The gap between reality and fantasy has grown in recent days. Among the unexpected demons the new Administration has encountered since entering office is something variously called the “deep state” or the “administrative state.” A Mr. Bannon, its discoverer, now attributes road blocks to the Administrations confused agenda to this mysterious entity which otherwise is undescribed. The suggestion is that this entity lies deeply imbedded within the United States Government, obeys no orders from elected officials, and pursues an agenda of its own.
Let’s consider how this might work. The “deep state’s” tentacles would necessarily have to extend to virtually all federal agencies from the Pentagon, to the Treasury Department, to the Small Business Administration, Food and Drug Administration, Transportation Department, Intelligence agencies, and so on. Either this network is small, but still effective, in which case it is perhaps several hundreds of people, or it is very large and […] Continue Reading…
The current hiatus in American political development offers an opportunity for reflection on the great works, written and spoken, by great American leaders that compose what might be called an American political canon, the solid core of what America represents in theory and in reality. If such a canon were composed it would have to have at its center those presidents whose words best defined the nation and its central purpose for their times. It would then have to expand to include statesmen of stature whose contributions supported and augmented the themes of the highest elected officials.
The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1776). The first and still most persuasive argument for why there must be a United States of America. [“We hold these truths to be self-evident….”]
The Constitution of the United States, James Madison (1789). The enduring foundation for America’s political structures and laws. [“We the People […] Continue Reading…
Presidents in the past, most notably with Bill Clinton and Boris Yelstin and George W. Bush with Vladimir Putin, have committed what might be called the “buddy fallacy” where U.S.-Russian relations were concerned. That is they thought even a modicum of personal congeniality could be the basis for U.S. policy. President Trump seems to be repeating that fallacy.
At its best, friendship between the leaders of two great powers must be considered a plus. At its worst, it confuses personal relations with complex disparities in national interests.
Thus, in one respect President Trump’s visceral belief that it is better to have Russia as a friend than an enemy makes common sense. On the other hand, it blurs real differences between what Russia views as its interests and what we view as ours. And, for a President with no foreign policy experience and still dubious prior relationships with Russia, it can lead […] Continue Reading…
Historians and political scientists analyze the world in terms of nation-states. The nation is the people and the state is the government. When a gap occurs between the people and their government, even a democratically elected one, a variety of things can happen on a graduated scale from a new election to a revolution.
The new Trump Administration is not the first to be led by a president with a low approval rating. It is the first where that low rating occurred so soon after an election. Even presidents such as Harry Truman who experienced low approval at certain points, came back to be considered by history and reflective opinion to be somewhere between better than average and outstanding.
Aside from this early opening slump, the other rare circumstance for the new Administration is that its Party controls virtually all of government, not only the White House and all the executive […] Continue Reading…
The Hunt-Lenox Globe, built in 1502, carried this phrase, “Here there be dragons”, in an area of uncharted maritime waters. Since then what dragons there be, great whales, or who knows what, have been sighted and cataloged (that is unless you are among those still searching for the Loch Ness Monster.)
Where United States foreign policy is concerned, however, we may be entering an era described by that globe. Based upon proclamations by the new President and some around him, there is reason for concern that post-World War II political, economic, and security alliances may be headed for the dust-bin and we are steering into seas whose dragons may be only vaguely visible.
The South China Sea. Multiple Southeast Asian nations lay claim to maritime territories in the region. They include Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and most notably China, among others. China is constructing makeshift islands on coral reefs to establish […] Continue Reading…
If current leadership is intent on dismantling a series of institutional arrangements that have provided relative political, economic, and security stability among democratic nations, we should first understand the forces that have led us into this current cul-de-sac.
The most obvious economic tsunamis in recent decades have been globalization and the rise of the information economy. Historically, we have to go back to the late 19th century to find precedents. The industrialization of America, that shifted our economic base from agriculture to manufacturing, began in the first half of that century but was most powerfully felt in the 1880s and 90s. The dislocations caused by Americans leaving farms and small towns and migrating into cities to work in factories most closely parallels the late 20th century decline of steel, auto, textile, and other manufacturing activities and the shift of the economic center of gravity from the industrial East to the […] Continue Reading…
The Russian Ambassador to the United States has renewed his lease on a top floor suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
The author of The Art of the Deal has just announced an agreement with the Peoples’ Republic of China that he will withdraw the U.S. Seventh Fleet from the South China Sea in exchange for exclusive rights to place hotels and casinos on its newly created man-made islands.
The United States has just signed an agreement to join the recently formed League of Populist-Nationalist Euro-Atlantic states pledged to defend its members against any resurgence of “decadent liberal democracy”.
Since the abrogation of the Joint US-Iranian nuclear control agreement by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan have announced that they will follow Iran in developing their own nuclear defense forces.
The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that, according to a recent report by two unnamed scientists, the […] Continue Reading…
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– Emma Lazarus
The most important things are often the most obvious. Wouldn’t you think it appropriate if someone set up a conversation site called “mattersofprinciple” that this individual should state his or her own principles? Joel has just asked whether the host was inclined to do that. So, with several caveats, an attempt will be made. Caveats: the following list is not exhaustive. So, in response, please do not adopt the “I notice you didn’t mention…” fallacy. The parameters of this site are not boundless. Also, one man’s principles that follow are focused on government, ethics, and public policy, not spiritual, religious, or moral matters directly.
Matters of principle:
One: All men, that is to say all humans, are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
Two: The United States Constitution remains our best blueprint for governing in days to come;
Three: The First Amendment to the Constitution requires special attention and […] Continue Reading…
The public discontent, now being commented on so extensively in political circles, did not suddenly emerge in the last year or so. It dates at least to the mid-1970s when the first waves of globalization and automation began to wash up on our shores. Everyday citizens, especially in traditional manufacturing jobs, began to make their concerns known to office holders and office seekers.
The recurrent theme, often unstated, was: I’m losing control of my life.
There was, and still is, a sense that our national government either did not know how or did not care to deal with the seismic shifts being felt not just in Detroit and Buffalo but in the heartland and the West as well.
With apologies for the personal references (and the “I” references that dominate the opinion section of the New York Times), my reaction to this building disquiet was to re-examine our Constitutional structures for evidence […] Continue Reading…