“Republicans Pander To Anti-Muslim Bigotry”: Constitution Says ‘No Religious Test’, Not ‘Only The Religious Test That I Can Pass’
The founders of this nation recognized Islam as one of the world’s great faiths. Incredibly and disgracefully, much of today’s Republican Party disagrees.
Thomas Jefferson, whose well-worn copy of the Koran is in the Library of Congress, fought to ensure that the American concept of religious freedom encompassed Islam. John Adams wrote that Muhammad was a “sober inquirer after truth.” Benjamin Franklin asserted that even a Muslim missionary sent by “the Mufti of Constantinople” would find there was “a pulpit at his service” in this country.
Indeed, the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Some of the GOP candidates for president, however, simply do not care.
Ben Carson said Sunday that he believes Islam to be inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore he could not support a Muslim candidate for president. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
A campaign spokesman, seeking to clarify Carson’s remarks, effectively doubled down by claiming there is a “huge gulf between the faith and practice of the Muslim faith and our Constitution and American values.”
Carson is dead wrong, but at least he seems sincere about it. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he could only support a Muslim candidate “who will respect the Judeo-Christian heritage of America.” Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) said a president’s faith should be irrelevant, but he understood many people felt otherwise because “we were attacked by people who were all Muslim.” And front-runner Donald Trump, when asked about the possibility of a Muslim president, wisecracked, “Some people have said it already happened” — a reference to oft-repeated lies about President Obama’s faith.
I was ready to offer rare praise for Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who rejected Carson’s outrageous view by pointing to the Constitution’s prohibition against religious tests. But then Cruz went on to say the United States should accept Christian refugees from the Syrian civil war but not Muslims, who might, after all, be terrorists.
There is an ugly undercurrent of anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, and the Republican Party panders to it in a way that the Democratic Party does not.
This rancid sentiment was on display at Trump’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week, at which a questioner began by stating a premise: “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know, he’s not even an American.”
The man went on to say that these problematic Muslims “have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”
Trump should have showed some backbone and told the man his worldview was based on paranoid fantasy. Instead, he made vague noises of agreement, or at least non-disagreement — “[A] lot of people are saying that. . . . We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things” — which kicked off a round of criticism from his campaign rivals.
But where were these high-minded, all-embracing Republicans when Trump and others, with no factual support, were casting doubt on Obama’s religion and birthplace? Leaving Obama aside, since he’s in a position to defend himself, where were the wise GOP elders when their party became a refuge for extremists spouting the worst kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric?
After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush did an admirable and important thing: He made clear that blame for the atrocity should not be ascribed to Islam itself but rather to a small group of radical fundamentalists.
Going forward, however, his administration was neither specific enough nor consistent enough about culpability for the terrorist strike. Warmongers found it politically useful to suggest involvement by Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks. Meanwhile, officials played down the fact that most of the attackers came from Saudi Arabia, considered a valuable ally.
This fuzziness, I believe, helped give some Americans the impression that the United States was at war not with small and vicious bands of jihadists but with Muslims more broadly. Democrats almost invariably pushed back against this dangerous misimpression. Republicans far too often did not.
On the campaign trail, GOP candidates are touting their own Christian faith in what can only be described as a literal attempt to be holier than thou. They should reread the Constitution, which says “no religious test” — not “only the religious test that I can pass.”
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 22, 2015
“It’s Not His Politics That Worries Me”: Donald Trump And The Decline Of American Character–A Cautionary Tale
There is no disputing that Donald Trump is having a significant impact on the 2016 presidential sweepstakes—something that many Americans apparently view as a great step forward on the American political scene.
Indeed, to a portion of the electorate, Trump’s current political success is a positive development that represents the rise of a candidate willing to “tell it like it is”—despite the fact that so much of what Mr. Trump tells us is the precise opposite of telling it like it is.
To other Americans, Mr. Trump’s political rise is little more than a sideshow extravaganza—good for making your favorite news broadcast more entertaining but, ultimately, devoid of substance and doomed to failure.
To me, the rise of Donald Trump is an American tragedy serving as a cautionary tale of what we are becoming as a society and the need to rediscover true American values before they are gone forever.
I don’t offer this viewpoint because of my disagreement with The Donald on his politics.
In truth, I really don’t know what Mr. Trump’s politics are—given the extraordinary disparity between his professed liberal politics of just a few years ago and his hard line approach to political issues of today. Trump 1.0 favored a path to citizenship for illegals and a universal health care system. Trump 2.0 takes a far more conservative approach towards immigration and is critical of anything and everything done by the Obama Administration.
Yet, it is not his politics that worries me. It is his character and how Americans are responding to it that I find so disturbing in terms of the very character of the nation.
If you think character doesn’t matter, I would remind you that being the American President is all about character—and character is often best judged by how successfully we take to heart the lessons passed down from parent to child over many generations.
It is certainly true that Trump has succeeded in fulfilling one of the character traits parents work to instill in their children—the drive to be successful.
While I fear that Trump is taking the lazy way out in his presidential campaign, as demonstrated by his refusal to prepare in favor of just “winging” it in his speeches and the policy pronouncements he has provided, his great success in business could not have happened without the willingness to work hard to accomplish great success. This is a trait that would cause most any American parent to glow with pride.
Certainly, it didn’t hurt that Mr. Trump was provided a running, head start by his own father, a successful real estate developer in his own right who turned his business over to his son. Still, you don’t take a successful business and turn it into a mega-empire without a lot of hard work.
But this is where behavior that would make your parents proud comes to an end.
Can you imagine what your mother would say to you were you to grow up to become an obnoxious braggart who constantly rises to remind anyone who will listen that you are very, very rich? Can you imagine what your father would say if you took it upon yourself to constantly intone on your own remarkable greatness and how anyone who disagrees with you is unworthy of respect or worse?
And can you imagine what your parents and grandparents would think of a society where this borderline psychotic self-aggrandizement is actually appreciated and cheered by the populace?
Many of us were taught that if you have nothing nice to say about someone then you should just say nothing at all.
Of course, I realize that this is a rule that doesn’t apply in the world of politics, particularly when it becomes necessary to respond to a charge or an attack from an opposing politician. Yet, even in the brutal world of politics there have long been rules of engagement when doing battle—and The Donald appears more than willing to happily break them all.
Personal attacks on character are nothing new in American politics. However, it is our tradition that when a presidential candidate has something awful to say about another presidential candidate, it is left to a surrogate to do the dirty work. This has always been the case because of the importance that somebody seeking the presidency be viewed as too principled, too decent and, yes, having far too much character to descend into the gutter.
When John Adams, in the first contested presidential battle in our nation’s history, wanted to take a serious character shot at his opponent, Thomas Jefferson, Adams did not take on the job himself as that would have been in exceedingly bad taste and represent conduct unbefitting a president. Instead, he had his surrogate, Alexander Hamilton, write an article in the Gazette of the United States accusing Jefferson of having an affair with one of his slaves. This was a very big deal at that point in history and likely played a role in Jefferson’s defeat.
When John Quincy Adams was campaigning against Andrew Jackson in the 1828 race for the White House, he did not stand up and accuse Jackson’s mother of being a prostitute and Jackson’s wife of being an adulteress. Instead he left it to the Coffin Handbills distributed by supporters of John Quincy to do the dirty work. Why? Because presidential candidates must show the character necessary to run the nation and getting directly involved with such base attacks would not do.
It remains the case in the modern era to leave it to a surrogate to do the dirty work for those who wish to be the leader of the nation—and with good reason. How a president’s character is viewed plays a serious role in that individual’s ability to succeed in the job, both at home and abroad.
When it comes to letting the nation know how amazing a candidate is and how lucky the country is that a particular candidate would bless us with his or her service to the nation, your parents would quickly remind you that it is best to allow other people to sing your praises rather than to sing your own in symphonic measures.
This is the great tragedy of Donald Trump. For all I know, Trump might have the talent to excel in the job. But there is no way that I would bet on his success given the megalomania that exudes from every pore of his body.
Does anyone remember when the key knock on Obama was that he was arrogant? Yet, many who lodged that charged are the very people who support Trump’s behavior, despite it taking arrogance to a new and previously unseen level.
The willingness of many to now accept such behavior is, in my estimation, a great tragedy in the current state of the nation. When so many would take a positive view of character deficiencies that would once not only disqualify one who seeks to lead the nation but further disqualify that individual from meriting an invitation to cocktail party, we’ve got a serious problem.
Think about it. It used to be that nobody likes a braggart and a bore—now, a significant percentage of the public wants one to be the president.
Is this really what and who we want to be?
I sincerely hope not.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 24, 2015
“A Desperate Attempt To Remain Relevant”: Rudy Giuliani Digs Himself Deeper Into The Hole With WSJ Op-Ed
Now that Rudy Giuliani—in a desperate attempt to remain relevant—has succeeded in squeezing every bit of publicity out of his despicable remarks aimed at his President, the one-time Mayor and current lobbyist is following a script typically pursued by political cowards who transgress reason, judgment, and wisdom in the effort to be noticed.
Rudy is attempting to turn his outrageous behavior into a “teachable moment.”
In an op-ed written for today’s Wall Street Journal, Giuliani attempts to convince us that, whether you agree with his offensive remarks or not, he hopes that the event can be “the basis of a real conversation about national leadership.”
A bit late for that, Mr. Mayor, wouldn’t you say?
In what likely passes for the closest thing to an apology Giuliani is capable of mustering, the Mayor states,
“My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart. My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance.”
When you boldly and directly state that a President doesn’t love his country, while suggesting that this lack of affection is the result of not being like us, you have to be something of a fool to imagine that you can return to the fray pretending that what you meant to say was you don’t like how the President speaks on the subject of American exceptionalism.
Frankly, a discussion of American exceptionalism would have served the nation—and Giuliani himself—far better that Rudy’s remarks on the President’s emotional bearings.
Of course, such a conversation would not have earned the Mayor his moment in the media spotlight.
While I am more than comfortable in expressing my own admiration and love for my country, I have been vocal in the media venues available to me in stating that for so long as my country continues to breach its agreement with military veterans by failing to provide them with the care and treatment we promised when asking them to fight for us, we cannot—and must not—claim to be an exceptional nation.
An exceptional nation does not permit a military veteran to be frozen out of the VA, left to suffer and die because they are denied the treatment they were promised, just as an exceptional nation does not permit a military veteran to live on the street.
Fix this critical problem and then we can return to describing ourselves as being exceptional.
Of course, I recognize that there will be those who disagree with my political viewpoints who will refuse to accept my proclamation of patriotism because they haven’t yet realized that political disagreement is as fundamental to America as apple pie and baseball.
I also recognize that there will always be those who remind us of that ridiculous chant during the Viet Nam War days where those who supported the war would encourage those who were opposed to either “love America or leave it,” never realizing the profound irony of this moronic entreaty.
Those who question another’s patriotism on the basis of political disagreement have yet to grasp that men such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams disagreed mightily on what direction the nation they founded should take—yet is anyone prepared to suggest that either of these men did not love his country?
Rudy Guiliani, someone whom I once respected, while admittedly disagreeing with his political point of view, now stands as the point of the spear of this slice of America that does not really understand America—and that is a real shame.
This reality is best highlighted in the last sentence of Giuliani’s effort to pull his already burnt bacon out of the fire.
Giuliani writes, “I hope also that our president will start acting and speaking in a way that draws sharp, clear distinctions between us and those who threaten our way of life.”
The same goes for you, Mayor Giuliani.
You see, while we all understand who you are referencing when referring to “us and those who threaten our way of life,” and I certainly concur with your concern, you fail to understand that Americans who cannot grasp that we can disagree over policy and politicking without questioning one another’s love and fealty to their nation also poses a great threat to our way of life—a way of life brilliantly prescribed by the nation’s creators who would have taken profound exception to your stinging, offensive and despicable words.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, February 23, 2015
Eric Spiegelman has an interesting post on how the legal establishment got the individual mandate so wrong. In it, he writes:
How far can the definition of Congress’ enumerated powers be stretched? As Justice Scalia asked during oral arguments: if Congress can force you to buy health insurance, can they also force you to buy broccoli? The question I like to ask is: what if Congress forced you to buy a gun?
But Congress has forced Americans to buy guns. It’s in the Militia Acts of 1792. The relevant section is a bit lengthy, so I’ve bolded the key parts:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act. And it shall at all times hereafter be the duty of every such captain or commanding officer of a company to enrol every such citizen, as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of eighteen years, or being of the age of eighteen years and under the age of forty-five years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrolment, by a proper non-commissioned officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack.
Now, you could argue that this was not done under the Commerce Clause. But as Yale’s Akhil Reid Amar says, “the law shows that George Washington, who signed the law, thought that purchase-mandates were not intrinsically improper. If Congress can regulate a ‘well-regulated’ militia with a mandate, why can’t Congress regulate interstate commerce the same way?”
Incidentally, that’s not the only time an early congress mandated that Americans purchase privately sold products:
In 1790, the very first Congress—which incidentally included 20 framers—passed a law that included a mandate: namely, a requirement that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. This law was then signed by another framer: President George Washington. That’s right, the father of our country had no difficulty imposing a health insurance mandate.[…]
Six years later, in 1798, Congress addressed the problem that the employer mandate to buy medical insurance for seamen covered drugs and physician services but not hospital stays. And you know what this Congress, with five framers serving in it, did? It enacted a federal law requiring the seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. That’s right, Congress enacted an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance. And this act was signed by another founder, President John Adams.
That’s from Einer Elhauge, a professor at Harvard Law, who continues, “not only did most framers support these federal mandates to buy firearms and health insurance, but there is no evidence that any of the few framers who voted against these mandates ever objected on constitutional grounds. Presumably one would have done so if there was some unstated original understanding that such federal mandates were unconstitutional.”
Also of note: unlike the mandate to buy muskets, the maritime mandates were exercised under the Commerce Clause.
By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post Wonkblog, June 26, 2012
On the morning of July 3, 1776, John Adams, delegate to the Second Continental Congress from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote his wife Abigail:
Yesterday the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony ‘that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all the other acts and things which other states may rightfully do.’ You will see in a few days a declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few days.
When I look back to the year of 1761 and recollect the argument concerning writs of assistance in the superior court, which I have hitherto considered as the commencement of the controversy between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole period from that time to this, and recollect the series of political events, the chain of causes and effects, I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment.
Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distressing yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us with many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in states as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming, in every part, will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings.
The people will have unbounded power. And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
In the evening, he sent a second letter, in which he wrote:
The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.
Happy Birthday America.
By: Peter Roff, U. S. News and World Report, July 3, 2011