Category Archives: History

GWB’s Legacy: LBJ

As George W. Bush settles into his final two years, knowing that he’s lost his Congress and has become increasingly a lame duck, the question of his legacy looms large.

As Bush marks the Presidents Day holiday and George Washington’s 275th birthday on Monday, he faces a drumbeat a criticism for the event that will likely be a big part of his legacy — the Iraq war.

The president believes it will take some time to determine his place in the pantheon of presidents, despite the negative assessments some historians have already made.

“I don’t think you’ll really get the full history of the Bush administration until long after I’m gone. I tell people I’m reading books on George Washington and they’re still analyzing his presidency,” Bush told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview last month.

Unfortunately for Bush, I don’t think he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as any of the gentlemen planters of Virginia who founded this country. I shudder to think what an orator like Patrick Henry would have to say about Bush. However, he has a ready-made Texan to be compared to, and that comparison works in more ways than one: Lyndon Baines Johnson.

They both ramped up unpopular wars; LBJ at least having the distinction of not starting the Vietnam war, but only partly so, because he was VP in the administration that did start the war. Bush at least has two years to hopefully clean up Iraq, but may lose any political capital from that potential “win” if he invades Iran.

LBJ began the “Great Society”, initiatives which greatly expanded the federal role in education and began Medicare. Bush chose to leave no child behind by greatly expanding the federal role in education, and chose to greatly expand Medicare by instituting Medicare Part D.

LBJ found himself losing 47 Congressional seats to Republicans in 1966, ruining his chances of ending his presidency on a high note, and imperiling any future programs he would want to institute. Bush lost both houses of Congress to the Democrats, probably dooming his tax cuts to repeal and ensuring that he’ll make no headway on his plans to reform Social Security.

Unless Iraq turns into the model democracy that transforms the Arab world, Bush’s legacy will be one of failure on all fronts.

Anne Frank — Killed By US Immigration Policy

I saw this and was immediately saddened…

Anne Frank’s father tried to get to U.S. (emphasis added)

Anne Frank’s father tried to arrange U.S. visas for his family before they went into hiding, but his efforts were hampered when Allied and Axis countries tightened immigration policies, according to papers released Wednesday.

Otto Frank also sent desperate letters to friends and family in the U.S. pleading for help with immigration costs as the family tried to escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

“I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse,” Otto Frank wrote to his college friend Nathan Straus in April 1941. “It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.”

The documents show how Frank tried to arrange for his family — wife Edith, daughters Margot and Anne and mother-in-law Rosa Hollander — to go to the U.S. or Cuba. He wrote to relatives, friends and officials between April 30, 1941, and Dec. 11, 1941, when Germany declared war on the U.S.

But immigration rules were changing under the Nazi regime and in the U.S. There were nearly 300,000 people on a waiting list for a U.S. immigration visa. Besides, since Frank had living relatives in Germany, he would have been unable to immigrate under U.S. policy at the time.

As you know, I’m in favor of almost completely open immigration. I don’t object to having some knowledge of who is coming in, but don’t think our current immigration quotas are very realistic. One of the cases I point out is that often people in other countries are desperately trying to get out of their home countries to avoid persecution, and it is flatly cruel to refuse them.

This puts that opinion into sharper perspective. Almost everyone in my generation read The Diary of Anne Frank as a requirement in school. As young children, we could barely begin to imagine the sheer terror of living in hiding, knowing that capture by the authorities meant death. At most, we were impressed with the idea “never again”. We made a promise to ourselves that we had learned our lesson.

But I don’t think our current immigration policies live up to that promise. Anne Frank could be alive today, if America hadn’t shut our doors. How many people now are desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of autocratic despots, only to be told by the United States that “we’re full”?

Thomas Paine: More Harm than Good?

Thomas Paine is one of the least respected figures of the American Revolution and early American history. Many of Paine’s compatriots believed that his anti-religious ideas found in The Age of Reason were so dangerous that they would undermine the moral character of America (Keane 475). Paine further caught the ire of the American public with his open letter to President George Washington in which Paine called Washington “a cold blooded traitor” (Keane 429-33). Upon Paine’s death, The New York Citizen had eulogized: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Criticism for Paine and his works continued long after his death. Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little atheist” (Stade 382). There has never been a shortage of criticism of Paine or his work whether in his own time or since. Certainly, some of the criticism is warranted, but the notion that Paine “did some good and much harm” is hardly fair for a man who sacrificed his wealth, risked his life, and inspired countless others in the cause of America’s independence from England.

When Thomas Paine arrived for the first time in America on November 30, 1774, no one could have predicted the enormous influence he and his writings would have on citizens of every class. Paine was not well known at this time, but Benjamin Franklin’s letter of introduction to Philadelphia’s movers and shakers would soon change that. As Paine became comfortable with his new surroundings, he spent many hours in book stores and conversing with others about his literary interests. One day, Paine was in one of his favorite stores visiting with the store’s owner, Robert Aitken. Aitken was so impressed with Paine that he offered Paine a job as the editor of the upstart periodical Pennsylvania Magazine (Kaye 49-50).

Rather than writing directly about controversial issues, Paine used allegory and the increasingly popular medium of the fable to express his ideas. The fables opened up the world of politics to the general public; something which was not done in literature prior to Paine’s writing and editorship of Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine’s impact on the magazine was immediate. Circulation of the fledgling magazine more than doubled in the first month of Aitken’s hiring of Paine as contributing editor. The magazine would sell more copies than any other magazine up to that time (Larkin 261).
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Abraham Lincoln 1809-1865

Today marks the 189th anniversary of the birth of America’s 16th President. As a libertarian, I am sometimes of two minds about Lincoln. On the one hand, he led the nation in a Civil War the end result of which was a massive expansion of the power of the Federal Government over the states, On the other, he recognized when many others didn’t that preserving the Union was essential to preserving American freedom and that human slavery was an evil that should not be permitted to expand into the Western Territories.

For better or worse, though, he is deservedly ranked with Washington and FDR as one of the President’s who achieved greatness by leading the nation through a time of crisis. And I can’t think of a better way to mark the anniversary of his birth, than with what is clearly one of the greatest speeches in American history:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Joe Biden is Right, For Once….

Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden was in South Carolina this Martin Luther King Jr. Day and he had some comments about the Confederate flag that flies at the state capital.

Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential hopeful joining fellow Sen. Christopher Dodd at Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds.

“If I were a state legislator, I’d vote for it to move off the grounds – out of the state,” the Delaware senator said before the civil rights group held a march and rally at the Statehouse here to support its boycott of the state.

Joe Biden is absolutely right, the Confederate flag must go and in fact the monument on capital grounds that honors Confederate troops must go as well. The Confederacy existed for sole purpose of allowing the enslavement of other human beings. South Carolina’s Causes of Secession, adopted after the Ordinance of Secession itself in 1860 explains:

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

South Carolina makes it very clear it is leaving the United States to preserve the right to enslave other human beings. This is akin to Nazi Germany’s rationale for existance to preserve and promote the Aryan race and its right to enslave and murder those it consider subhuman. Germany does not have monuments to the SS and symbols to Nazi Germany, Confederate soldiers and symbols do not deserve more honor than their evil cause deserves. The Confederacy needs to be repudiated and those who supported it scorned, not honored as some kind of mythical “lost cause”.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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