Jewish World Review August 17, 1999 /5 Elul, 5759
JWR's PunditsWorld Editorial
Moral anarchy and its consequences
NOW THAT THERE HAS BEEN yet another
vicious shooting spree, the familiar cry of "gun control" is ringing out
from people in politics and the media, along with the equally familiar
question: How could anyone do such a thing?
It may seem almost utopian to expect rational thinking in the wake of
tragic and appalling events. But we can try. In fact, we have a duty to
try, if we want to do what we can to understand what has happened and
reduce the chances of its continuing to happen.
First of all, these are not "senseless" shootings. They are expressions
of hatred that disregard morality and common decency, but they are very
rationally planned and executed.
It is we who are being irrational when we ask such naive questions as:
How could anyone do such a thing? People have been killing people as
long as there have been people. Why is it so incomprehensible that they
are killing each other today?
When we refuse to face the fact of deliberate evil -- in a century that
has seen mass murders of the innocent by the millions -- our
squeamishness does not protect anybody. It only leaves more people
exposed to more dangers. Declaring murderers crazy, sick or some other
cop-out will only get these killers sheltered from the law in
psychiatric facilities -- and then turned loose to walk the streets
Neither logic nor history supports the kinds of things that are now
being proposed in response to mass shootings. Why were such shootings
much less common half a century ago? Was it because there were stronger
gun control laws then? On the contrary, we have added literally
thousands of new gun control laws over the years. Yet some people
persist in believing that adding more gun control laws will do the
Was it because there were "hate crimes" laws then? Actually, the very
concept of hate crimes didn't exist then. Think about it: Would it have
been any better if the children shot in Los Angeles had been Irish
Catholics or WASPS instead of Jews?
What will "hate crimes" laws do, except clutter up the courts with more
things for lawyers to wrangle over, instead of having laws that punish
the crime that was committed, rather than the thoughts that may or may
not have been in somebody's head?
We can argue forever about what would happen if this or that policy were
followed. But there is no arguing against the hard fact that violence in
general and murders in particular were far less common 50 years ago than
they are today.
Was this because society back then had solved the so-called "root
causes" of crime? Because there was less racism? Because there was less
poverty? Of course not.
The desire of people to lash out at other people has always been there.
Babies are born into the world today with all the savage instincts that
they had back in the days of the cave man.
If most civilized people are unlikely to kill anybody, it is because of
all the efforts put forth during our childhood to give us some sense of
morality. But some children don't get as much moral training as others,
or as good moral training as others -- or it just doesn't take for some
That is why there have always been evil and dangerous individuals. The
big question is: What have we been doing over the past two generations
that has led to there being so many more of them?
Since the 1960s especially, we have systematically undermined personal
responsibility. It has seemed as if everything that went wrong in our
lives was the fault of somebody else, if only "society." Morality has
been seen as just a bunch of arbitrary hassles imposed on us by the
Most people have no idea what an all-out war against morality has been
conducted in our public schools from coast to coast over the past
generation. "Values clarification" programs under a variety of names
encourage children to create their own personal rules of conduct,
independent of the traditional morality taught to them by their
families, churches and other social institutions. That is what the young
murderers at Columbine High School did. That is what was done by the
Unabomber and by those who bombed the government building in Oklahoma
City and those who are now shooting up all sorts of people they don't
The high price of moral anarchy has yet to be recognized by those giddy
with these dangerous experiments with children's minds and with the
future of American society.
(from the Drudge Report 8/17/99)
The Speaker of the House: AM or PM?
by Ronald G. Ziegler
Prime Minister Gingrich? Well, it won't be him. But as, hands down, the most villified and
one of the most important of the Speakers of the House in American history, he makes
a suitable case for the potential role the office may be evolving toward. This is perhaps
less true with Gingrich because he came to power with the end of the 'Permanent Congress'
than before, and Speakers have regularly been most crucial characters in our politics, but
there is some sense to the idea of the office evolving toward the ministerial role which even
Ready's 'Twilight of the Presidency' would begin to suggest.
It was not so many years ago that no less a force than Senator Edward Kennedy was
calling for an overhaul of the American system of governance that would have replaced
the Presidential system with a Parliamentary one in which the Congress selected the President,
although it could be imagined that some impetus to such sentiment was grounded in the
perception held by many that the White House was for Republicans while Capitol Hill was
for Democrats which prevailed in our politics for many years. In fact, though, whether on
the back of a multi-party system or liberal angst, it may be the way of the future.
Throughout the history of the republic, the Speakership has played a vital role in our system,
and some of its occupants have served as towering figures of their eras -- from Henry Clay
to Speakers Cannon and Rayburn. And prior to the Twentieth century, some of them even
overshadowed the Presidents with whom they were contemporaries. But with the latter years
of this century, that position reached even beyond those parameters, although never actually
surpassing the executive in power, with some recent Speakers even beginning to exercise
authority in areas once exclusively the realm of the Presidency, including that of foreign
affairs. With Tip O'Neil, the Speaker even was accorded 'possession' and use of what
has been called Air Force Three. To a point, this may be merely lawful, growing on the
shadow cast by the enlarged runaway federal public sector that has evolved. But it also
is reflective of the blurring of the lines of distinction among the federal branches that has
It may be some time before the Chief Executive is relegated to a function as chief administrative
officer if not chief cook and bottle washer, but the trend has been clearly in that direction. The
pace of that transition may rest on a premise of a return and continuation of divided government,
and the degree of strength of the congressional majority party. It may also be given impetus
were the party system to be altered so that we found ourselves in a seventh party system with
multiple parties competing even if that was for the Presidency. The result of that might well be
that the President could regularly only win election in the House. Were that sort of situation to
manifest itself in the Congress, as well, leadership roles there might be premised on the formation
of coalitions of parties. Little indication of that as an immediate phenomenon has been seen, but
this too could result in a diminishment of traditional and even constitutional executive prerogative.
Although it may seem peculiar to suggest such possibilities in light of commonly expressed
concerns that the Presidency has actually grown too powerful, and that such power has
been even heightened during the Clinton Administration with its demonstrated usurpations,
there is at the same time a concern about an Imperial Congress and an imperial bureaucracy
that countervails that, at least in perspective.
The Case of Newt Gingrich
In contrast to other recent Speakers who preceeded him in office (before the Republican
Revolution), the concentration of power in the hand of the Speaker was slightly diminished.
And as his tenure continued, this devolution continued as he was forced, necessity as well
as probably wisdom, to share some of the powers with Republican colleagues. The first
vestiges of this power sharing came with the Contract with America. Still, the office itself
seemed to continue, in Gingrich's hands, to be elevated in posture, if not in prestige, given
the incessant assault on Mr. Gingrich from the media and the political left. Wittingly or
unwittingly, he became a poster boy for the ridiculous charges leveled against the Republican
majority, and a regular whipping boy for their arrows. One national news weekly magazine
ran a cover characiture of the Speaker, calling him the Gingrich who stole Christmas! The
unfounded and even maliciously inaccurate depictions of him helped win him serious
negatives in the polls, giving new credence to the Big Lie adage that if you tell a lie enough
times -- and the more ridiculous it is, the better -- it will be believed by substantial segments
of the public.
The successors to Mr. Gingrich from the Republican side of the aisle have not been able
to obtain to the position of prominence he held, but that is in good measure due to the
narrow majority the GOP has held in the 105th Congress. They have nevertheless needed
to wear flack jackets. Further, it may be that given their ideological perspective, Republicans
may be less inclined to augment the Constitutional order with initiatives which disturb the
balance as would be required for the Speaker to develop into a 'Prime Minister' surplanting
the Presidency. And if they gain seats in the 106th but there is a Republican President,
which at present seems quite likely, the long term trend in that direction may be stymied,
temporarily at least. Indeed, the evolution may require a liberal Congress set against a long
term Republican White House. They seem less inclined to hedge against extra-constitutional
measures, such having become a hallmark of their politics. But so to is their relatively greater
connection to the bureaucratic quagmire that has developed in the United States. It is one
of their fundamental legacies, growing on the populist premise that has fueled bigger government,
and on the progressive premise of professional administration 'outside' of politics, and on the
elistist premise of power through increased spending.
The Next Party System
An unknown variable in all this may be the character that a new party system takes as it
unfolds over the next few elections. While it is probable that the third party phenomenon
around Ross Perot is going to experience diminishing marginal returns, if it were to continue
and even expand to complicating races for the Congress, the next party system could become
something quite different from those we have experienced in American history. It is conceivable
that we might end up with a plethora of parties competing in elections to include beyond
the Republicans and Democrats, a Reform Party, a Libertarian Party, a Black Party, a Feminist
Party, and perhaps others. The political infighting and coalition efforts that could lead to in
forming a new Congress or electing a President in the House with a stalemated Electoral
College could rapidly increase the coalescence of a Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister.
No pretense is made here of prophecy or prediction. And with Mr. Buchanan seemingly
moving towards an effort to win the Reform Party nomination, even if it means dancing
with radical socialists such as Fulani or populist socialists like Ralph Nader, all probably
to the dimishment of such erstwhile Reformists as Jesse Ventura or even that old stalwart
himself, Ross Perot, the longevity of such alliances has to cast a long shadow over third
party fortunes, even if the realities of American politics are pushed aside somehow for a time.
It may be some time before such developments grow to fruition, but the possibilities are
as genuine as they are serious for their reprecussions on the American political system.
It may be early in the day toward the evolution of the Speakership in this direction, but
the potential for such developments does not lie far beneath the surface of our politic.
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