Friday, July 22, 2016

Cinfici’s Article at The Federalist on the Selection of Major Party Vice Presidential Nominees

See my article at The Federalist (, an online magazine, “Presidential Candidates Shouldn’t Get to Pick Their Veeps,”,which was based on a post to my blog from earlier this month.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Turkey is the Latest Example of Liberal Support for Democratically-Elected Dictators

           Liberal Democrats have a pattern of supporting dictators who had been democratically elected against any coup d'etat or even peaceful, constitutional overthrow, even though these dictators are often anti-American and are sometimes even supportive of terrorism.

Turkey is only the latest example in recent decades, after Haiti, Venezuela and Honduras.

            Liberal Democratic United States President Bill Clinton insisted that anti-American leftist Jean Baptiste Aristide be returned to power in Haiti after he had been overthrown.  Aristide’s second overthrow during the presidency of George W. Bush was opposed by liberals.  Some of them criticized Bush for not restoring the dictator.

            Liberal Democrats also criticized Bush for not opposing the coup attempt against socialist anti-American terrorist-sponsoring dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela early in his reign, as Chavez’s increasing authoritarianism was already becoming apparent.        
            Liberal Democrats also opposed the constitutional removal from office of the Chavist would-be dictator in Honduras after he had attempted to amend the Constitution to extend his rule, in the style of Chavez.  President Barack Obama, another liberal Democrat, sanctioned the Honduran government, which respected liberty and representative government.

            Obama opposed the coup attempt against the Islamist government of Turkey.

            I should also note Obama had opposed the military coup against the Islamist government of Egypt, which had come to power through a revolution and which was becoming increasingly authoritarian.  Although it has been replaced by an authoritarian government, at least it is not Islamist and is an ally against terrorism. 

            Even though a leader is elected democratically, he can erode liberty and become a dictator, often gradually, whether or not the people desire a dictatorship.  The process of how such a usurper takes power is irrelevant to whether or not he is a dictator; his election does not make him any less dictatorial.  If he retains power through a subsequent election, his rule is still not legitimate because it is already compromised by his authoritarianism.  There have long been historical examples of such democratically-elected dictators, such as Napoleon of France and Adolph Hitler of Germany, but the lesson, like many in history, seems lost on liberals who emphasize the process of coming to power over the misuse of power and emphasize the will of the people over liberty.    

           The historical lesson from the rise of dictators who had been elected democratically means that it can even happen to the United States.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Military Coup Attempt in Turkey Leads to More Authoritarianism

           An attempted coup d’etat by elements of the Turkish military failed over the weekend, as the Islamist authoritarian government crushed it and, as was predictable, has begun to use it as an excuse to purge all suspected political opponents and plunge Turkey into an ever-deeper depth of dictatorship.

            After the First World War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, Turkey was founded as a secular representative republic.  The military’s duty is to safeguard the Turkish Constitution and the secular nature of the Turkish government.  The military has intervened in politics several times over the decades to fulfill its duty, either through coups, after which it then yielded power to civilian authorities to permit elections for a new government, or at least through effective threats of intervention in order to restore Turkey’s constitutional order.  The coup leaders claimed to be serving in this traditional role.    

            The authoritarian Turkish Islamist government has not only arrested thousands of soldiers, but dismissed or arrested thousands of judges.  I had noted the Turkish President’s increasing authoritarianism, including his compromising of the independence of the judiciary, in my post from June of 2015, Islamists Lose Their Majority in the Turkish Parliamentary Elections,  Freedom of the press had also already been compromised before the coup, while dissidents have been arrested or forced into exile.  The coup attempt will strengthen the hand of Turkey’s Islamist President in cracking down on all legitimate political opposition.           

            Some of the media were reporting the restoration to “power” of the Turkish President, but under Turkey’s constitution, the President has little power.  The Prime Minister exercises power.  After serving the maximum constitutional limit of terms as premier, the current President attempted to amend the Constitution to establish a presidential republic, but the voters rejected his power-grab.  Nevertheless, while the President and Prime Minister are currently members of the same Islamist political party, the President has exercised increasingly autocratic power.  As I noted in my post, the voters denied the Islamists a majority, but later were unable to form a coalition among the ethnic Turkish and Kurdish opposition parties, which allowed the Islamists to retain power.  I note the difficulty for any opposition to conduct election campaigns in an authoritarian state.

            Turkey is now demanding the extradition from Pennsylvania of a Muslim cleric it blames for inciting the coup, but the cleric, who advocates for peace and democracy, condemned the coup attempt, as did all four of the major Turkish political parties.  The United States is right to demand proof of crimes from the Turks in order to accept their extradition request. 

Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and hosts an airbase from which the U.S. is launching air strikes against the “Islamic State” terrorist organization in Iraq and SyriaTurkey has long been of great strategic significance as a bridge between Europe and Asia and its navigable waterway between the Black and Mediterranean Seas

Current American policy is not to support military coups, but the U.S. should call upon both sides in such situations to respect liberty and representative government instead of automatically supporting a government that is “democratically” elected, but becomes increasingly authoritarian to the point of being a dictatorship.  If Turkey wants to maintain good relations with the U.S. and Europe, the U.S. and its European allies should call upon the Turkish government, instead of using the coup attempt as a pretext for more authoritarianism, to respect Turkey’s Constitution and to restore liberty.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Conservative United Kingdom Prime Minister Takes Office

           The new Conservative Party leader has taken office as Prime Minister, after the resignation of David Cameron that followed the results of the referendum in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.  The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, had campaigned in favor of remaining in the E.U., although not as aggressively as her immediate predecessor, who had negotiated concessions from the E.U. 

May named one of the leaders of the campaign to leave the E.U. as her Foreign Minister and she is expected to continue the previous Government’s policies, which include being a strong ally of the United States against terrorism and opposing Russian aggression.  She can now begin the negotiations to exit the E.U. by 2018.  A free trade agreement with the U.S. is a possibility.  

Meanwhile, the markets had returned to normal as the shock of the British exit wore off and uncertainty decreased as it has become increasingly obvious, as it should have been even before the referendum, that the E.U. wishes to continue to trade with the U.K. while its members will maintain their bilateral treaties with the U.K.

Conservatives Win the Parliamentary Elections in Australia and Japan

           The center-right ruling party in Australia lost seats, but retained its majority in the Australian parliamentary elections.  It won a slight majority, but will partner with a smaller nationalist party that gained a seat.  The new coalition will be able to continue the policies of the current government.  Australia has been a strong ally of the United States against terrorism.  

           The ruling center-right party easily won the Japanese parliamentary elections.  The results provide a mandate to Japan’s conservative government to amend the pacifist post-war constitution to give Japan a freer hand to respond more assertively to military threats, such as by Communist China and North Korea, and to contribute more directly to international peacekeeping.  Japan has been an American ally against Communism.  

Foreign Digest: South China Sea, Venezuela and Egypt

Arbitrator Rules Against China over the South China Sea
An international tribunal arbitrating the territorial dispute over the South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines has ruled against China’s claims to nearly the entire area.  The Chinese Communist government does not accept the jurisdiction of the panel.  China has become increasingly assertive in staking claim to the islands, reefs and banks rich in energy and fish.  It has reclaimed land from the sea to increase the size of the islands it claims in order to militarize them, despite claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei to various parts of the disputed territory.  A major portion of global trade passes through the South China Sea.  The United States has been maintaining freedom of navigation exercises there.

Venezuela’s Crisis Becomes More Acute
Venezuela continues in crisis under its socialist dictatorship, with increasingly severe economic distress, in addition to energy shortages, corruption and crime.  As feared, the dictatorship has sidelined the Congress, even though the opposition won a supermajority there, and continues to repress the people.

Human Rights Violations in Egypt
            Egypt’s secular government opposes Islamism, and thus is a reliable ally of the United States against terrorism, and is a peaceful ally to its neighbor, Israel.  However, the Egyptian government is becoming increasingly authoritarian, highlighted by a recent report by a human rights organization that torture is common in police custody.  One such suspected case, involving that of an Italian student who was tortured to death, has embarrassed Egypt and caused a row with Italy.  The Egyptian government should come fully clean about the case—no matter how close to the President it rises.  Cracking down on Islamists is good, but it is necessary at the same time to respect human rights, press freedom and the independence of the judiciary and to tolerate dissidents or Egypt risks another revolution like the one in 2011 that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, with another possible takeover by the Islamists.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Quasi-Unilateral Selection of Vice Presidential Nominees by Leading Presidential Candidates Is Contrary to the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers

           The major American political parties’ Convention Delegates have the duty under their convention rules to nominate candidates for Vice President of the United States.  The Delegates must nominate and vote in favor of a candidate in order for that candidate to be their party’s vice presidential nominee.

In recent decades, however, it has become customary for the leading major party presidential candidates to recommend to their party’s Convention Delegates a vice presidential nominee, whom the Delegates have been accepting without making any other nominations and without even much opposition or debate, thereby making the vice presidential nomination a quasi-unilateral selection by the leading presidential candidate.  As people have become accustomed to this relatively novel practice, many of them now expect that the choice of a running mate is the sole prerogative of the leading major party presidential candidates and erroneously believe that anything to the contrary would somehow be against the rules or wrong, even though a selection by the Delegates is more representative than a unilateral one by the leading presidential candidate.

            Convention Delegates, who are the representatives of the members of their party, customarily had chosen their party’s vice presidential nominees through the 1950s, in the best interest of their party, often as a compromise, without any recommendation by the leading presidential candidate.  Dwight Eisenhower was the last President and Republican nominee who deferred to the Convention Delegates, instead of recommending a candidate.  The current practice of a quasi-unilateral selection by the leading candidate for the presidential nomination dates only from the 1960s. 

Among other potential problems of concern to the parties, this novel practice is contrary to good government because it violates the spirit of the Separation of Powers Doctrine of the United States Constitution.    

            It is necessary first to understand the office of Vice President.  The Vice President’s only constitutional role, other than being next in the line of presidential succession, is serving as President of the Senate.  This duty includes the power to cast tie-breaking votes, which is a strictly legislative power.  The Vice President is thus not an “assistant” or “deputy” President or “second in command” and the President is not the Vice President’s “boss,” as the Vice President is not part of the Chief Executive’s Administration; the President has no authority to delegate to the Vice President any duties, which is an even more recent practice.  Indeed, the Vice President is paid by the Senate, not the Administration.  Consider also that the President and Vice President are elected separately, as the Electors (members of the Electoral College) cast two separate ballots, one for president and one for vice president and, if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the two chambers of Congress elect the President and Vice President separately, the House of Representatives the President and the Senate the Vice President, respectively. 

As President of the Senate, the Vice President is one of the two heads, together with the Speaker of the House, of the Legislative Branch of Government.  The President is the head of the Executive Branch of Government.  These branches are supposed to check and balance each other, in accordance with the constitutional principle of the Separation of Powers.  If a President signs an unconstitutional bill into law, the Vice President ought not to cast a tie-breaking vote in its favor, but vote against it.  Furthermore, the Vice President is not even obligated to vote the way the President wishes on general substantive matters, but should exercise his good judgment, in accord with his conscience, as a representative of the States and the people.  Divisions between Presidents and Vice Presidents were not unusual, especially in the early decades of the Republic, and were obviously not fatal to it. 

The quasi-unilateral selection of vice presidential nominees by the major party presidential candidates produces vice presidential candidates who seldom disagree publicly with the presidential candidate who chose them and to whom they are thus obligated and, once elected, to excessively-loyal Vice Presidents who seldom disagree with the President.  Instead of being checks on the President, Vice Presidents are tempted to be sycophantic and thereby to fail their duty to represent the States and the people, uphold the Separation of Powers and defend the Constitution.  

To restore the principle of the Separation of Powers, leading major party presidential candidates should defer to their party’s Convention Delegates in choosing a vice presidential nominee.  If the presidential candidates do make a recommendation, instead of accepting their presidential nominee’s recommendation without opposition or even debate, the Delegates, as representatives of the members of their party, should exercise their good judgment, in accord with their conscience, and at least debate the merits of the recommendation and consider nominating other individuals.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Recent Conservative Republican Successes in Congress

           Conservative Republicans have been winning numerous federal legislative and court victories lately versus the liberal Democrats, from terrorism, the appointment to the United States Supreme Court, to the right to keep and bear arms to border control. 

            The majority Republicans in Congress have been able to continue to block the transfer of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the American homeland.  They have also declined to confirm liberal Democratic President Barack Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court and recently blocked the liberal Democratic minority from enacting legislation to restrict the right to keep and bear arms.

            Aided by the blocking of the appointment of a liberal Democratic Supreme Court justice, Congressional Republicans, together with Republican-led States, were also recently successful in thwarting Obama’s violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine of the Constitution by establishing an amnesty regime for illegal aliens through executive orders, which the Court struck down as unconstitutional.  A president has the power to grant amnesty, but only Congress may enact legislation, which was effectively what his executive order constituted.  The Court has ruled that Obama has repeatedly violated the Constitution through executive orders, excessive regulations or by abusing the power to make recess appointments.  

           In addition, Congressional Republicans have continued to make use of their power to conduct hearings to find facts in the process of conducting proper oversight over the Executive Branch.  This week, they released a report that demonstrated that the Obama Administration failed to respond adequately to the attack by al-Qaeda on 2012 on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knowingly misled the American people by blaming protests about a videotape for the coordinated attack on the anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks that killed four Americans, including the Ambassador.  Other members of the Obama Administration continued to blame the protests, as there was a reluctance to acknowledge terrorism was still a threat after Obama had minimized the issue during his reelection campaign by boasting of having all-but defeated al-Qaeda.  

Happy Independence Day! Timely Suggestions to Maintain Independence and Liberty on the 240th Anniversary of American Independence

           Today is the 240th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.  On July 2, 1776 in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress approved the resolution by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia that the thirteen British colonies in America were independent States. 

It was the date of July 2 that John Adams recommended be celebrated annually.  The Declaration of Independence, which explained the reasons for the separation from the United Kingdom, was approved two days later.  The prominent “July 4” on the great document’s heading led to the custom of celebrating American independence on that day.  Some of the colonies had already declared their independence before all the colonies acted collectively through their assembled representatives in Continental Congress.

We Americans should be grateful for the Founding Fathers and to those who fought for independence and liberty, as well as to all those over the centuries who have since continued to sacrifice to maintain our independence and liberty.  Despite recent terrorist attacks in the American homeland and against Americans and others abroad during this War on Terrorism, we can appreciate that there has not been an attack on the scale of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in nearly fifteen years, thanks to political leaders, servicemen and other public servants, and even to the innumerable contribution of civilians. 

To maintain American liberty, knowledge of the history of the American Revolution and of the Constitution and civics is essential.  A significant improvement in the education of Americans in this regard is urgently necessary. 

The expression of patriotism through appropriate displays ought to be encouraged, not discouraged by private homeowner associations, as happens frequently, and especially by government bodies.  Attempts to deny veterans the right to display American flags on their own property, for example, always end in liberty for patriots and ignominy for those who would deny their right.  It is appropriate that Americans celebrate their independence as Adams recommended, with speeches, parades, music and fireworks, especially on Independence Day, but also throughout the year by displaying flags and other patriotic decorations, reading about the American Revolution or visiting historic sites.  

In addition to defending independence and liberty militarily, through education and by patriotic displays and commemorations, liberty must constantly be defended and promoted politically, through representative government.  It is timely to recall that a particular contributing factor to the American Revolution was the violation of religious liberty, which is what led to religious liberty protections in state Constitutions and in the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Religious liberty is again in jeopardy because of the undermining in various ways by courts, legislatures and executives of religious and moral freedom of conscience, yet all liberty is dependent on freedom of religion.  Freedom of conscience in religious and moral matters is a longstanding American principle.  

We give thanks to the Founders and to all Americans who have sacrificed for independence and liberty.  May God bless America.  May Americans continue to enjoy independence and liberty for centuries to come.  I wish you all a happy Independence Day!