Friday, February 20, 2015

Could 'Grover the Good' win the White House today?

by Jeff Jacoby

WHEN GROVER CLEVELAND ran for president in 1884, he was endorsed by Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, which listed four reasons for encouraging its readers to send Cleveland to the White House:

"1. He is an honest man. 2. He is an honest man. 3. He is an honest man. 4. He is an honest man."

As a prominent Democratic newspaper, the World's support for Cleveland, the Democratic nominee, was to be expected. But such insistent praise for a candidate's truthfulness and honor was as remarkable then as it would be now — voters in the Gilded Age, like voters in the Digital Age, had ample grounds to regard "honest politician" as a contradiction in terms.

Applied to Cleveland, however, it was the unadorned truth. He was known above all for his integrity, and rarely has the power of such a reputation propelled a political figure so far, so fast. In 1882, he had taken office as the newly elected mayor of Buffalo, and promptly declared war on a ring of crooked city aldermen who were taking kickbacks on inflated public contracts. The new mayor, derailing one such contract, flayed the council members who had approved it for their "barefaced, impudent, and shameless scheme to betray the interests of the people." Cleveland's refusal to turn a blind eye to graft drew notice well beyond the city's limits. Less than a year into his term as mayor, he became the Democratic candidate for governor of New York, and went on to win the office in a landslide.

As governor, Cleveland battled constantly with Tammany Hall, the infamous New York City political machine, which controlled votes and manipulated elections through fraud, patronage, and intimidation. Unintimidated by Tammany's clout, Cleveland fired corrupt officials linked to the machine, vetoed pork-barrel bills, and publicly inveighed against the political spoils system. Once again his implacable honesty made him a hero to voters hungry for better government. Hardly had Cleveland gotten used to being governor when reform Democrats began talking about him as presidential material.

At the party's national convention in Chicago, Cleveland's name was formally placed in nomination by a delegate who praised the governor for "his honor, his integrity, his wisdom, and his Democracy." That was the last thing the Tammany forces wanted, and they maneuvered furiously to block Cleveland's ascent. In a fiery speech seconding Cleveland's nomination, Edward Stuyvesant Bragg — a Civil War general and former US Representative — turned Tammany's enmity into a formidable Cleveland asset. It was true that people admired Cleveland for his honesty, integrity, and strength, Bragg declared. "But they love him most of all for the enemies he has made."

That sent the convention into a paroxysm of adoration and cheers. Tammany's obstructionist efforts came to naught. Delegates voted overwhelmingly to make Cleveland their standard-bearer, setting up a contest between a rough-hewn Democrat who had never even seen the nation's capital and a dapper Republican — former House Speaker, Senator, and Secretary of State James G. Blaine of Maine — who was the very epitome of an entrenched Washington insider.

Not since George Washington had a candidate for president been so renowned for his rectitude. "Grover the Good," his supporters dubbed him. Not surprisingly, Republicans were elated when the Buffalo Evening Telegraph, an anti-Cleveland newspaper, printed a blockbuster story accusing the unmarried Cleveland of having seduced a young widow and fathered a child out of wedlock. It wasn't the first sex scandal in American political history; it certainly wouldn't be the last. But it may be the only one that ever enhanced a politician's reputation for candor. As the story exploded in headlines nationwide, Cleveland's frantic allies asked how Democrats should respond. The governor, who acknowledged the affair and had contributed to the child's support, responded in a telegram: "Whatever you do, tell the truth."

Voters were impressed. Cleveland won the election, the first Democrat to be chosen president since James Buchanan in 1856, and the last until Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

The remarkable Cleveland is generally remembered by Americans today, when they remember him at all, as the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms — he lost his bid for re-election in 1888 (despite winning a majority of the popular vote), but ran again successfully in 1892. What he should be remembered for is his monumental incorruptibility and commitment to ethical government. As he had in Buffalo and in Albany, Cleveland brought with him to Washington the ardent conviction that "a public office is a public trust," and that it was never appropriate for government to dole out favors at taxpayers' expense, no matter how politically expedient.

When his presidential campaign was jolted by reports that he had fathered a child out of wedlock many years earlier, Cleveland wired succinct instructions to his aides: 'Whatever you do, tell the truth.'

He was never paralyzed by the fear of saying "no." In his first term alone, Cleveland vetoed 414 bills, more than double the total of all the presidents who preceded him. Over his eight years in the White House, Cleveland rejected an astonishing 584 bills passed by Congress. That many of those measures were popular feel-good measures, such as authorizations for specious veterans' pensions, makes Cleveland's fortitude all the more impressive. Only 1 percent of his vetoes were overridden — a testament to the power of ethical principle to withstand the political appetite for spending other people's money.

Some presidents never met a principle they wouldn't abandon for electoral gain. Cleveland, principled to the bone, was of a different breed.

"He was not averse to popularity, but he put it far below the approval of conscience," H. L. Mencken wrote of Cleveland long after he left the White House. "It is not likely that we shall see his like again, at least in the present age. The presidency is now closed to the kind of character that he had so abundantly."

On this Presidents Day, could anything be more dispiriting?



Obama Admits Personally Changing the Immigration Law

If federal law enforcement officers apprehended a person who had been using a false Social Security Number, a federal prosecutor with a heavy caseload dominated by more serious crimes might decide not to indict the person. Whatever its merits, that would be an act of prosecutorial discretion.

But what if the prosecutor were to tell this user of a false Social Security Number: It is okay for you to continue using that false Social Security Number tomorrow. In fact, you may do so with impunity for the next three years.

Would that be an act of prosecutorial discretion? Or would it effectively make the prosecutor a co-conspirator with someone using a false Social Security Number?

In the case of Texas v. the United States, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued an injunction on Monday temporarily stopping President Obama’s unilateral action to allow illegal aliens to stay in the United States, get work authorizations, and obtain Social Security Numbers.

In his decision, Judge Hanen clearly and forcefully explained how the administration’s new immigration policy is not an act of prosecutorial discretion.

In this case, twenty-six of the states joined together and sued the federal government to stop Obama’s unilateral amnesty of illegal aliens, which has been presented by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in the form of a program called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” (DAPA).

“The crux of the states’ claim is that the defendants violated the Constitution by enacting their own law without going through the proper legislative or administrative channels,” said the judge.

The administration—in court at least--argued that DAPA is merely an act of prosecutorial discretion that prioritizes the use of limited DHS resources.

Judge Hanen unambiguously conceded that the executive branch does indeed have broad prosecutorial discretion that a court cannot rightfully challenge.

“Further, as a general principle, the decision to prosecute or not prosecute an individual is, with narrow exceptions, a decision that is left to the Executive Branch’s discretion,” he wrote.

“Consequently, this court finds that Secretary Johnson’s decisions as to how to marshal DHS resources, how to best utilize DHS manpower, and where to concentrate its activities are discretionary decisions solely within the purview of the Executive Branch, to the extent they do not violate any statute or the Constitution,” he said.

But then the judge declared that in its DAPA program, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security is doing far more than merely foregoing enforcement of the law against certain violators.

“Instead of merely refusing to enforce the [Immigration and Nationality Act]’s removal laws against an individual, the DHS has enacted a wide-reaching program that awards legal presence to individuals Congress has deemed deportable or removable, as well as the ability to obtain Social Security Numbers, work authorization permits and the ability to travel,” said the judge.

“Exercising prosecutorial discretion and/or refusing to enforce a statute does not also entail bestowing benefits,” he said. “Non-enforcement is just that—not enforcing the law. Non-enforcement does not entail refusing to remove these individuals as required by the law and then providing three years of immunity from that law, legal presence status, plus any benefits that may accompany legal presence under current regulations.”

“This court,” he said, “seriously doubts that the Supreme Court, in holding non-enforcement decisions to be presumptively unreviewable, anticipated that such ‘non-enforcement’ decisions would include the affirmative act of bestowing multiple otherwise unobtainable benefits upon the individual.”

The judge sealed his case that the administration’s immigration action is not merely an act of discretion, but a change in the law itself, by quoting Obama himself.

“What is perhaps most perplexing about the defendant’s claim that DAPA is merely ‘guidance’ is the president’s own labeling of the program,” said the judge. “In formally announcing DAPA to the nation for the first time, President Obama stated, ‘I just took an action to change the law.’”

The Constitution, of course, does not give Obama the power to change the law.

If Obama succeeds in usurping that authority, he and future presidents will use it for more than granting illegal aliens work permits and Social Security Numbers.



Shame and race in America

By Walter E. Williams

Today's liberals are not racists, but they often behave that way.

They would benefit immensely from considering some of the arguments in award-winning scholar Dr. Shelby Steele's forthcoming book, "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country."

Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, explains that in matters of race, there is an ideological vision that completely ignores truth — a vision he calls "poetic truth." In literature, poetic license takes liberties with grammatical rules, as well as realities, in order to create a more beautiful or powerful effect than would be otherwise possible. Liberals have a poetic commitment to black victimization as the explanation for the many problems affecting a large segment of the black community. The truth that blacks have now achieved a level of freedom comparable to that of others has to be seen as a lie.

People who accept the truth about that freedom are seen as aligning themselves with America's terrible history of racism. Accepting that racism is still the greatest barrier to black achievement is the only way liberals can prove themselves innocent of racism. Thus, "modern liberalism is grounded in a paradox: it tries to be 'progressive' and forward looking by fixing its gaze backward. It insists that America's shameful past is the best explanation of its current social problems. It looks at the present, but it sees only the past."

Liberals believe that black people's fate is determined by the beneficence of white people and government programs. Steele points out that despite the handicaps of past racism and segregation, our fate was left in our own hands. In the face of more government opposition than assistance, black Americans created the most articulate and effective movement for human freedom that the world has ever seen — the civil rights movement. This was done without any government grants and in a society that ran the gamut from a cool indifference toward blacks to murderous terrorism.

Though not politically correct to acknowledge, there are cultural patterns within the black community that keep blacks from achieving true parity with whites. Sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified these patterns in his 1965 report, titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." Moynihan, who later became a Democratic senator, was condemned as a racist by much of America's academic establishment for "blaming the victim." Worse than that, Moynihan's experience became an object lesson for other social scientists that any research that implies black responsibility for black problems is forbidden.

Moynihan's conclusions were no less than prophetic. Steele says that family breakdown is the single worst problem black America faces. It spawned countless other problems in black America, including gang violence, drug abuse, low academic achievement, high dropout and unemployment rates, and high crime and incarceration rates.

Liberalism is a moral manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs. Liberalism undermines the spirit of self-help and individual responsibility. For liberals in academia, the fact that black college students earn lower grades and have a higher dropout rate than any group besides reservation Indians means that blacks remain stymied and victimized by white racism. Thus, their push for affirmative action and other race-based programs is to assuage their guilt and shame for America's past by having people around with black skin color. The heck with the human being inside that skin.

Shelby Steele argues that the civil rights movement's goal was a free society — one not necessarily free of all bigotry but free of illegal discrimination. After that, we minorities should be simply left alone, as opposed to being smothered by the paternalism, inspired by white guilt, that has emerged since the 1960s. On that note, I just cannot resist the temptation to refer readers to my Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon (, which grants Americans of European ancestry amnesty and pardon for their own grievances and those of their forebears against my people so that they stop feeling guilty and stop acting like fools in their relationship with Americans of African ancestry.



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