntary union, or what Jack would describe as the nation "break[ing] apart."
This wasn't "authorized" by the Constitution, a document that authorized a central or "general" government to do a few specific things, and specifying a few -- very few -- powers alienated by the states as a condition of membership in the Union. The powers thus alienated by the states did not include the right of peaceful withdrawal, an understanding made explicit in the ratification debates, and even the constitutions, of several original states.
Any constitutionalist should understand those principles. Assuming that Jack has actually read the magazine for which he has served as nominal publisher for a couple of decades, he would have been exposed to numerous articles elucidating this understanding. At least one of them was written by the incomparable Joseph Sobran, whom Jack so thoughtfully threw off the masthead of The New American eleven years ago.
Jack might also have run across an elegant expression of those principles in a panegyric to Robert E. Lee by E. Merrill Root, which was published in the March 1972 American Opinion magazine -- and republished in the October 27, 1997 issue of The New American.
Here are a few typical paragraphs on the subject from an article I published six years ago, a review of the film Gods and Generals:
"Like the other southern states from which Lincoln sought to requisition troops, Virginia did not initially favor secession. But ... Virginians equally opposed punishing states that had exercised their right to withdraw from the Union. That right was explicitly reserved in the ratification acts of Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island, when those states approved the U.S Constitution.
The right of secession was recognized at the 1814 Hartford Convention, where New England states opposed to the War of 1812 threatened to withdraw from the Union. As historian Charles Adams observes, `There were secessionist cries from some Northern states over the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, the whiskey tax, the War of 1812, the admission of Texas, and the Mexican War. The Abolitionist party proposed that the Northern, nonslave states secede from the ... Union with the Southern states.'
Prior to 1861, Americans in both the North and the South understood that the Union existed among the states, rather than above them. As Virginia jurist Abel P. Upshur summarized in his study The Federal Government: Its True Nature and Character: `The Federal Government is the creature of the States. It is not a party to the Constitution, but the result of it--the creation of that agreement which was made by the States as parties. It is a mere agent, entrusted with limited powers for certain specific objects, which powers are enumerated in the Constitution. '
Through secession a state would reclaim the powers it had lent to the federal government. And the option to secede represented the ultimate check on the consolidation of power in Washington, something the Framers of the Constitution strove to prevent. `Too much provision cannot be made against consolidation,' warned Federalist Fisher Ames during the Convention of Massachusetts. `The State Governments represent the wishes and feelings, and local interests of the people. They are the safeguard and ornament of the Constitution; they will protract the period of our liberties; they will afford a shelter against the abuse of power, and will be the natural avengers of our violated rights.'"
It may be said that Jack's point doesn't deal with succession per se, but rather the threat of stealthy conquest of a portion of the United States and the subsumation thereof by a foreign power -- in this case that notorious global aggressor, Mexico, whose garrisons dot the globe and whose troops are embroiled in dozens of distant conflicts.
Whoops -- that's actually a description of the government headquartered in Washington, not Mexico City.
In any case, if the point above or something like it was Jack's point, he should have made it, rather than dashing off a knee-jerk nationalist bromide that effectively inverts decades of constitutional instruction by the JBS.
Remember: This was the "Talking Points" column, which is intended to frame the arguments used by members. As President of the Society, Jack is in charge of the organization's official ideology. So when he starts emitting talking points that embrace the monolithic, unitary, nationalist perspective, the resulting damage can be substantial.
To begin with, it sows confusion in the ranks regarding one of the Society's ongoing "action" items, which is to support the passage of "state sovereignty" resolutions by their state legislatures.
Hmmm... doesn't talk of state sovereignty unmistakably imply a belief in the right of states to secede, thereby causing "the nation to break apart and commit suicide"?
Not for the first time since I was thrown overboard by the JBS, I find myself asking: Is anybody in Appleton actually editing what the organization publishes?
There is a significant blind spot in Appleton (an expression, once again, referring to the JBS upper management, not the people at the home office who actually work for a living) when it comes to immigration.
There's a willingness to suspend what had been a pretty comprehensive suspicion of federal agencies in order to embrace that large and growing section of the Department of Homeland Security formerly called the Border Patrol.
There's a willingness to ignore some of the fundamental economic principles implicated in the question of immigration, a mistake Ron Paul has never made.
Most disturbingly, there is a willingness on the part of JBS upper management -- which is otherwise so famously fastidious about maintaining its image and stiff-arming "extremists" and bigots -- to embrace some pretty dubious people within the immigration restriction movement.
Some of them -- such as the monomaniacal Arizona state representative Russell Pearce, and Pearce's oleaginous buddy, the Nazi agitator J.T. Ready -- are so deeply entrenched in the mire of unabashed bigotry they would be difficult to locate with a plumber's helper.
Others, such as Chris Simcox, founder and former leader of one of the two major factions of the Minutemen and candidate for the U.S. Senate, are rank with the odor of opportunism and petty corruption. Simcox himself has a very troubled personal background. He is also notoriously prone to misconduct regarding the one thing I know Appleton cares about, money, having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the supposed purpose of building an "Israeli-style security fence" on the U.S.-Mexican border -- only to call off the project after stringing up a few hundred yards' worth of desultory barbed wire fencing.
Many of his former allies have accused Simcox of defrauding them. And now that he's a product peddled by the Beltway PR firm Diener Consultants, Simcox is regularly given time on Fox "news" to regurgitate neo-con soundbites.
And even when he's not advancing the cause of the Republican brand of totalitarianism, Simcox remains a very ripe target for leftist "watchdog" groups.
The organization Simcox founded is in bad odor right now because of a perfectly hideous crime carried out by Shawna Forde -- once identified as a rising "leader" by the Washington chapter of Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps -- and two associates, one of them apparently involved in marijuana smuggling.
Forde and two comrades are accused of the May 30 murders of 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia in Pima, Arizona. Raul was allegedly involved in narcotics smuggling. Forde and two henchmen disguised themselves as law enforcement officers, invaded the Flores home, and murdered Raul and Brisenia while the horrified mother called 911 and fought back with a shotgun.
This robbery was intended to be the first of several operations designed to steal money from suspected assets of Mexican drug cartels. Forde and two henchmen disguised themselves as law enforcement officers. The money they intended to steal would be used to fund Forde's immigration restriction efforts, or, what's much the same thing from her perspective, her erratic and self-destructive lifestyle.
Simcox had nothing to do with that hideous crime. He was not "linked" to Forde beyond his role as ringmaster of the Psycho Circus that the Minuteman movement is becoming. He can't be held morally, let alone legally, responsible for the actions of Forde and her accomplices.
Shawna Forde and her alleged accomplices in murder (l-r) Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush.
But this is not the relevant standard where the question is one of impact Simcox's background and associations would have on the Birch Society's "image."
JBS upper management proudly lists Simcox as a member of its Speaker's Bureau. These are the same managers who cast out Joseph Sobran because -- as a freelance writer for whom every dollar was a victory -- he sold his column to all willing buyers, including the Spotlight, and he was willing to address the Institute for Historical Review in exchange for an honorarium.
"Links" and "associations" of that kind simply won't do, sniffed JBS management as they attempted to dictate on the matter to someone who was never an employee.
Rest in God's peace, angel: Nine-year-old murder victim Brisenia Flores.
Oh, and this is the same upper management that once fired a prolific Senior Editor on the pretext that something he wrote on his personal blog just might -- someday, if the planets aligned just so -- provoke a lawsuit, not that there was any evidence that such a lawsuit was being contemplated by anyone, or even that a lawsuit against the writer would implicate the JBS in any way. But, hey, it could happen, in the same sense that it could rain cheeseburgers tomorrow, so under the bus that Senior Editor must be thrown.
In this we see JBS management's proprietary blend of hypocrisy and cowardice. But, as with Jack's breezy dismissal of the constitutional principle of secession, the Simcox matter is another illustration of the fact that those guys are afflicted with an adolescent inability to think matters through.