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Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield, 1922-2011

Former Oregon Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, 89, died yesterday. The Portland Oregonian posted an excellent obituary about the World War 2 veteran’s long career. Read the article here. The piece by Jeff Mapes makes me realize me how influential the evangelical Christian Senator Hatfield, the son of two deeply religious Baptists, was in shaping conservative Republican politics. Hatfield was anti-war, deeply religious, and a serious advocate of environmentalism. In other words, he was an early trailblazer, pardon the Oregon pun, in fusing fundamentalist religion with a liberal, welfare-statist approach to government. Though he was considered a maverick, out-of-step liberal anomaly in Republican circles during most of his 30-year career in the United States Senate, and he had also served as Oregon’s governor, Mark Hatfield was a forerunner to today’s dogmatic Big Government advocates on the left and on the right. Mark Hatfield paved the way for faith-based liberals and Big Government conservatives. In a sad coincidence, according to the Oregonian obituary, Senator Hatfield’s grandson, a U.S. Marine who had served in Iraq also named Mark, died of an undisclosed cause in Connecticut at the age of 25 four weeks ago. I wrote about military suicides over two years ago, and I wonder if Sen. Hatfield’s grandson, like so many soldiers enlisted in America’s asinine wars of self-sacrifice, killed himself. While I disagreed with Sen. Hatfield on nearly every issue, when I met the late senator and his son Mark during a political campaign, I personally found both gentlemen to be as kind and cordial as the article suggests. He certainly made an impact on American government.

Conservatives and the Tea Party

The Tea Party was founded—or at least seriously propelled—by trader, financial executive and TV reporter Rick Santelli, a grandson of Italian immigrants, on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Watch his original burst of moral outrage in this YouTube clip here.

Mr. Santelli did not invoke faith, God, religion, prayer or fasting. During his Tea Party comments, he did not advocate appeasing those who seek to mix religion and government. He did not denounce gays, stem cell research and a woman’s right to have an abortion. He did not propose that Americans rally behind tax hikes, TARP, bailouts, stimulus, ObamaCare or debt limit increases. He invoked Ayn Rand and held up a copy of her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, calling for Americans to rally for free market capitalism. Making references to specific laws that destroy one’s ability to create, Mr. Santelli, a member of the mainstream media, it must be noted, urged Americans to oppose government control of the economy and instead fight for individual rights.

Yet conservatives, such as Sarah Palin, have grafted themselves on to the essentially secular, pro-capitalist, pro-individual rights Tea Party movement. Conservatives in government, including every major conservative today, have aided and abetted the rise of the omnipotent state by enacting every major new government control for the past 40 years.

Conservatives who betray the principles of both the original Tea Party in Boston and today’s movement do not belong in the Tea Party and those self-identified conservatives who do not betray America’s founding ideals are not conservatives. They are what Ayn Rand called radicals for capitalism. So, on this day of a faith-based Texas governor praying and fasting and failing to remember the Alamo, let the real radicals be heard. Let’s flush conservatives out, pledge to save the republic from totalitarianism, and turn the Tea Party on.

MSNBC Gets Ayn Rand Wrong

Microsoft’s media venture with NBC Universal’s NBC News, MSNBC, is at it again, propagandizing for the Obama administration and distorting the news, which it does nearly full-time with its roster of former Democratic Party operatives (Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell), most favored former government spouses (Mrs. Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, who never discloses that fact), and lying Christian preachers such as its new host, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Now, they’re lying about Ayn Rand.

In yesterday’s broadcast of the cable news channel’s Rachel Maddow program, the hostess, who had railed against Tea Party Republicans for refusing to compromise with the Obama administration, calling the nation’s imminent so-called default an “apocalyptic deadline”, interviewed an old Washington Post journalist named E.J. Dionne and promptly missed her cue by mispronouncing the name Ayn Rand. The pompous hostess makes a habit of snorting and sniffing her way through all sorts of other people’s mistakes, so one would think she would be more careful. It’s Ayn, pronounced like the word mine, not Ann as she stated. Then Ms. Maddow proceeded to let her guest completely misrepresent Rand and her famous novel, The Fountainhead. In the video segment, linked here in its entirety with the errors contained at approximately 14:00, Dionne falsely stated that the 1943 novel by Ayn Rand is her first. The Fountainhead is not her first novel. That was We the Living.

Dionne, in a set-up segment which was clearly discussed if not rehearsed in advance, proceeded to falsely assert that, in The Fountainhead, when the main character doesn’t get his way, he “blows up a building”. Wrong, E.J. Dionne. Not only is the insinuation that the novel’s protagonist, architect Howard Roark, cavalierly acts on a whim when he doesn’t get what he wants, a total misrepresentation of the novel; to state that Roark “blows up a building” is to distort the plot and theme of Rand’s literary masterpiece, a bestseller still in print which has sold millions of copies and is taught in schools across the country. What E.J. Dionne (and Ms. Maddow and MSNBC by refusing to correct these errors) fail to grasp is that it’s his building, in every sense, and that’s the point of the novel. Roark created the building, contracted for its exact design and construction on simple, narrowly defined terms and one basic condition, and it is essentially his to destroy.

Expecting the lowest standards of journalism from this corrupt media outlet, which I have defended, even praised, in the past, is too much. Errors and distortions are routine in MSNBC programming (Dionne’s error originates in his commentary in the similarly slanted Washington Post), though welfare state and status quo advocate Dionne’s failure to grasp the concept of property ownership comes with the territory. It took eight months for Newsweek to correct MSNBC pundit Howard Fineman’s smear against Ayn Rand following my blog post about his mistake. With any luck and the help of an MSNBC or Post intern or executive with integrity and a mind of his or her own, Maddow’s and Dionne’s attempt to disparage Ayn Rand and the Tea Party movement won’t stand uncorrected that long. Don’t count on it and get used to the lies and distortions. The rich and powerful intellectual fusion of the press and the state, best exemplified by MSNBC, more than state-sponsored NPR and PBS, knows that they’re fighting the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The contest is just getting started.

[7/24/2011 Update: No response to my request for a correction from E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post]

[12/08/2011 Update: Still no response to my request for a correction from E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post]

Interview: Randy Barnett on ObamaCare

Randy E. Barnett

Law professor Randy Barnett, who has argued before the Supreme Court, is described by Forbes as the legal scholar “who laid the intellectual groundwork for the surprisingly effective legal attacks on ObamaCare by state attorneys general.” Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches contracts and Constitutional law, has also taught torts, criminal law, evidence, agency and partnership, and jurisprudence. He graduated from Northwestern University and Harvard Law School, tried felony cases as a prosecutor in the Cook County States’ Attorney’s Office in Chicago and, in 2008, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies. Professor Barnett, who lectures internationally and has appeared on the CBS Evening News, The News Hour (PBS), and National Public Radio, offered his thoughts on America’s sweeping new socialized medicine—ObamaCare—during a recent interview.

Scott Holleran: In terms of American law, is health care a right?

Randy Barnett: Health care is not a Constitutional right. There are a lot of spending programs that create various entitlements, such as Medicare, but these are statutory rights not fundamental or Constitutional rights.

Scott Holleran: Is ObamaCare Constitutional?

Randy Barnett: ObamaCare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is unconstitutional for at least two reasons. One is that the individual mandate requires every American to purchase [health] insurance or face a penalty, which is an extension of Congressional power that goes beyond anything that has previously been authorized by the Supreme Court. From its inception, the substantial effects doctrine, though commonly conceived as a Commerce Clause doctrine, has been grounded in the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Supreme Court developed a judicially administrable test for whether it is “necessary” for Congress to reach intrastate activity that substantially affects interstate commerce: the distinction between economic and non-economic intrastate activity. Because [ObamaCare’s] individual mandate [forcing people to “buy” health insurance] fails to satisfy the requirements of this test, it exceeds the power granted to Congress by the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses as currently construed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has said that Congress could not reach non-economic activity and Congress, in this case, is trying to reach non-economic activity, mandating that people engage in economic activity. The other problem is that, as certain states are contesting, Congress is using its spending power coercively.

Scott Holleran: Is ObamaCare legally inevitable?

Randy Barnett: Absolutely not—it is not inevitable that legal challenges will fail or succeed. Neither side has an argument that can dictate or mandate or require the Supreme Court to decide this issue for or against their side.

Scott Holleran: Is the Constitutional case against ObamaCare an originalist perspective?

Randy Barnett: I am an originalist who advocates interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning, but nothing in the legal challenge to ObamaCare is based on the original meaning of the Constitution—we’re just following the opinions on the Supreme Court, applying what they have previously said to this statute. I would describe our arguments as doctrinal, not originalist.

Scott Holleran: What are the legal options for opposing ObamaCare?

Randy Barnett: There are more lawsuits than I can keep track of, but, of the five district court judges who have ruled on the Constitutionality of the law, two struck it down and all five are on appeal, and we’ve so far had three appellate arguments, in Richmond, Cincinnati, and Atlanta, involving four of the lower court decisions. There may be other options that arise but I don’t want to express an opinion at this point and I don’t want to be overly optimistic. We expect decisions in the cases that have already been argued by the end of the summer, or possibly by September [2011] and, if the Supreme Court takes a petition for appeal, there could be a decision by June 2012. That would be the earliest. I have a high opinion of the lawyers in the Virginia case, and the lawyering in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was excellent.

Scott Holleran: Have you read Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s address to Hillsdale College arguing against ObamaCare?

Randy Barnett: I have not seen that speech but I’ve testified to Congress with him. This guy is smart but what really amazed me was his press conference in Richmond. He was amazing—he got up there and gave one of the most knowledgeable, careful, legal analyses of his case [against ObamaCare] and he was crystal clear and completely on top of the case. I thought it was a masterful performance. I was really, really impressed.

Scott Holleran: What are the legislative options for opposing ObamaCare?

Randy Barnett: It would be helpful if the Republicans in Congress would pass a law that is Constitutional and market-based—I don’t think anybody wants to go back to [the mixed health care system of] 2008—and I have discussed this with several people and I get the sense that there is interest. If the GOP were to pass the [Rep. Paul] Ryan plan, it would be very beneficial [to killing ObamaCare] because it would show that there are alternatives [to ObamaCare]. It would offer something identifiable as an alternative—not just a think tank proposal—something worked out of a legislative body and that would be important. Ultimately, the people will have to elect a president who will sign a repeal bill and, if the court upholds the [ObamaCare] law, that will fuel the fires. I think any Republican who gets the nomination will have to pledge to repeal ObamaCare. I do think it’s going to be a challenge for people on the Hill to come up with something that’s not ObamaCare-lite because that’s the way they think. But the need for health care for poor people does not deprive other people of the right to choose their health care. A government takeover and distortion of the health care market is not the way to go.

Scott Holleran: Are there executive options for opposing ObamaCare, in case Congress buckles in favor of the law?

Randy Barnett: [Former Massachusetts] Governor [Mitt] Romney says he’ll give a waiver to everyone. But I’m a Constitutional lawyer and, when you’re talking about something so far down the road, a lot can happen.

Scott Holleran: Are there state law options for opposing ObamaCare?

Randy Barnett: Some states have enacted health care freedom [from ObamaCare] acts and the Constitutionality of those acts are at issue in the lawsuits. If we lose [and ObamaCare is upheld], those acts will be inoperative. States can try to resist the Medicaid part, if they can afford to—and they generally can’t—but the idea that 27 or 28 state attorneys general are suing is significant and it’s going to be noticed by the Supreme Court.

Scott Holleran: Are there opt-out provisions that a single individual can exercise in compliance with U.S. law to get out of ObamaCare?

Randy Barnett: I don’t want to comment on that.

Spring Note

I haven’t posted since last month because I have been traveling, writing small projects, and finishing this year’s studies at the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC), instructed by Onkar Ghate, Ph.D., whose short commentary on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was posted on earlier this week. Studying Objectivism, including Leonard Peikoff’s insightful Understanding Objectivism course, gives me a better perspective on my knowledge of philosophy and improves my thinking. So, I’m taking time, working harder, and strengthening my skills. I am working on certain writing projects in various stages of development, and I plan to focus on those goals while catching up on my reading list about sports, horses, and war. I may also post thoughts on recent visits to Chicago, Seattle, and an old movie star ranch north of Los Angeles. Speaking of movies, incidentally, I recently learned that my 2005 interview with Batman Begins director Chris Nolan is quoted in War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film by Marc Dipaolo (April 2011). I’m looking forward to seeing comics-based pictures such as Thor (May 6) The Green Lantern (June 17), and Captain America (July 22), among others. Thank you for reading.