Monday, December 8, 2008


Hold on there, America. Has anybody stopped fretting about the economy long enough to read the supreme law of the land?

700 billion for the banks. 32 billion for the auto companies. More billions for homeowners who are in foreclosure. Did Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison have this kind of law making in mind?

I don't think so.

Article I, Secton 8 of the federal Constituton provides that the Congress shall have the power to pass "uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy throughout the United States."

"Uniform laws" ?? What does that mean? Does it mean that the law must treat everybody the same? Sure sounds like it.

Are bailout laws uniform? Does Congress treat auto companies the same as airlines? Or appliance dealers?

Can it really be argued that a bailout law is not a law on the subject of bankruptcy and therefore doesn't have to be uniform? Come on. What are the talking heads telling us? What is the President saying? Nancy Pellosi, what does she say? When they scream about the auto companies shutting down in 30 or 60 days, when they point with alarm to the prospect of millions of jobs being lost, what else are they saying except that the car companies are insolvent? Bankrupt. Kapute. Going down the tube.

The wise statesmen (Remember when we had those?) who drafted our Constitution knew that hard times come for many businesses and many people. There were bankruptcy laws in England which applied to the colonies. Nothing new there. But in a federal government, comprised of separate sovereign states, it made sense to give the power to pass bankruptcy laws to the central government rather than to the states.

And why? So that all Americans would be treated the same when they went belly up. If the men in Philadelphia in 1789 had wanted New York bankers and Detroit auto makers to be treated differently than other citizens when they went broke, they would not have used the word "uniform."

Uniform means uniform. Let's not read it out of the Constitution or allow our politicians and our judges to ignore it.

And by the way, the same section of the Constitution which specifies uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy also empowers Congress to enact unifom naturalization laws.

Makes you wonder how Congress can offer a special short cut to citizenship for some folks who are here illegally, doesn't it?


So the 'pro choice' lobby doesn't want the American people to have the right to choose their own laws on the subject of abortion.

That's not their only inconsistency.

I suspect that the NARAL constituency would enthusiastically support the idea of criminal penalties for certain types of abortions.

Sound crazy? Well, think about this:

The Michigan statute on the subject of abortion is still on the books, as are most of the other states' pre Roe v Wade laws. The US Supreme Court doesn't repeal state statutes. It just says they are unenforceable if they violate the US Constitution.

So the law books in Michigan still provide that if a woman dies while undergoing an abortion, the person trying to cause her to miscarry is guilty of manslaughter.

OK. Now suppose that a teen age girl gets pregnant and her boy friend agrees - maybe even persuades her - to end her pregnancy with a coat hanger. In the process, he punctures an artery and the girl bleeds to death.

Now suppose this boy friend is arrested and charged with manslaughter under Michigan's 1847 abortion law.

Where do the pro choice people line up on this one? Will they insist that the girl had an absolute constitutional right to do whatever she wanted with her own body, and thereore no crime was committed? Or will they back off of their extreme positon and concede that SOME abortions can be outlawed, and SOME abortionists can be prosecuted?

After all, the tragic consequences of coathanger abortions have always been the centerpiece of the pro choice argument. Will they now say that the only constitutional right created by Roe v Wade was a right of medical doctors to perform abortions, and not a right of women to terminate their pregnancies?

Harry Blackman's fuzzy opinion in Roe v Wade talks about 'a woman and her doctor' making the choice to end a pregnancy. He didn't mention ' a woman and her boy friend.'

One problem with unduly active appellate judges is that they never hold public hearings before they do their legislating. It's an unhappy fact that the black robe syndrome imputes infallibilty to appellate judges, when in fact they are just flawed human beings like everyone else.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In a clever public relations ploy, the proponents of liberal abortion laws have co-opted the word, and hence the concept of “choice.”

Everybody likes choice. Choice is the hallmark of freedom. Choice means you decide for yourself. No one else decides for you. In the United States of America, we enshrine the idea of choice in our democratic institutions. We choose our leaders. We choose our jobs, our schools, our places of residence and of worship. Through the processes of initiative and referendum, we choose our laws and even our constitutional rights.

Prior to 1973, the question of abortion was left to the choice of the American people. Acting through their elected representatives in each state, the people of our nation had chosen to restrict abortion in various ways. It was their choice. Abortion laws were chosen through the democratic process.

But in the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade, five of the nine appointed Supreme Court Justices decided to undo the choices of the American people. Abortion was no longer to be a matter of choice within the several states of the American union. A liberal, permissive abortion rule was imposed upon the nation.

The majority opinion in Roe v Wade found that the United States Constitution contains an unwritten, implied, right of privacy which entitles women to have the assistance of licensed medical professionals for the purpose of inducing miscarriages.

That opinion has been roundly criticized by legal scholars for more than thirty years. No credible legal authority has ever successfully defended its rationale. Even liberal academics, who support liberalized abortion laws, have conceded that Roe v Wade is poorly reasoned and without support in high court precedents.

We do not hear anyone today defending Roe v Wade as a wise and logical constitutional decision. What we hear today is that Roe v Wade is and should be the law of the land because it is wanted by, and approved by the majority of the American people.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The last thing the Pro Choice lobby wants in America is to permit the people of the United States to exercise choice in the matter of abortion. As a matter of fact, the abortion lobby now seeks to persuade the United States Congress to preempt the whole field of abortion law under the interstate commerce clause, and override any and all state statutes regulating, restricting or controlling the practice of inducing miscarriages or causing abortions in any way.

They want to deny the citizens of the states their right to choose whether to have liberal or restrictive abortion laws. They want to dictate to every American in every city and town their extreme notion of women’s rights.

The issue of abortion divides the American people as they have not been divided since the Civil War. In response to the imposition of abortion on demand by the United States Supreme Court, many citizens have sought to advance a federal constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at the moment of conception.

Roe v Wade made abortion a federal issue, a national chasm of differing opinion.

As the law stood before Roe v wade, each state legislated on the subject of abortion. If there was public sentiment to liberalize abortion laws, the avenues of democratic change were open. Debate about when, how, and why abortions might be performed would be a normal part of the legislative process.

Not every state had the same abortion laws before 1973 and not every state would have the same abortion laws today.

We can only hope that before President elect Barack Obama is able to staff the United States Supreme Court with pro abortion zealots, the Court is able definitively to reverse Roe v Wade and give the power to legislate on the issue of abortion back to the fifty states where it belongs.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


With the stunning victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party now a page in the American history book, the talking heads on television have begun to ask whether and how the Republican Party can rise from the ashes.

I have my own theory.

The Republican Party was born under an oak tree in Jackson, Michigan. It was a convocation of people brought together by their common conviction that slavery was wrong and should be abolished.

At its inception, the Republican Party occupied the high moral ground. It was the party of principle, the party of hope, the party that appealed to the noblest aspirations of the American people. It was the party of freedom, of human dignity, of equality, of justice. Its opposition to slavery defined its view of life and underscored its political mission.

The Republican Party can be the party of Abraham Lincoln again. It can be the party of principle. It can occupy the high moral ground.

The issue of abortion separates the Republican and Democratic Parties. It is the most visible and controversial of the various issues that relate to the value and sacredness of human life. The Republican Party needs candidates who will debate the abortion issue; candidates who will talk about the scientific, social, political, and community aspects of abortion.

The Democrats have rather successfully tried to make abortion a religious issue. They insist that opposition to the abortion culture represents an attempt to impose a standard of morality not accepted by many Americans.

Too many Republicans have been taken in by the liberal media’s claim that a majority of Americans support the ‘pro choice’ position. They have fallen for the notion that the Republican Party needs to become a big tent with room for the pro abortion crowd.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The majority of the American people do not support abortion on demand. They do not support abortion as an alternate means of birth control. They are ‘pro choice’ only in the sense that they believe that abortion may sometimes be medically indicated; that a woman who chooses to have an abortion is more to be pitied than punished.

Even the advocates of choice support some abortion bans. They happily support laws forbidding abortion by persons not licensed to practice medicine. The Supreme Court, in Roe V Wade, talks about a woman and her doctor deciding on abortion. The pro choice crowd would be quick to condemn the choice of having one’s boy friend perform the abortion.

I pose this hypothetical question: Should a man be prosecuted for the murder of his Siamese twin brother? Most people answer in the negative. Why? Because the act is perceived as tantamount to suicide.

Do we prosecute people for suicide? Hardly. The defendant is dead by definition. Do we prosecute people for attempted suicide? It may fit the definition of attempted homicide, but we don’t treat it as a crime. Why not? Simply because society assumes that suicide is not a rational act and therefore the perpetrator-victim is not criminally responsible.

In the same way, women who had or attempted to have abortions before Roe v Wade were not prosecuted. The Michigan statute, still on the books, MCL 750.14, provides:

"Administering drugs, etc., with intent to procure miscarriage: Any person who shall willfully administer to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall employ any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of any such woman, unless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such woman, shall be guilty of a felony, and in case the death of such pregnant woman be thereby produced, the offense shall be deemed manslaughter."

As can be seen, the law applies only to the person causing the abortion, not to the pregnant woman. The life saving exception was always in the Michigan law, as, no doubt it was in other state laws.

The oath of Hippocrates, written in 400 BC and traditionally recited by physicians since then, contains these words:

"I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion."

In truth, the ban on abortion is a regulation of the medical profession. In that light, the debate over when human life begins is irrelevant. If the fetus is normal, healthy, human tissue, a physician should be called to explain the medical necessity for its removal.

If a surgeon removed a patient’s thumb, it would not satisfy the hospital’s tissue committee for him to explain that the patient requested the procedure. It would probably not do to explain that the patient was given to sucking the thumb, thus causing his front teeth to protrude and that the amputation was necessary to protect the patient’s smile.

Society has a vital stake in the next generation. Human beings are what comprise communities and nations. That is why every organized human society, from the most elemental tribes to the most sophisticated states exercises some form of control over the process of human reproduction.

Bill Clinton got himself elected in 1992 by proclaiming, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Perhaps the Republicans will someday return to power by reminding Americans that it’s all about the family.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


As of yesterday, the U.S. national debt was $10,530,350,651,098.48. That's almost 10.6 trillion dollars, and 10.6 trillion dollars is the limit which Congress has imposed on federal borrowing. The Secretary of the Treasury has urged Congress to increase the debt limit to 11.3 trillion.

How long do you suppose that will last?

Ten trillion is too big a number to be easily understood. How about this number: you and I and every last man woman and child in this great nation is in hock for $34,525.

Liberal economists used to shrug off such numbers by saying, "We owe the national debt to ourselves, so what does it matter?" Not so, anymore. We owe it to the Chinese, the Saudis, the British. We owe it to all the nations of the European Union. No doubt we owe some of it to Osama Ben Laden's family if not to him.

Back in the Eighties, when Ronald Reagan was President, there was a rather vigorous effort to adopt a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some thirty-two of the required thirty-four state legislatures petitioned the Congress to call a convention for the purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment.

Many of the states, and President Reagan himself, were not really intent on getting a convention as contemplated by Article V of the Constitution. They just wanted to threaten a convention, in hopes that Congress would propose a balanced budget amendment and send it to the states to be ratified.

I never thought they were wise. Hoping that Congress would propose a constitutional amendment with real teeth in it is like hoping the fox will guard the hen house. The only realistic path to saving the nation from bankkruptcy is to call an Article V convention.

I know. I know. All the pundits and the academics wring their hands at the mention of an Article V convention. They posit all kinds of horror stories, claiming that a convention can rewrite the Bill of rights. And on and on. Crapola folks. Sheer crapola. An Article V convention can't change a word of the constitution. All it can do is propose amendments. Nothing that comes out of a convention gets into the constitution until Congress sends it to the states and three fourths of the states - 38 - have ratified the amendment.

One has only to remember the ineffectual Graham-Rudman Act to realize how Congress would propose a toothless amendment, even if it were bludgeoned into doing something to ward off a convention.

A real, meaningful, effective balanced budget amendment would have to be simple, clear, and automatic. Here is some language I think worthy of consideration:

"The Congress shall not adopt a deficit budget except in time of national emergency. Members of Congress shall receive no compensation for services rendered during a national emergency."

It will take a convention to get those words into our constitution. Either we are a mature people capable of self government or we aren't. It's time for a gut check.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The candidates for President of the United States this year have both heralded the need for change in Washington. Both have laid claim to being the better agent for change, and both have railed against 'business as usual' in the nation's capital.

Unhappily, neither candidate has addressed the kind of change that is required if our noble experiment in human governance is to survive on this planet.

Ours is a constitutional, federal, republic. At least that is the form of government envisioned by the founding fathers at Philadelphia in 1789. Unhappily, we have evolved into something else. What exactly is the United States of America in 2008?

Certainly not constitutional. The battle between 'strict constructionists' and 'liberal interpreters' has long since been won by those who expect the Supreme Court of the United States to make pragmatic decisions 'for the good of the country.' Whether it's Roe v Wade or Bush v Gore, the rule is the same. Nose count jurisprudence. Five votes own the constitution. The Supreme Law of the Land is now the Supreme Court of the United States. In the minds of average Americans, the Court's decisions are not final because they are right. They are right because they are final.

Is our form of government still federal, as designed by James Madison and his confreres? Not hardly. One has only to listen to the campaign speeches of 2008 to understand that our national government is expected to legislate on every minute detail of our lives. Our investments, our jobs, our health care, our schools, our sex lives, crime in our streets, pollution in our air, even the air in our tires are all subjects to be regulated, controlled, obliterated or encouraged by Uncle Sam.

Are we still a republic? Alexis DeTocqueville's eighteenth century treatise, Democracy in America touches on the eventual decline of our self government. He perceived that the myopic self interest of voters would eventually lead to the establishment of an omnipotent ruling class that the people would retain in office by a rote exercise of reelection. When members of Congress vote themselves lifetime compensation and then 90 or 95 per cent of them are reelected, DeTocqueville begins to look rather prescient.

Article V of the United States Constitution provides that upon petition of two thirds of the state legislatures, the Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments to the constitution. When proposed by the convention, each amendment needs the ratification of three quarters of the states. Despite the fact that over four hundred such petitions have been addressed to the Congress, and despite the fact that every state in the union has petitoned for a convention, the Congress stoutly refuses even to hold hearings on the subject.

If the people of the fifty states really want change - real change - an Article V Convention is the right way, indeed the only way, to accomplish it.

Unfortunately, the opinion makers in America, both liberal and conservative, are afraid of true democracy, suspicious of each other, and so divided in their loyalties that the notion of a three fourths consensus on even the most axiomatic principles of representative governance is seen as improbable.

I wrote a law review article thirty years ago entitled Return to Philadelphia. it was plea to use Article V as intended by the founders. That article can still be seen on the web site of the Friends of Article V, I stand by it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The talking heads on TV are having a field day telling each other what Governor Sarah Palin should say tonight when she debates Senator Joe Biden. None of them have suggested anything near what I would recommend.

For what it's worth, I would advise the Governor to make a statement something like this the first time she gets a chance to talk:

"I am a candidate for Vice President of the United States. The principal duty of that office is to serve as the presiding officer of the United States Senate. Secondarily, the Vice President should support the President and prepare herself for the unlikely, but grave possibility that she may be called upon to assume the office of President.

I am not running for Secretary of State, nor for Secretary of the Treasury, nor for Secretary of the Interior. I do not believe Senator McCain asked me to join his ticket because he thought I was an expert in foreign relations or the economy. I believe he chose me because he felt that I have the temerament, the intellect, the experience, and the heart to be his Vice President.

I was honored, complimented and humbled by his decision. I have the greatest respect for Senator McCain, and while we do not agree on every issue, I believe that I can support his policies with vigor and enthuasiasm.

I believe that I have a strong work ethic. In the few weeks since I was nominated, I have been trying to assimilate a working knowledge of the national issues that are critical in this election, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate them with Senator Biden."

If she starts out with that kind of a disclamer, she will win many, many friends and admirers, thousands of votes, and maybe just win the debate as well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


In 1992 Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States. His campaign coined the slogan, "It's The Economy, Stupid," as a way of expressing the basic notion in politics, as in every other facet of life, that people generally make choices and cast votes that they perceive to be in their own economic interest.

That concept is echoed today, as Barack Obama points to the Wall Street meltdown, blaming it on "the failed economic policies" of the Bush administration.

Both Senator Obama and Senator John McCain have talked about what they think needs to be done to shore up the American economy. Both favor the 700 plus billion dollar bailout, designed to bolster and stabilize the stock market and save financial institutions from failure and bankruptcy. Both speak of including regulatory provisions which are designed to protect taxpayers, and assure success of the legislation.

I am not an economist, but I have difficulty reconciling the notion that the federal government has either the power or the mandate to legislate prosperity with what I know of the Constitution of the United States.

Section I, Article 8 of the Constitution provides:

The Congress shall have the power...

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures.

I take those words to mean that the role of the federal government in the nation's economy is essentially to be the referee; to keep a level playing field, to create and sustain a monetary system which is a stable, reliable, and useful medium of exchange.

Enlightened self interest dictates that our nation's purpose should be to serve the common good, and to serve it over the long haul. If the dollar has no fixed value, or relationship with some objective reality, then its usefulness as a medium of exchange is ephemeral and its value a purely subjective matter. Neither inflation nor depression are conditions conducive to prosperity. True prosperity can only be measured in things of real value, and a monetary system which does not provide a means of objective comparison is useless in determining real value.

So, we see economists using "adjusted for inflation" values in order to make comparisons. That's a calculation average people can't do in their heads at the check out counter.

How do you achieve a stable currency? Ron Paul argued for the return of the gold standard. That's a good catalyst for discussion. It took me back to re-reading William Jennings Bryan's famous speech to the Democratic convention, in which he railed against crucifying the American people upon a cross of gold.

Bryan was the hero of the working class in his day. The laborers, the farmers, the tradesmen, small businessmen; these were his constituency. They were not the bankers. They were the people who borrowed from the bankers. They saw free silver as benefiting them.

Debtors will always opt for inflation. Pay back your debts in cheaper dollars than you borrowed. That looks like personal self interest. But is it enlightened self interest? Does it promote the common good?

Today, Americans owe enormous amounts of money. Credit card debt has skyrocketed. Mortgage debt exceeds our ability to repay. There will be great pressure on the next administration in Washington to print money in order to make repayment easier.

As government bails out banks, automobile companies, and insurance companies, the pressure will mount to bail out Joe Mainstreet. More and more money will have to be printed. A trillion dollars was an amount no one ever heard of when I was a boy. Today, there is talk of tens and even hundreds of trillions.

Just because we have computers that can count that high is no reason to think that trillions or quadrilions or cinqillions are real or valuable units of measurement. The same clause in the Constitution which empowers the Congress to coin money empowers it to establish standards of weights and measures. It was no accident that the framers opted for that juxtaposition. Coining money is a matter of setting financial standards.

The Bush administration fell into the trap of trying to jump start the economy by issuing a tax credit. Government hand outs don't work. Certainly that one didn't. If the Congress were to give every man, woman and child in the United States a million dollars, the economy would skid to a screeching halt. Millionaires don't wash dishes or grease cars.

A vibrant economy is only achieved by an industrious, frugal, educated, innovative, motivated population. It cannot be artificially constructed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, Congress or the President, whoever he or she may be.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Polly and I just returned from Mayo Clinic and our annual medical review. Among other things, I had an MRI on Thursday morning. The results were up on on my doctor's computer screen by the time I met with him at 4:30 in the afternoon.

That experience highlighted the impact of an email I received tonight linking to a You Tube video entitled "A Short Course in Brain Surgery." It's the story of Lindsey McCreith, a retired New Market, Ontario body shop owner who suffered headaches for some time before having a seizure. His family doctor suspected a brain tumor and counseled him to have an MRI of his head.

In Canada, only the government can pay for health care. And only government makes the appointments. Mr. McCreith was told it would be four months before he could get in for the MRI. He couldn't wait, so he crossed the border to Buffalo, New York and got an MRI within days. Armed with proof that he had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball, Mr. McCreith returned to Ontario only to learn that surgery could not be scheduled for four or five months.

Of course, he could petition the Ministry of Health for emergency consideration. And if they turned him down, he could appeal. But a little inquiry proved that the bureaucratic process would take longer than waiting for the surgical appointment.

So he returned to Buffalo, and within a week had the tumor removed. The doctors told him that if he had waited much longer, he would probably not have survived the year.

It's not a strong endorsement for the Canadian health care system in an election year when candidates in the United States are touting their plans for assuring health care for all Americans.

It's easy enough to give rousing speeches about the great number of Americans who don't have health care insurance. About universal health care. About the escalating costs of medical and hospital services. But just endorsing a goal doesn't get the job done. There has to be a plan, a strategy, based on realistic premises and solid research; a plan which is founded in common sense and sound economic principles.

I haven't heard anyone say that one of the primary causes of the phenomenal rise in the cost of health care is the very fact of widespread health insurance. Economics 101 should teach us that if the right to obtain medical services is separated from the duty to pay for them, the demand for medical services will go up. And when demand goes up, price goes up.

Add in the factor of limited supply. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits medical schools, has strict regulations limiting the expansion of medical schools. There are only 125 accredited medical schools in the United States. There were 160,00 medical schools in 1907.

US medical schools graduate about 16,000 doctors each year. That number has been constant for over two decades. There are 20,000 first year residencies available each year. Where do the other doctors come from? Overseas. Pakistan. India. The Middle East. The number of students in American medical schools preparing to become primary care physicians is going down.

Thirty five years ago, I founded the Thomas M. Cooley Law School on the principle that every college graduate who wanted to become a lawyer ought to be given the chance to try. Today Cooley is the largest law school in the United States. Maybe it's time for someone to start a medical school with a similar vision.

Enough for now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


One of my favorite conversation openers around a dinner table is to ask if anyone would vote for a murderer to be president of the United States.

After the first round of vociferous denials, I follow up with this question; would you vote for anyone who is not willing or capable of killing someone?

That query usually gets the folks thinking ... and talking.

I asked that question to a group of golfing buddies on the nineteenth hole one day recently. They were quick, to a man, to answer in the negative. Killing people, at least in the minds of those 60 something white males, is part of the job description of the President of the United States.

I probed. Who should he kill? "Our enemies," they replied. And who are our enemies? "The people who hate us, the people who want to do us harm." And who identifies those people?

That question really got them talking, and perhaps, just maybe, got at least some of them thinking. "Everybody knows. Guys like whats-his-name, down in South America." You mean Hugo Chavez? "Yeah, yeah, Don't you read the papers?" So the media decide who the President should kill?

"No, not the media. The CIA maybe. Or the military. Or the President himself. That's it. The buck stops in the Oval Office. The President has to decide who he should kill."

Including the person running against him for his job? "Well, no, he couldn't do that." Couldn't do it, or shouldn't do it? Somebody else chimes in. "He can't put a contract out on an American citizen can he?" Is that where the line is drawn? You're saying he can only kill foreigners?

The round table discussion breaks down into a talk show style free for all with everyone spouting opinions at once. And once again I shake my head in disbelief at how little the citizens of this great nation know about the law and the Constitution which is their contract with the institutions of government.

Beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was elected in the depths of the Great Depression on the promise to give Americans a New Deal, the Federal government has been moving inexorably toward domestic sovereignty. More and more, we see ourselves as a single nation governed by a single chief executive. The President is expected to set the national agenda on every issue.

What has evolved over the last three quarters of a century is an imperial presidency. A President who has a hand on the big red button which can launch a nuclear holocost. A President who is assumed to have the power of life and death and who is assumed to use that power for the protection and benefit of the people of the United States of America.

When I tell people that the President's job is faithfully to execute the laws enacted by the Congress; that it is the Congress, not the President, which speaks for the people of the United States, that only the Congress can declare war, identify the enemies of the United States and authorize the President as Commander in Chief to employ military force against them, they look at me with glazed disbelief.

I fear that American pragmatism steers our people toward a President who rules like a Mafia Don, a charismatic monarch, a benign dictator, an all powerful potentate whose only restraint is the popular image that he or she loves the people and works for them.

Madison and Jefferson would weep

Enough for now.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


The email was passed along to me by my sainted wife of 56 years. It told the story of a veteran who took a treasured photograph of actress Ann Margaret, taken when she was in Viet Nam to entertain the troops, to a bookstore where she was signing copies of her autobiography.

The bookstore announced a firm policy that Ann Margaret would only be signing books, not other memorablia. Still the veteran handed the old photo to the actress, saying he just wanted her to see it. She waved off the bookstore manager, then pulled the vet down and planted a big kiss on him.

It was one of many emails currently circulating around the country which remind all of us of the sacrifices which our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are so courageously making in Iraq, Afganistan and elsewhere.

The Viet Nam veteran closed his letter by noting that it was the first time anyone had expressed appreciation for his service in Southeast Asia.

Happily, the troops in Iraq are enjoying much more unified and enthusiastic support than their fathers did in 1969 and 1970. Back then, the United States was drafting young men to serve in the military. Many eligible lads left the country. many marched on Washington, staged demonstrations on campuses and elsewhere. Their cry of "Hell no, we won't go" echoed through the land.

Veterans returning from that war found themselves in a nation that did not support the war. Many of them felt that their countrymen blamed them for the war; blamed them for the humiliation of defeat. No ticker tape parades, no hero's welcome, they filtered back into civilian life, many feeling embarrassed and confused. Some were bitter. Some still are, despite a belated Viet Nam War monument in the nation's Capitol.

The big difference between Viet Nam and Iraq was 911. Weapons of mass destruction or no, the great mass of American people saw a connection between the attack on New York and Washington and the assauilt on Saddam Hussein. They perceive our troops as being engaged in a form of national defense, and that makes them heroes deserving of our appreciation and admiration.

Unhappily, the sacrifices of our young people in the military becloud our capacity to dialog about national policy. Their blood shed on foreign soil is given for the benefit of every American, and every American owes our troops a debt of gratitude which cannot be extinguished by the GI Bill or other veterans' benefits. But those who have died and suffered have done so to preserve our freedoms, and one of those is the freedom to disagree with the Administration's foreign policy.

The only candidate for President this year who did not vote to support the Iraq War is Barak Obama. I have not heard, but would be interested to hear, what exactly he would have done if he had been President in 2001. He says that as President, he will engage in talks with leaders of other countries, even those whose rhetoric is speckled with hatred for the United States. Would a President Obama have called Saddam Hussein on September 12, 2001 and asked him to help find the people responsible for yesterday's attacks? Would he have simply submitted the matter to the United Nations and waited for their answer? Or would he somehow have obtained better intelligence than President Bush received, devised a better military strategy, and been better able to prosecute the invasion of Iraq and sell it to the American people?

The next nine months will be a political gestation. I hope it brings forth a new birth of our constitutional republic.

Enough for now.

Thomas E. Brennan

Friday, February 8, 2008


Maybe it was my blog. Maybe I jinxed the guy.

Anyway, after Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney sat down and looked at the numbers. When I saw the Primary results, I said that if Romney is as good a businessman as he claims, he will consider the ROI on his campaign expenditures and get out of the race. I suspect that's just what he did.

With Romney out of the race, this will be a difficult year for me. He was an easy pick. I knew and admired his father. I didn't have to spend much thought or time studying his positions on issues.

Now it will be different. There's a lot of talk about what the Republican conservatives will do this year. Nobody talks about my dilemma. Where are the Repuiblican doves supposed to go? Indeed are there any other Republican doves out there?

In my last posting, I talked about having a debate on our national purpose. The best statement of it is in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States. Our nation was organized:

1) to form a more perfect union
2) to establish justice
3) to insure domestic tranquility
4) to provide for the common defense
5) to promote the general welfare
6) to secure the blessings of liberty to us and to our posterity

Nothing there about being the leader of the free world. Nothing there about bringing democracy to the third world. Nothing there about a manifest destiny to Westernize the East. And nothing about establishing a Pax Americana all over the planet Earth.

I was a caboose to the "Greatest Generation." But I do remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I remember San Francisco where the war weary nations of the world gathered to create the United Nations. This is what we agreed to:

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

How do these goals and aspirations stack up against the notion of pre-emptive strikes?

The election year of 2008 is a good time to think about it.

Enough for now.

Thomas E.Brennan

Monday, February 4, 2008


Innundated with political conversation, I decided to create a blog just so I could relieve myself of the opinions that well up as I listen to the TV, read the paper, or hear the guys talking in the grill after a round of golf.

Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, was a friend of mine. He appointed me to the Circuit Court in Wayne County in 1963 and asked me to run for the Michigan Supreme Court in 1966. I admired George Romney. I met his son, Mitt, on January 1, 1967 when his Dad invited me and my family to the Romney home to administer the oath of office to begin his new term as Governor of Michigan.

I think Mitt Romney is a chip off the old block. Strong, decisive, confident, knowledgeable. A solid family man; a patriotic American. A church going, tax paying, solid citizen. He gets my vote.

That said, I wish he would stop talking about his experience in business. Let others talk about that to people who care about it. The broad base of Americans are not particularly impressed with business acumen. Of course, they are impressed with wealth; Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Emenem. They don't much care how you made it. If you're rich, you're somebody. The fact that Mitt Romney is somebody is important, but he should talk more about his work in the Olympics.

And I'm not happy hearing him blast John McCain. Or anybody. A candidate for President should not be a hatchet man. He should be above the fray, talking about big issues, uplifting the spirits of the citizens. Romney has charisma, and I think he can inspire the people if he sticks to the broad message of national leadership.

Zapping opponents should be oblique. For example, Romney should remind the American people that our constitution makes the military establishment subservient to the civilian authority. Romney can undercut McCain's military experience by pointing out that the constitution makes the President, a civilian, the Commander-in-Chief. And this is precisely because, as Dwight Eisenhower pointed out, the military-industrial complex does not always act in the true national interest.

I opposed the Iraq War. Not because I knew whether Saddam Hussein did or didn't have weapons of mass destruction. I opposed it because the Congress didn't declare it. The Congress never debated it. The Congress never decided upon waging war. The Congress, not the President, is the voice of the people. If the Congress decides to go to war, so be it. We are then at war, as a nation. In war time, we must all sacrifice for victory. Increased taxes. Rationing. Compulsory military service. These are the things that follow with a congressionally declared peoples' war.

Unhappily, the idea of using the military as a vehicle of geopolitical policy is not completely foreign to the American experience. The Mexican War and the Spanish American War were both examples of American expansionism which were certainly not defensive engagements. There is a certain consistency in our national response to the Alamo, the Maine, Pearl Harbor and 911.

But if we are going to war, we should go to war. Lyndon Johnson's guns and butter notion was wrong, wrong, wrong. Asking young Americans to die in combat is totally inconsistent with pumping up the economy by military procurement.

War is a contest against a national enemy. The War against terrorism, like the war aginst drugs, or the war on poverty, is not a true war. Our invasion of Iraq was a traditional war, though undeclared, but only for a few weeks. When the Iraqi armies laid down their weapons, and Saddam Hussein went underground, the war, as such, was over. From that moment on, and continuing to this day, the United States and its allies are an army of occupation.

So the question today is how long must we occupy Iraq? How long should we keep troops in that territory? Considering our participation in NATO and SEATO, we have maintained military presence all around the world since the end of World War II. We have military bases in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other places.

I don't recall that anyone has ever ennunciated a national policy on the subject of maintaining standing armies around the world. Is it our national goal to have armies on every continent, in every country? Do we really suppose that we are capable of ruling the world? Or indeed that, even if we could, it would be the right thing to do? Or is it our national policy simply not to have a policy on the subject and to maintain armies wherever by happenstance of history, we should chance to have soldiers there for some reason or another?

The election year of 2008 ought to be a time for the people of the United States to engage in a dialog about the larger issues of national purposes. Unhappily, it seems to be a jumble of sound bites and personal jabs that do little credit to our ideal of democracy.

Enough for now.

Thomas E. Brennan