John Adams, Facts, & Brett Kavanaugh: A Primer

It was March 1770 when a crowd of Boston colonists began angrily harassing a British sentry. Soon other soldiers came to his aid. In the confusion, amidst the clamor, the throwing of snowballs, ice, and stones, and even being threatened with clubs, the soldiers misunderstood a command from the officer in charge and began firing into the crowd. Five colonists lay dead and six more were wounded. It became known as the Boston Massacre.

Emotions ran high. Would the soldiers have any hope of a fair trial? Into this tension-packed atmosphere, John Adams entered and volunteered to defend the soldiers. Adams was not in favor of British policies, but he believed the soldiers had been provoked into the attack, and therefore all the facts had to be taken into consideration.

He took a chance by standing up for them. He could have become the most hated man in Boston. Yet he showed that the crowd had been more of a mob than a simple crowd of people standing around. He argued for the soldiers while simultaneously critiquing the British government’s decision to place soldiers in the streets, thereby increasing the tension.

The result? The officer in charge was acquitted, as were most of the soldiers. Two were found guilty of manslaughter and sent back to England. Given that death would have been the sentence if a guilty verdict of murder had been returned, this was quite an achievement for Adams as he stood for the concept of the rule of law—a concept that is currently little understood, even less appreciated, and constantly under attack.

One of Adams’s statements in these trials has come down to us today, repeated by those who understand the basis for the rule of law. Here’s what he said:

Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

At different times in American history, emotions have run rampant and caused no small amount of anguish, civil disturbances, and assaults on the rule of law. I point out John Adams’s strong character in this blog today as a reminder that we must not allow passions to run wild. We must always make all our decisions on the basis of evidence, not mere emotion.

All I have seen in the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh up to this point is pure emotion, stripped of any genuine evidence of wrongdoing. The FBI has now been tasked with another round of interviews to find out if there is any corroboration at all for the allegations against him. This came about through one of the most disgusting displays of partisanship ever seen in Congress, and that’s saying a lot considering what has transpired many times before.

Thus far, all we have is the word of women who are basing their testimony on strong emotion . . . yet without even one piece of corroborating evidence. We are supposed to believe them because they are women.

Do women never lie? Are they always to be believed? Do they not also have agendas at times? Has the media looked into the backgrounds of those who are making the accusations, or are they focused on Kavanaugh only?

Whatever happened to the need for real evidence before convicting someone?

Yes, I know this is not a court of law, but someone can be convicted in the arena of public opinion to the point that truth no longer matters. Just believe, even when there’s no reason to do so.

Could Kavanaugh be lying? Well, if he is, he’s survived six previous FBI background checks. Further, women who have known him in high school have testified that he never acted like the accusers have said. Even further, dozens of women who have worked with him in government have stood solidly with him, attesting to his impeccable character.

But we’re supposed to believe someone, in the case of Prof. Ford, who has escaped all media scrutiny. Where have you seen any in-depth treatment of her background, moral behavior, or current political agenda? Maybe I missed it, but nothing I’ve seen has even broached the subject.

No, she’s a woman who came across as credible. Yet by “credible,” what is really meant is she came across as emotional enough to convince people she must be telling the truth.

Yet where is the evidence?

Thomas Sowell has been a favorite writer and commentator of mine for decades. I’ve come across a couple of his most poignant quotes lately, and they are appropriate for what we have been experiencing in this current controversy.

Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.

Emotions neither prove nor disprove facts. There was a time when any rational adult understood this. But years of dumbed-down education and emphasis on how people ‘feel’ have left too many people unable to see through this media gimmick.

He’s one of the new John Adamses in our day. May there be more.

Have We Learned Our Lesson?

Let’s continue to talk about the ramifications of last week’s elections. Why? Because it’s a relief to finally have something positive to say about politics in our country. Most people understand what those elections meant. I say “most” because there are some who still just don’t get it:

When It Doesn't

The hypocrisy and self-serving nature of Obama’s response is pretty blatant. At his now-infamous press conference the day after the elections, he revealed that he isn’t changing his views on anything. And he tried the same old tired lines about how reasonable he is and how he’s oh-so-willing to work with Republicans. Well, he’s said that for six years and never followed through. The evidence?

Harry's Desk

Every time Republicans in the House sent a bill to the Senate for debate, it disappeared into a Harry Reid black hole, never to be seen again. Everyone knows this was done at President Obama’s direction. He never sought to have an honest debate about any issue and continued to say Republicans had no ideas, when, in fact, they had been brimming with ideas backed up by legislation.

His now widely ridiculed remark about how he “hears” the 2/3 who didn’t vote—more, apparently, than those who truly cared to vote and who sent the real message—again reveals his inner Barack, the One who believes the people who “really” count are all for him. The actual voters? Not so much.

I Hear You

Commentator Jonah Goldberg has some salient points to make about the one-note Obama presence at this news conference:

But as Obama droned on and on in that press conference on Wednesday, it felt like a horrible realization was washing over the Johnny Bravo Fan Club [the White House press corps]: Obama’s grown stale. Johnny Bravo has a shelf-life. There was Obama prattling on and on about how he had a mandate, he heard the voice of the non-voters, the GOP has an obligation to do what he wants, he did nothing wrong, blah blah blah. It was all so tone deaf and otherworldly and—most of all—it was so unfathomably boring. As I joked on Twitter, he could have seamlessly segued into reading the instructions for how to change the toner cartridge on a Xerox machine and the audience might not have noticed.

Maybe I’m wrong. But it kind of feels like Obama is a karaoke singer who doesn’t realize someone unplugged the machine. He’s out their belting out his golden oldies and no one is tapping their toes any more.

Thomas Sowell, the black conservative commentator and scholar, also has weighed in on the meaninglessness of Obama’s reign and offers a warning for those who were fooled by him and his promises. If you were fooled once, why would you fall for a second false scenario?

Sowell Quote

The all-important 2016 election now looms large. Have we learned our lesson?

The New Academic Year

I love this time of year. This is now my 22nd year of teaching full time at the college level. When a new academic year begins, I experience an emotional rush. I’ve experienced that for 21 of those 22 years [no need to talk about the exception—that’s history]. Students also seem fresh and ready.

Yes, that early excitement will scale back as the semester wears on, but it never goes away entirely, particularly if you believe what you are doing is the will of God, and that the classroom is another form of ministry.

I am grateful to be able to teach at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, a Christian university that is not only very beautiful, but dedicated to infusing Biblical principles into all subjects. And why not? God is the author of all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

We do face a multitude of problems, though, in modern education. Some of it has to do with ignorance:

Many students who show up for college as freshmen haven’t been taught well. They are especially ignorant of their own country’s history, the very subject I teach. Another big problem is the apathy of parents. They often just shuffle their children off to a school, happy that they can absent themselves from their children’s educational progress:

Parents used to believe they were responsible for their children’s education. That viewpoint seems to be more rare with each passing year.

Even more pernicious, however, is the blatant attempt to alter historical reality. In a recent column, analyst Thomas Sowell makes some incisive observations about what exactly is being taught in many classrooms:

The history of this country is taught in many schools and colleges as the history of grievances and victimhood, often with the mantra of “race, class, and gender.” Television and the movies often do the same.

When there are not enough current grievances for them, they mine the past for grievances and call it history. Sins and shortcomings common to the human race around the world are spoken of as failures of “our society.” But American achievements get far less attention — and sometimes none at all.

Our “educators,” who cannot educate our children to the level of math or science achieved in most other comparable countries, have time to poison their minds against America.

Why? Partly, if not mostly, it is because that is the vogue. It shows you are “with it” when you reject your own country and exalt other countries.

I don’t teach that America is perfect. I clearly point out the racial issues of the past. However, I also note that it is faulty analysis to reject everything about America just because there were some injustices. As Sowell says, where in the world do you not witness injustices? It’s the human condition; it’s called sin. America has done a pretty good job, compared to other nations, in rooting out many of those problems over time.

My perspective on American government and the policies we have followed, particularly in the past century, is often critical, but never in a way that makes students think they live in an awful place. Our Founders provided a system that can be corrected, but it depends on the character and the choices “we the people” make.

More than once, I’ve had students come up to me and say something similar to this: “Every president you praised was presented to me as bad in high school, and every president you criticized was highly praised by my former teachers. You’ve reversed everything and have made me rethink America’s history.”

If I am accomplishing that, I am satisfied. It’s time to continue that quest in this new academic year.

Drawing Racial Lines

I’ve noticed there are some things that are very hard for people to do. For instance, once some individuals get into power, particularly political power, it’s fascinating how nothing they ever do wrong is their fault. They can always find someone else to blame. Charlie Rangel seems to be pretty good at this, as is Maxine Waters.

Listen to either of them speak about the ethics charges against them and you will come away believing they are victims of a massive conspiracy. In both cases, though, the evidence seems pretty clear—they are guilty of using their offices for personal financial benefit. If only they would simply admit it, but pride and arrogance forbid it.

Rangel and Waters are indicative of a whole species of political animals who can’t seem to see beyond a predetermined personal prejudice:

I’ve mentioned in previous posts the decision of the Justice Department not to prosecute the New Black Panthers who intimidated people at the polls and the atmosphere in the department that refuses to focus on any discrimination cases brought against blacks. All this does is undermine the rule of law.

Every person—black, white, and all the beiges in between—are accountable to the same law [I’ve always liked the title of one of Thomas Sowell’s books, Pink and Brown People—it’s more accurate].

Yet we continue to draw racial lines, as Harry Reid did recently:

Well, Harry, let me explain it for you: the Republican party [or at least a lot of people in that party] believes in helping individuals get off the government plantation, offering them security in their personal property, providing the liberty to achieve one’s dreams in life without undue governmental interference, and respecting the life of all unborn Hispanics. Many of those Hispanics are from Cuba, and they know how bad a socialist system can be. They appreciate American liberties.

Hope that helps, Harry.

Constitution? What Constitution?

Republican congressman Joe Barton of Texas did something politically foolish last week, but constitutionally sound. In a hearing with BP executives, Barton used the word “shakedown” to describe what the Obama administration had done to the company. He then offered an apology for the way in which BP had been treated.

That set off a firestorm, not just among Democrats but within his own Republican party. Pressure was so intense that he was forced that same day to apologize for his apology. If he hadn’t done so, he was told he would lose his leadership role in the party.

Now, Barton’s wording was politically foolish. If he had simply avoided the word “apology” as applied to BP, no one would have said much of anything. Yet a tin ear politically does not indicate a wrong view of the Constitution. In that regard, Barton made a valid constitutional point.

What point is that? An excellent essay by scholar Thomas Sowell has explained it clearly. Sowell talks about how even though Obama’s poll numbers are going down, it’s only because people disagree with some of his policies; very few understand the more foundational issue—“the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation.”

Sowell then raises the question that rarely is raised anymore:

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation?

The short answer is short indeed: nowhere.

Of course Sowell is talking about the $20 billion fund that Obama extracted from BP. We’re supposed to be a government of laws, not just executive decisions that make unconstitutional demands. Sowell is correct when he notes,

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.” Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government. Without constitutional government, freedom cannot endure. There will always be a “crisis” — which, as the president’s chief of staff has said, cannot be allowed to “go to waste” as an opportunity to expand the government’s power.

This has happened before in American history. When I tell students that during the Great Depression FDR ordered all Americans to turn in their gold to the government, they can’t believe such a thing ever occurred. FDR did that purely by executive order; he certainly had no constitutional authority to do so.

My students are now living in a time that is making FDR’s power moves seem trifling in comparison. FDR never took control of auto companies; FDR didn’t take over 1/6 of the American economy via the healthcare route.

These are dangerous times for the survival of constitutionalism and the rule of law. We have come to this place slowly, but deliberately, like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating water that doesn’t realize he will soon be cooked. The last year and a half, however, has seen the heat turned up significantly. Perhaps that will be Obama’s undoing—he has moved so quickly that people are finally awakening to the danger.

Will enough citizens awaken in time to avert disaster? November will tell.