Alexander's Column

2003 SOTU

Mark Alexander · Jan. 31, 2003

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: At the request of many of our readers, in today’s edition we have reduced those excerpts by topic area to the President’s essential message, and follow each of his stated goals with cogent analysis from a Constitutional perspective.

By our reading of the Constitution, much of what President Bush proposed domestically is unlawful – that is to say, many of his proposals do not comport to the letter of our Constitution’s mandates and restrictions on the central government, or to its subsequent Amendments. As our Constitution’s author, James Madison, noted in Federalist No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Madison’s words were the basis for federalism as explicated in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Of those “few and defined” powers delegated to the central government, many are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.)

That having been said, however, our analysis takes into consideration the pragmatic realities the President faces as a national leader. The Federalist has taken the position, for the past 18 months, that the President’s “pragmatic compromise” on many issues had one strategic objective – to restore the Senate to Republican control so he could restore some sanity to the epicenter of the central government’s power – the judiciary. Forewarning of today’s “despotic branch,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The original error [was in] establishing a judiciary independent of the nation, and which, from the citadel of the law, can turn its guns on those they were meant to defend, and control and fashion their proceedings to its own will.” Indeed, the Leftjudiciary has done just that.

Our Constitution has suffered more than a century of abuse at the hands of politicos, who have all but completely ignored the limitations that venerable document places on the central government. We would argue our Constitution’s greatest abusers were Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and the activist Leftjudiciary – but we digress. Ronald Reagan endeavored to put historic Federalism – the proper role of the central government – back into the political lexicon. George Bush has, incrementally, taken up that mantle.

“You and I serve our country in a time of great consequence. During this session of Congress, we have the duty to reform domestic programs vital to our country…. We will work for a prosperity that is broadly shared … and we will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people. … We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, other presidents, and other generations. We will confront them with focus, and clarity, and courage.”

President Bush makes plain the theme of reform. Of course, since most “domestic programs” now conducted by the central government are not constitutional, real reform would mean eliminating these programs by the bushel. As James Madison noted, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents….”

We believe Mr. Bush is intent on eliminating some smaller programs, but he heralded his “reform” of the Department of Education, and that department is at the top of the heap of those that should be eliminated, as even some previous Education Secretaries have argued. As Ronald Reagan made clear, “I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school education began when Federal aid to education became Federal interference in education.” The power the central government now wields over the “education” of American youth would make Karl Marx proud!

Economic Measures:
“Our first goal is clear: We must have an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job. … Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place.”

We believe President Bush understands that the central government produces nothing, and should not be an obstacle to free enterprise. Government taxation and regulation constrain free enterprise. But George B. Shaw wisely observed, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.” That dependence is the foundation of the Democrat Party, and the life blood of their lust for power. Mr. Bush’s efforts to reduce the taxes on Peter will be an uphill battle.

We certainly support Mr. Bush’s efforts to make his 2004 and 2006 tax reductions permanent, eliminate the marriage penalty, raise the child credit and eliminate dividend taxes. We think his comment, “If this tax relief is good for Americans three, or five, or seven years from now, it is even better for Americans today,” is a slam-dunk. As Thomas Jefferson advised, “A wise and frugal government … shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

We agree with the President, “The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth – and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C.” As we have articulated on many occasions, The Federalist supports completely replacing the current tax code with either a flat income tax or national sales tax. Given the tenor of Mr. Bush’s rhetoric in recent weeks, it would not come as a surprise to see just such a flat or national sales tax alternative as an objective of his second term.

As for “spending discipline,” Mr. Bush has not demonstrated much of that. The day after his SOTU speech, the Congressional Budget Office revised its deficit forecast upward by 30% to $199 billion for this fiscal year. Spending in fiscal 2003 is projected to increase 9% after an excessive increase of 7% last year. The only way Mr. Bush can authentically demonstrate “discipline” is, as we noted above, by terminating social programs by the bushel. And he has an obligation to model fiscal restraint for the states – most of which have constitutional restrictions on deficit spending – the state equivalents of Ronald Reagan’s perennial request – a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.

Health Care:
“Our second goal is high quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Health care reform must begin with Medicare, because Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society. … My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare.”

Medicare, welfare, Social Security, et al., are extra-constitutional socialized central government programs. Thomas Jefferson warned, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare but only those specifically enumerated.” These New Deal and Great Society boondoggles assume that the several states, local communities, families and individuals can’t take care of their own. To the extent Mr. Bush is able to reduce centralized control over these behemoths through privatization and exposing them to free market forces, he will have succeeded.

Certainly, to the extent “excessive litigation” can be curbed by tort reforms, a repetitive theme in Mr. Bush’s speech Tuesday night, all Americans will be better served. We concur with the President, “No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit.”

Energy Policy:
“Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. … In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about, not through endless lawsuits or command and control regulations, but through technology and innovation.”

The President’s proposed “comprehensive energy plan” has many good elements to encourage reduced dependence on foreign energy sources, but his “Clear Skies legislation” does not qualify as a free enterprise approach to reducing power-plant emissions. As for “hydrogen-powered automobiles,” when the market requires them, they will be developed and produced without government subsidies. If we examine the world around us, it becomes evident that government subsidies and interference have, over the decades, stifled and not enhanced technological development.

Faith-Based Initiatives:
“Our fourth goal is to apply the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America. For so many in our country – the homeless, the fatherless, the addicted – the need is great. … Americans are doing the work of compassion every day…. These good works deserve our praise … they deserve our personal support … and, when appropriate, they deserve the assistance of our government.”

As long as the central government continues to fund a plethora of social programs, we believe that faith-based organizations should be able to compete for those dollars. (Don’t bother trying to make that “wall of separation” argument. The popular interpretation of those words today have little bearing on what Mr. Jefferson meant when he wrote them.)

And regarding all those social programs, if central government commissars had not, unwittingly, institutionalized poverty, there would not be so much demand for things like the proposed “Citizen Service Act.”

Abortion and Cloning:
“We must not overlook the weakest among us. I ask you to protect infants at the very hour of birth, and end the practice of partial-birth abortion. And because no human life should be started or ended as the object of an experiment, I ask you to set a high standard for humanity and pass a law against all human cloning.”

Killing children is wrong, and experimenting with them is equally wrong. Enough said.

AIDS in Africa:
“Our Founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity – the rights of every person and the possibilities of every life. … Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus – including three million children under the age of 15. … I ask the Congress to commit 15 billion dollars over the next five years, including nearly ten billion dollars in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.”

To the extent Mr. Bush can make the case that treating AIDS patients in Africa is critical to U.S. national interest, we support this measure. And…we believe that argument can be made.

Jihadistan and the case against Iraq:
“Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror – the gravest danger facing America and the world – is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. They could also give or sell those weapons to their terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation. … All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attack. We are asking them to join us, and many are doing so.”

And, in a line intended as a declaration of U.S. resolve to a heretofore hesitant UN, the President continued, “Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.”

Mr. Bush continued his carefully measured disclosure of the nuclear threat as he connected the terrorist threat to Iraq: “The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. … He has not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them. The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.

"With nuclear arms … Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions…. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qa'ida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists…. It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”

President Bush has now – for the first time – unequivocally laid out the nature of the Iraqi threat: It is not only nuclear; it is also asymmetrical. The danger resides, as the President says, in a terrorist surrogate attaining a nuclear device from Saddam Hussein, and detonating that device in a U.S. urban center. Iraq presently – not potentially – poses a viable nuclear threat to the national security of the United States. Saddam Hussein is a clear and present danger. This is precisely the threat that The Federalist has concluded, since last July, was at the center the President’s “regime change” doctrine. End of story.

Only yesterday Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency revealed that in the late ‘90s, al-Qa'ida developed a Radiological Dispersion Device (dirty bomb) with the help of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. MI-6 confirmed that al-Qa'ida still has the expertise and materials to construct just such a weapon.

In addition, as the President noted, Iraq also can provide surrogate warriors with other WMD agents: “Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead his utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. … The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax…. Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent. … U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. … From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. …[Labs] that can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.”

The undeniable Iraqi connection with al-Qa'ida is the case Secretary of State Colin Powell will set before the UN Security Council on February 5. And this week, President Bush ordered a closed-door briefing of some 100 Democrat members of the House of Representatives, where Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld, together with a senior CIA official, laid out the connections between Baghdad and Islamic terrorism around the world. Following the meeting, even Leftist N.Y. Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney was led to conclude, “The connections to terrorist networks and al-Qa'ida are becoming more definite. They have concrete evidence.”

And a final note, last year, we reported on a key component of National Security Presidential Directive 17 (HSPD 4) signed by President Bush in September: “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including potentially nuclear weapons – to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.” This week, national press outlets are reporting this as “breaking news.”

Apparently a few of the antique media pundits missed the inference in the December release of the unclassified National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction which stated, similarly, “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including through resort to all of our options….” But we are quite certain that Saddam understood “all our options” to include our offensive nuclear strike capabilities. We suspect that Saddam did not miss the inference, and at the onset of the next new moon cycle, he will be deep in one of his rat holes! But the rain of bunker busters scheduled to visit Iraq in late February have a twist. There are not Bush(41)’s bunker busters but the new low-yield nuclear bunker augers which can cause a really bad day for even the deepest bunker dweller.

Closing Remarks:
“America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers. Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves – but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.”

Well said!

Overall, The Federalist’s conclusion is, essentially, that on matters of economic and foreign policy, President Bush is a conservative – that is, he is operating within the original (and only) intent of our Constitution. On social issues, Mr. Bush is predisposed to see government as a key element of the solution. We, of course, side with Ronald Reagan, who said of the central government’s role in social issues: “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.”