Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Political Lynching of Mark Sanford

It has not been a good week for anyone famous. First Ed McMahon died. Then Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died hours apart from one another. Pitchman Billy Mays died suddenly. But nothing died faster in the past week than the career of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Gone for nearly a week, talking heads were practically screaming about the whereabouts of the governor, nearly wagging their fingers at him for leaving town and not saying where he was going to everyone who would later demand to know. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that these anchors were using television and radio to lecture Mark Sanford, who they mistook for their teenager, for staying out too late. (One unintentionally hilarious example was an anchor complaining about what would happen if a hurricane hit South Carolina without the governor present. My guess is that no one else would have been able to stop the storm either.)

Needless to say, I found all this attention excessive. Before this year, most Americans probably did not know who the three-term congressman and second term governor was. I first learned of Mark Sanford last year as a Ron Paul-type of Republican, known for fiscal sanity, vetoing excessive spending, and for opposing Real ID and the doctrine of nation-building. As a congressman, Sanford voted against H.R. 4655, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, and was quoted in The American Conservative saying, “I don’t believe in pre-emptive war. . . . For us to hold the moral high ground in the world, our default position must be defensive.” In short, Mark Sanford was my kind of Republican.

So how shocking was it to learn that the man who kept the promise to serve no more than three terms in Congress, could not keep the promise of fidelity to his wife?

In brutal honesty, I was crushed when I learned the news of his affair, not for the pain caused to his family, but that his chances for president in 2012 were dead.

Now some think that since Governor Sanford succumbed to perhaps the most pervasive temptation in men, he is no longer qualified to serve as governor or in any higher office. There is plenty of merit to this argument. If a man cannot keep his marriage vows, how can he keep his vow to defend the Constitution?

It has been propagandized that having a mistress as far away as Argentina was made possible by the taxpayers of South Carolina. Or as The New York Times headlined it, “Governor Used State’s Money To Visit Lover.”

Not quite. The governor was on a state business trip to South America to negotiate trade and managed to work in some time with his mistress. But this whole incident, in a bizarre way, illustrates the fiscal conservatism of Mark Sanford. It doesn’t appear that the governor hopped down to Argentina every weekend on a jet subsidized by the taxpayers. He saw his mistress, but at a time when it made business sense for him. If this wasn’t so depressing, it would be a little funny.

Despite the cacophony of calls to resign his office, Mark Sanford refuses to listen. It was my expectation that he would. But why should he? Adultery breaks a commandment, but nothing in the U.S. Constitution. He did not lie about the affair. He did not use state money with the explicit purpose of seeing his mistress. According to my count, the only crime Mark Sanford has committed was his refusal to accept stimulus money.

Then the fuss regarding his “disappearance” became clear.

Governor Mark Sanford, the scourge of big spending Republicans in his own state, was an enemy because he regularly vetoed their big spending schemes. Before this year, Mark Sanford was a little known, but rising star in the Republican Party. He became known nationally for his refusal, some say grandstand, regarding the stimulus package. Even if he was merely grandstanding, it was a more convincing show than some GOP governors like Sarah Palin, who willfully held her hand out before taking heat for her hypocritical stance of denouncing President Obama’s ridiculous spending while readily willing to accept “her share” of it.

Contrary to popular conception, Republicans as a whole are not in favor of small government nor do they favor less intervention at home and abroad. At election time they sure are, but not once they get into power.

Occasionally a Republican will cut taxes, but only on rare occasions do they cut the spending that is needed to prevent the tax cuts from becoming deficits. The problem for Republican Party establishments like the one in South Carolina is that Mark Sanford was the rare politician who kept his word on government spending and fiscal responsibility. In fact, the first South Carolinians who would reap the benefits of Sanford’s demise, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer and Sanford’s political rival, State Senator Jake Knotts, whose primary challenger Sanford supported, are the loudest voices calling for the governor’s resignation or at least an investigation. Maybe Republicans do believe in truth commissions!

Sanford's fellow South Carolinian, Jack “The Southern Avenger” Hunter, illustrated in January of this year just how South Carolina Republicans see the governor:

“Sanford has had one primary guiding principle his entire political career: limited government. Not just limited government rhetoric, the sort of lip service provided by milquetoast Republican to pacify their right wing base, but genuine, strict, fiscal conservatism and the guts to back it up. If you ever need a good illustration of just how duplicitous the GOP can be, just take notice of how frequently South Carolina Republicans get angry at Sanford for daring to actually represent the limited government principles they pretend to. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘Come on, Mark, you didn’t really think we meant all that conservative stuff, did you?’ . . . which to some makes him dangerous.”

Dangerous indeed.

I cannot say whether Bauer, Knotts, or anyone else knew with any certainty that Sanford was having an affair or if their agenda was the hope to stick something on Sanford, something to discredit the man and ultimately destroy him, but something smells in this fiasco besides the governor. My Campaign for Liberty co-patriot, Anna Lutz of South Carolina, related an answer she received from Knotts and State House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham that there is “more to come.”

Turns out, there was more before this even began. An anonymous Sanford staffer leaked e-mails to The State newspaper, a paper seeming to revel in Sanford’s demise, tipping them about a woman in Argentina – in December 2008. Suddenly it becomes apparent how an absent governor, neglecting no actual duties, could warrant such wall-to-wall attention, almost as if on cue. Perhaps it was the misstep Sanford’s enemies were waiting for.

Why else would Republicans be so elated to expose a private affair that had been disclosed with the family? In this, we see that Republicans, particularly in the case of South Carolina, do not care about limited government. They care about power. If they cared one lick about limiting government, they would be in front of the cameras saying exactly this, “Mark Sanford may be an adulterer, but he has been truthful, with his family and with us, about a tragic indiscretion. Importantly for our purposes, he has been a competent governor who has been loyal to his political principles. Until it can be proven that Governor Sanford’s moral failing in his private life has caused him to break a law, he deserves our support because the governor has been a steadfast supporter of the Republican Party platform and the people of South Carolina who have elected him to public office five times without defeat.”

Of course, no GOP hack in the Palmetto State is saying anything even remotely like this. That should say it all.
This diatribe notwithstanding, my own personal regard for Mark Sanford has taken a serious blow in the past week. After Ron Paul and his son Rand, Mark Sanford was probably my favorite Republican, and knowing that he has committed a serious moral failure calls his capacity to lead into question for the first time in my experience with him.

But Mark Sanford’s infidelity no more disqualifies him from the capacity to continue in office or ascend to higher office than does anyone’s perfect marital fidelity qualify anyone for high office either. After all, the only thing that is inherently different about Mark Sanford today as opposed to the beginning of June is the fact that we know about his unfaithfulness.
While he has been far from perfect politically (endorsing John McCain for president twice - ick!- he infamously deferred to also-ran warmonger Newt Gingrich earlier this year on Fox News Sunday regarding pre-emptive strikes on North Korea), but Republicans could do far worse than a so-far repentant adulterer.
(H/T: Anna Lutz)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Are they Demanding Democracy?

Watching coverage of the Iranian election protests, one could easily conclude that the mobs are conducting their own Tiananmen Square, demanding fundamental freedoms from an oppressive regime.

But is this conclusion accurate? Is that what the protesters are demanding? Are they clamoring for free speech and due process? Did our invasion-turned-democratic experiment in Iraq finally catch on to the point that Iranians now get that Western-style freedom is a good thing and are ready to throw their Islamic backwardness aside? Did the Iranians begin saying to themselves, “Hey, it turns out this is a repressive regime that steals elections and abuses women! Let’s revolt and demand our freedoms!”? Or could it be that they are just storming against a regime they believe stole an election from their preferred candidate?

It is tempting for Americans to witness demonstrations such as these and assume that they are being done on behalf of freedom and democracy as we think of it. We as Americans need to be careful when interpreting events from halfway across the globe. When we see people protesting against the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, many of us are assuming that since Ahmadinejad is the latest reincarnation of Hitler, these people must be demanding a bill of rights.

To be sure, the American media have wasted no time in telling everyone that Ahmadinejad had his reelection stolen for him. They also wasted no time in reminding everyone that he was an Iranian Revolution rebel of 1979 and may have even taken part in the abduction of 52 Americans in that same year. Couple that with his oft-cited remarks on Israel and everyone is told that the world’s largest rodent needs to be stopped, even if it requires the U.S. government’s favorite course of action: military intervention followed by regime change. Based on that logic, anybody would be better than Adolf Jr. and that man was obviously Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Well, maybe.

The vanquished candidate, Mousavi, was portrayed as a reform-minded pro-American democrat. If he was in fact a reform candidate of any caliber, it was perhaps only because he appeared saner than his rival. Like Ahmadinejad, Mousavi also has ties to the Iranian Revolution and served as prime minister shortly after the shah made his expeditious getaway. Like Ahmadinejad, Mousavi not only sees a nuclear program as Iran’s right, but he was the instigator of the program (and agrees with Ahmadinejad about that Holocaust-denial thingy). But unlike Ahmadinejad, Mousavi was the prime minister of Iran who may very well have ordered the attack on American marines in Beirut.

Knowing this, does it really matter who honestly prevailed in that election?

If Ahmadinejad is Hitler, then Mousavi may just be Mussoulini. And if those simplistic and cartoonish characterizations are true, would this be worth embroiling the United States?

So what is the point of President Obama making any sort of statement of solidarity with the protesters? Again, we don’t know if they’re demanding their Western-style freedoms or if they’re just enraged that their guy lost and think the Ayatollah Khamenei stole it.

Importantly, making any sort of statement, benign or bombastic, could have backlash against the people we want to help and inadvertently empower the current regime.

Why is that? Are those Iranians too stupid to figure out that they should have freedoms like Americans?

Well, the consequences could be dire; for thirty years, America has been seen as their enemy. Four years ago Ahmadinejad was elected after Iranians witnessed the United States invade two of Iran’s neighbors. And if Obama actually talked tough, it would be all the reason the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad need to remind the masses that America continues to be aggressive against Iran. There is no easier avenue through which to consolidate power than under an emergency, or the pretense of one. Just ask Rahm Emanuel.

Making a statement of any belligerence will condemn the protesters to the mercy of the Ayatollah. For decades, the Iranians have been taught that America is their enemy. If we give the protesters the perception that they are pro-American by actively stating our support for them, it will make an already oppressive regime murderous as they will have carte blanche to treat the protesters as though they are American poodles and, ergo, enemies of the regime.

With the perception Iranians have of America, one that is probably shared by more than a few of the protesters, we shouldn’t expect any statement from the United States to benefit the protesters any more than George W. Bush’s endorsement helped John McCain. And no amount of narcissistic posturing about human rights will save a single protestor from the brutality of the Iranian regime.

Also, to show solidarity presupposes that who wins elections in Iran is any business of the United States in the first place.

Another thing to consider is if there is some sort of U.S. involvement in this mess, do we KNOW that the protestors are going to greet us as their liberators? Or are we prepared to demonstrate to the world that we have really learned nothing from our Iraqi boondoggle?

On this occasion, the proper course for the United States should be to stay home and watch. Why stir the pot if the alternative, Mousavi, might not be any better in practice than Ahmadinejad? And whether Mousavi or Ahmadinejad is the titular ruler in Iran is no choice worth making and it is not worth a single American life.

Let us not confuse anti-government sentiment with pro-American and pro-democratic zeal.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Obama Girl

When I first heard of Sonia Sotomayor, it was a few weeks before President Obama nominated her to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was when that infamous video of her first surfaced where she uttered, “The Court of Appeals is where policy is made. . . . I know I should never say that because we don’t ‘make law,’ I know.” As bothersome as that comment was, which she shamelessly tried to cover up, the laughter that it elicited is what said more to me. As I explained in my letter to the local paper, that much probably tells us what Sonia Sotomayor thinks of the Constitution: she disregards the court’s call to interpret the law, attempts to cover up the gaffe with air quotes, and then laughs. How funny.

With this as my initial introduction, I was prepared to utterly detest Judge Sotomayor. Just imagine what sort of judicial activist she must be if she’s this upfront about it. In the end, she appears to have little that resembles a judicial philosophy and despite her gaffes and lack of judgment, it will be all of her personal factors that will make it utterly impossible for the Republicans to mount a serious offensive.

Take, for example, the quote that has easily garnered the most attention: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."


In what would have ended the career of any white man, the perception that Republicans are inherently racist will likely render this Biden moment moot.

Regardless, the administration and its media lackeys wasted no time in playing the “out of context” card. You need to know the whole context to understand what she really meant, they bellowed. As Steel Phoenix pointed out, the context makes the quote even worse. Instead of making an off-the-cuff remark (off-the-cuff, yet somehow scripted), she has not only uttered that statement more than once, but the time in question (2001 at Berkeley) was intended for publication in the La Raza (The Race) Law Review. I’m unfamiliar with the La Raza Law Review, but if it’s in any way affiliated with the National Council on La Raza, it can only be described as anti-white and anti-American and encourages a Reconquista of the American Southwest.

So if this is true and La Raza Law Review is that La Raza, then she was at best pandering to Hispanics, and at worst giving aid and comfort to a group that is openly treasonous. Either way, that is a serious lack of judgment and ethics unbecoming of a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to mention the notion that her background would help her produce better decisions than say, some white guy.

Now for some of the other issues that are under the radar.

Surprisingly, Judge Sotomayor has a rather vague record on abortion. This is surprising only because the person who nominated her promised Planned Parenthood that Roe v. Wade was going to remain sacrosanct. That makes it difficult to believe that she could possibly be pro-life. But my pro-life brethren needn’t really fret over this issue. If she does turn out to be even the most unshakable of Roe supporters, she is replacing David Souter, not Clarence Thomas. The status quo will remain on this issue.

She has an interesting record on the Second Amendment. Appearing to understand what the amendment means, Sotomayor ruled in Maloney v. Cuomo that the Second Amendment does not pertain to state and local governments. She ruled correctly that the Second Amendment restricts (or is supposed to restrict) the U.S. Congress from infringing on Americans’ right to own a gun. But her ruling indicated that those state and local governments do have the right to restrict people from owning guns. It sounds like she swung both ways on that one: one level of government has the right to take away your right to own a gun, but another patently does not. The point is, you do have the right to own a gun and no government can take it away. Her ruling indicates that it is not a right.

An issue that has not been mentioned among conservatives looking to oppose the nomination is the issue of executive power. Republican appointees John Roberts and Sam Alito and William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor before them backed the Bush administration’s power grabs rather consistently.

It was disappointing for me that conservatives by and large looked the other way or bought the line that the executive needed additional powers to wage war other than the ones prescribed in the Constitution. How short-sighted was that view? Because George W. Bush exercised extraordinary powers, Barack Obama does too, and only looks to increase them. Now many of those same Bush supporters are aghast that President Obama has such penetrating power. I’m confused as to why it’s so surprising: Bush didn’t take his extraconstitutional power back to Crawford with him. It stayed in Washington ready to be used by the next emperor regardless of whether it was Grampsy or The Chosen One.

So what does Sonia Sotomayor feel about increasing executive power? It’s hard to say. Lewis McCrary of The American Conservative had trouble finding rulings on it. But if we recall her comment about the courts making policy, it’s not hard to imagine she would support additional unconstitutional power grabs that would benefit the man who gave her her new job. As President Obama has assumed more powers over the affairs of the country, how she rules on this matter is what should most concern conservatives.

People are having difficulty finding rulings that would indicate a judicial philosophy that directs Sotomayor. With no clear philosophy, that probably points to judicial activism and it will additionally make it even harder for Republicans to oppose her. That will leave Republicans with little else but to harp on the wise Latina (if they dare) and judicial activism comments, which in and of themselves will get them nowhere.

Plus Obama and his pick have the added advantage that her appointment to the federal district court was from President George H. W. Bush. Republicans won’t be able to claim that she’s just another Democratic operative and political appointee. Republicans with the seniority of Mitch McConnell have the votes to prove it. In this regard, President Obama can justifiably say, “Who are you to oppose Ms. Sotomayor now when you confirmed her in 1992?”

In a sense, it was politically golden for President Obama to pick Sonia Sotomayor. She’s Hispanic and a woman, two key Democratic demographics. Republicans are already branded as anti-Hispanic and anti-woman. They don’t need further stigmatization by harping on her wise Latina comment, so expect them to walk on eggshells. And she has a slippery (some might say sloppy) judicial record, even upsetting some liberals, which makes it hard to definitively nail her down.

All the president needs is for one of the Maine Republicans to cross the aisle to confirm a sister.

As far as picking someone to make it onto the high court, Barack Obama probably made the perfect nomination. Now whether she can reliably apply the law is another matter.

In other words, don't expect Sonia Sotomayor to get borked.

(H/T: Steel Phoenix)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Judging Sonia

I have another piece on Sonia Sotomayor in the works that will appear sometime soon. What follows is a letter of mine that appeared in the Wednesday, June 10, 2009 Nashville (IL) News.

Judging Sonia

As eye-brow-raising as was Judge Sonia Sotomayor's comment about the wisdom of a wise Latina woman, a briefer and much more disturbing comment was uttered by her at Duke Law School in 2005: "The Court of Appeals is where policy is made . . . I know I should never say that, because we don't 'make law,' I know," to a chorus of laughter.

This would be news to the Founding Fathers who did not want the courts to make policy - that is the precise role of the legislature. The judiciary, on the contrary, interprets the law, it does not make it. More so than her comment about being a "wise Latina" does this reveal why constitutionally-minded Americans should oppose Judge Sotomayor's appointment to the high court.

For decades, courts have been making laws instead of interpreting them - in direct opposition to their constitutional role. It was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's advice, "Do what you think is best and wait for the law to catch up," that serves as the motto for today's judicial activism.

Many Americans are rightly upset that abortion became the law of the land. What made it even more reprehensible is that it came not through constitutional legislation, but by order of judges unaccountable to the people. It is judges' loyalty to the philosophy Marshall espoused that makes possible the tyranny that faces us today. That Sotomayor and others laughed should tell us exactly what they think about the Constitution, the American people, and what we should expect from the wise Latina woman as a judge.

There have been Supreme Court justices whose failure to uphold the Constitution came as a surprise: Earl Warren, Sandra Day O'Connor, and David Souter, just to name a few recent ones.

If Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor illegally legislates from the bench, it will only be a surprise to those who weren't listening.

Carl Wicklander

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unassertive Conservatism

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Mark Levin, 245 pages.
Although Republicans have been completely out of power for only about 130 days (no White House and neither chamber of Congress), the party and the conservative movement are undeniably in a pretty crappy place. Infighting began almost as soon as Barack Obama finished delivering his victory speech. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum immediately threw Sarah Palin and social conservatives under the bus for ruining the party. The spat between GOP chairman Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh still lingers. More recently there was a back-and-forth dispute between talk show host and writer Mark Levin and Dallas Morning News columnist and “Crunchy Con” spokesman Rod Dreher. Also, Levin has recently tussled with David Frum himself. Blood is everywhere.

What all of these altercations reveal is that despite the new president’s ambitious agenda, Republicans and their conservative enablers are still only fighting among themselves. There is good reason for this. Republicans got drunk on power and crashed the family car while their conservative supporters cheered from the passenger seat. They are still trying to figure out who is to blame.

And as conservatism appears no less doomed than the Republican Party, there are efforts to claim the mantle of what constitutes “true conservatism.” Enter the aforementioned Mark ("The Great One") Levin and his new book, Liberty and Tyranny.

Levin, the author of 2005’s Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, holds a law degree from Temple, which presumably puts him in a higher intellectual bracket than the majority of his talk radio colleagues. Levin’s intellectual background is one of the reasons that his new book is so highly touted. Liberty and Tyranny is supposed to be an index of what it truly means to be conservative in the early 21 century. It is the new Conscience of a Conservative, the next The Conservative Mind and your “one-stop-shop for conservatism.”

When I endeavored to read the latest “This is what conservatism really means” screed, I was prepared to dislike it. As with many others in his profession, Mark Levin was a vibrant voice of support for the presidency of George W. Bush. So how could he possibly write a coherent book about conservatism that doesn’t descend into fawning servility to the GOP?

Well, he does write a fairly coherent book. Whether it’s coherent conservatism is a different matter.

I say this because of the disconsolate and discombobulated state American conservatism finds itself. During the administration of George W. Bush, conservatives became seen as nothing more than the Republican cheering section - supporting the Republican administration, deviating only occasionally on immigration and national education policy. Yet no matter what atrocity the Bush administration committed, conservatives by and large went along. Because of this, it is increasingly difficult for seemingly anachronistic conservatives like myself to believe the majority of these folks. For example, I could listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program for 3 hours and probably agree with the lovable little fuzz-ball perhaps 90% of the time, yet feel utterly frustrated because the man is a hypocrite and a sell-out to his cause.

The same problem generally afflicts Mark Levin. Liberty and Tyranny has plenty of good quotes that are conservative, and at times even libertarian. However, the reader must always remain aware that Mark Levin was another conservative who cheered the march of The Decider.

As opposed to what frequently occurs on his radio program, Levin writes in a rather temperate tone. The constant theme throughout the book is that conservative principles are the same principles as those espoused by the Founding Fathers. In fact, the closing line of the first chapter reads: “Conservatism is the antidote to tyranny precisely because its principles are the founding principles.”

This is a troubling line and as well as a troubling theme. It’s not that I do not believe traditional conservatism can trace its lineage to the Founders. Russell Kirk certainly did this and more. But making a statement like Levin’s is circular reasoning. Conservatives are like the Founders and the Founders are like today’s conservatives. George Washington was the first supply-sider and Thomas Jefferson believed in pre-emptive war, right?

Levin’s chapters on the free market, opposition to governmental take-overs of environment matters, and the Constitution are actually quite good. He descends into some typical fallacies, such as blaming protectionism and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff for causing the Great Depression and saying that World War II ended our worst recession (spending our way out), although these are not particularly glaring instances of a writer’s carelessness or ignorance.

Levin does make many valid points about federalism and restraint, which are historically conservative objectives. Federalism is indeed one of the greatest assets to American republicanism. Dividing up power preserves liberty. Allowing localities to govern themselves, and not by a distant power, was one of the hallmarks of the American War for Independence. Levin even has a great quote for it: “Individuals with widely divergent beliefs are able to coexist in the same country because of the diversity and toleration federalism promotes.”

Another interesting quote, this time regarding the Constitution: “. . . others are persuaded by the Statists’ distortions, arguing that the judge’s job is to spread democracy or liberty.” While Levin is correct that that is not a judge’s job, he later says that sometimes it is the job of the government to do just that. Almost at the end of the book, while discussing “self-preservation,” Levin states that “there are occasions when democracy building is prudent.”

Really? Earlier, Levin says that the government, i.e., the judiciary, should not spread liberty, but somehow the government, through the military and probably also through presidential orders, should sometimes spread liberty. This seems like having it both ways. It’s wrong if a liberal judge decrees something which makes it Statist, but conservatives know that sometimes spreading liberty is okay, if it’s done through the military, that is.

This, however, does lead to an error that is glaring: Levin never once mentions that war has not been constitutionally declared since 1941. For a writer that went through law school, and extols the Constitution over and over in this book, it’s rather odious to see that the most heinous of unconstitutional acts, undeclared war, is altogether ignored. Levin can go on and on about how such-and-such liberal program is not specified in the Constitution. But he seems to ignore outright that Republican and Democratic presidents have commandeered the power to make war for themselves.

An Aberration like that is indicative of the great problem of contemporary conservatism. To satirize, the routine goes something like this, “Government is bad. Government intrudes into our lives. Government intervention into the private sector is Statist. Oh, but the government has the right to intervene into other nations’ affairs.”

Now which is it? Should government intervene, under the banner of spreading liberty or not? Lots of conservatives rail against statism, some of them do so very well. But if someone, say Mark Levin, expresses support for a standing army, that itself is statist. The military, no matter how noble its warriors, is still a big government institution. It is an institution that requires heavy taxation and expansion at home in order to manage it. And there you have it: Conservatives say they want small government at home, big government abroad, and seem surprised to discover that they have gotten big government in both.

Another constant throughout the book is Levin’s campy dichotomy between conservatives and statists. In Levin’s world, conservatives only look to restrain themselves and keep the civil order in mind when they make decisions. Statists only want to accrue more power. True enough about statists, but what conservatives is he talking about? It couldn’t be George W. Bush who only amassed more and more power for himself. Although President Bush clearly fits Levin’s definition of a Statist, Levin, almost nowhere in his book, makes any attempt to distance himself from our most recent chief executive.

Let’s take a look at another quote to illustrate this: “The Conservative believes that in the context of the civil society, progress and modernity are essential to man’s well-being and fulfillment, despite their inevitable imperfections.” Sounds good to me, but this begs the question, when did a “conservative” ever act this way once they were in power?

Perhaps the best line that sums up the bewilderment of today’s “conservatives” is this: “Republicans seem clueless on how to slow, contain, and reverse the Statist’s agenda.”

That just about says it all. For all of the work conservatives have done for the Republican Party, some who are genuine anti-statists, have little to show from their party of choice. And this is one of the great downfalls of the book. At no point does Levin ever suggest that the problem for conservatives may be that we have put too much faith in the GOP to achieve our goals. As long as people like Levin continue to support the Republican Party no matter what, no amount of conservative rhetoric in books like Liberty and Tyranny will change a thing.

Examining Levin’s notes, almost 40 pages, one has to wonder just what sort of research the man did to come to his conclusions about conservatism. There are a few sprinkled references from the Founders, Edmund Burke, Alexis de Toqueville, and St. Augustine, but the vast majority of resources Levin used were from websites and contemporary newspapers. If he wished to glean wisdom from past generations, which he claims, he could have made more than one reference to Russell Kirk or a single reference to Robert Nisbet or Richard Weaver, men who spent years researching the historical tenets of the conservative tradition. Instead, it appears Levin sought to justify his opinion of conservatism by cutting-and-pasting.

One minor improvement in this area would have been to supply a reading list at the conclusion. That was one of the assets of Ron Paul’s 2008 book The Revolution. Once Dr. Paul’s book was finished, there was a list provided for the reader to continue their quest for freedom. Instead of only taking the doctor’s word for it, readers were encouraged to keep learning. Levin would have benefited his readers or anyone else looking to expand the conservative cause by including something similar. Absenting such a list makes Liberty and Tyranny the last word.

Taken as a whole, and considering my initial angst, Levin’s book isn’t awful, but it certainly isn't good, much less a sure-to-endure “conservative manifesto.” It’s a decent book, but does a poor job convincing this reader that the conservatives who followed George W. Bush without hesitation have learned anything from the mistakes of that administration. In the end, it is unlikely that Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny will be any more memorable than any of Ann Coulter’s endless ad hominem “Liberals suck” books.