Trust Me – I’m from the Government!
“Trust me government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs–in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact. Three hundred and sixty years ago, in 1620, a group of families dared to cross a mighty ocean to build a future for themselves in a new world. When they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, they formed what they called a “compact”; an agreement among themselves to build a community and abide by its laws. The single act–the voluntary binding together of free people to live under the law–set the pattern for what was to come. A century and a half later, the descendants of those people pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to found this nation. Some forfeited their fortunes and their lives; none sacrificed honor. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln called upon the people of all America to renew their dedication and their commitment to a government of, for and by the people. Isn’t it once again time to renew our compact of freedom; to pledge to each other all that is best in our lives; all that gives meaning to them–for the sake of this, our beloved and blessed land?”
The words above were spoken by Ronald Reagan, during his acceptance of the Republican nomination for President in 1980. He was not prescient regarding today’s headlines – he was very much speaking about how the triple whammy of Vietnam, Watergate and Carter had ruined American trust in government.
You have to wonder what he would say about events 9 years after his death.
The scandals rolling out of the White House over the past month seem to cascade, gaining in severity as each new revelation makes the headlines. First there was the attempted cover-up over what happened at the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012. That quickly was pushed aside by the revelations that the Department of Justice was wiretapping reporters, going so far as to name one a criminal co-conspirator, and using the secret FISA courts to obtain the warrants. A few days after that came news the IRS was targeting conservative, religious and civil libertarian groups – which despite repeated administration attempts to at turns sweep the investigations away or stonewall them, continue to amaze in their revelations of government run amok. Then last week, we learned that the National Security Agency (perhaps better called the National Paranoia Agency) is actively spying on, well, on EVERYONE.
Of course, to hear the usual suspects, the spying is neither intrusive (hey, it’s only every piece of communication you’ve taken part in over the past 6 years) nor targeted at people who’ve done nothing wrong. But for that argument to have any merit, you need to believe that the government can be trusted. And since late April, the only thing the government has successfully demonstrated is that it cannot be trusted to make a ham sandwich, much less not abuse power.
As I wrote about earlier, there is a common thread that binds all of these revealed actions together: the belief that government knows best. While I welcome that traditional liberals have joined with conservatives in decrying over all of this (you can read some excellent opinion articles here, here and here), the fact is that those traditional liberals are primarily responsible for the way this administration continues to circumvent the Constitution. They have spent 70 years pushing an agenda that calls for greater and farther reaching government “solutions.” It is the progressive tradition that claims the Constitution is an outdated document. It is their current tribune and the man currently occupying the Oval Office, who has publicly lamented that the supreme law of the land fails to define what the “government can do for you” and that he is “constrained by the system the Founders put in place.”
The abuses of power we’re now witness to, are the direct results of that philosophy. After all, were the government limited in authority and power as originally planned by the Founding Fathers, then such things could not have come to pass. Hopefully, America is starting to awaken to this reality. If Barack Obama is the last President to wield such immense power, if this is the last Congress to pass sweeping laws that (at best) skirt Constitutional limitations, then this period of our history will serve to have forever discredited liberalism as a political theory.
We can only hope.