The French Revolution had its Napoleon Bonaparte and the 18th of Brumaire counterrevolution.
The American Revolution is witnessing a soft cover edition under President Obama, but without Napoleon’s “little whiff of grapeshot.”
Sermonizing on behalf of the president at Harvard Law School on Sept. 16, John Brennan, current Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and then Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, declared: “[O]ur highest priority is — and always will be — the safety and security of the American people. As President Obama has said, we have no greater responsibility as a government.”
But the president and DCI profoundly err. They have subordinated liberty to an effete quest for a risk-free existence, and inverted the nation’s philosophy and Constitution.
The highest and only priority of government was elaborated in the American Declaration of Independence: to secure unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, i.e, wisdom and virtue. The Declaration endorsed John Locke’s version of the social contract elaborated in The Second Treatise on Civil Government. Men consent to surrendering their freedom in a state of nature in exhange for the government’s protecton of their liberty and property from domestic or external predation or aggression.
The paramount end of the social contract is liberty. It accepts the risk of evil or anti-social conduct as necessary and inevitable. Otherwise, safety and security would crush liberty like czarist pogroms crushed Jews.
A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality is latent in all humans. If safety and security trump all else — as Messrs. Obama and Brennan assert — then every creature on the planet is a candidate for extermination at the whim of the president and DCI.
That means the end of the rule of law.
That means the end of liberty.
That means the end of John Locke’s social contract, and the inauguration of Thomas Hobbes’ anti-liberty alternative articulated in Leviathan, i.e., men yield their liberty to an omnipotent monarch in exchange for peace and security in a type of Faustian bargain.
But the Founding Fathers embraced Locke and repudiated Hobbes. Thus, Benjamin Franklin lectured without provoking dissent that, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
Thus, the Constitution denies the president the authority to initiate war in the name of safety or security. It denies the president the authority to suspend the great writ of habeas corpus when the public safety may require it. Both powers are entrusted exclusively to Congress to thwart the executive’s propensity concoct or exaggerate danger to aggrandize power or to transform the world. John Jay in Federalist 4 explained: “It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families, or partisans.”
Like Napoleon sans the epaulets, President Obama initiates war without congressional authorization in the name of safety and security.
He kills American citizens abroad based on his say-so alone in the name of safety and security.
He imprisons non-criminals indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay in the name of safety and security.
He spies indiscriminately on the entire U.S. population in the name of safety and security.
He prosecutes whistleblowers and coerces news reporters under the Espionage Act in the name of safety and security.
He frustrates congressional oversight of the intelligence community in the name of safety and security.
He gratutiously implicates the United States in injustice abroad in the name of safety and security.
If this is not a counterrevolution against the Founding Fathers, then nothing is.
The American Revolution soared like a comet through the heavens fueled by Patrick Henry’s courageous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
Don’t the demands of gratitude require that we preserve for posterity what Patrick Henry and the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us at great risk?
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.
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