Friday, February 17, 2017

The Roar of the Forgotten Man and Woman: Why Trump Prevailed--and Deserved To

By Michael Johns

On February 14, 2017, I spoke to the Cornell Political Union at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on the promise of Donald Trump’s Presidency. My lecture, "Trumpism Can Make America Great Again," follows:

Last time I was here was over a year ago when my son Michael was looking at Cornell. He loves this school and this organization—and anything he loves, I do too. So thanks to all of you for the work you do, the discussion you facilitate, and the important contribution you make to this great institution. Cornell is one of the world’s premier universities, and your intellectual curiosity and search for answers to our world's and nation’s problems are a big contribution to that greatness.

On the drive up here tonight, I happened to see how this university describes itself on its Twitter feed. It’s a great description: "Teaching tomorrow’s thought leaders to think otherwise and create knowledge with a public purpose." Tonight I’m going to do exactly that: I’m going to try to get you to think a little differently—to see what over 60 million Americans saw when they voted for Trump, and we’ll do all of this with the spirit that we’ll use this knowledge to serve the higher public purpose of enhancing the greatness of our nation, which requires of each subsequent American generation that they defend and continually improve it for all Americans.

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We have just undergone the closest thing to a revolution in American politics as one can have in our Constitutional Republic, and tonight I will attempt to explain it objectively. I will speak tonight not to the few of you here who may already support Trump, nor those of you who consider yourselves conservatives or Republicans, but to the vast majority here tonight that I’m sure do not. These are the facts and sentiments that led to an electoral outcome you no doubt did not want and did not predict—but I’m convinced need to understand.

I come tonight not to defend Trumpism, even though you will find no more passionate advocate for it. Literally since his announcement on June 16, 2015, I defended him consistently on television, radio and in many forums—and I sought to defend or at least explain him to those prone not to hear or process his important message.

So I come to Cornell tonight not to defend Trumpism but to explain it.

For eight years and maybe longer—the totality of your adult lives in fact, this nation was headed in a decidedly left of center and globalist direction. Under this recent administration, we saw the problems of other countries as inherently ones we were obligated to solve. In many cases, we even wrongly blamed ourselves for these problems. We entered into trade agreements that worked well for other nations but failed the American worker. We opened our nation to legal and illegal immigrants—and bent over backwards to accommodate their needs, desires and cultures but never considered the impact we were having on our citizens.

This created what Trump correctly labeled in his Republican Convention acceptance speech "the forgotten man and woman"—the working American whose economic plight worsened on the watch of Obama and whose country became less identifiable to him and her. And this past November 8, the "forgotten man and woman" had seen enough—and their voice was heard loudly.

What inspired all this passion in these forgotten men and women?

Let me deal tonight with facts:

Employment: All of you have probably heard and followed the employment trends announced each month and quarter by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. You heard, for instance, that unemployment under Obama seemed to be stagnant, or even reduced. And it was always reported in single digits. In the final month of Obama’s presidency—December 2016—it was reportedly 4.9 percent, which seems not unreasonable.

But these numbers excluded the biggest story of American unemployment—the long-term unemployed and those who’d simply given up looking for work. While the short-term unemployment came down, it was only because many of those short-term unemployed Americans moved into the long-term category and ceased being reported in the primary BLS monthly survey number, which is really just a poll subject to all the inaccuracies one might see in any poll.

The employment reality in the country is actually much worse than reported. In fact, there has really been essentially zero job creation for native American citizens since 2000. The total number of Americans holding a job increased 5.7 percent from 2000 to 2014. But if you back out jobs taken by legal and illegal immigrants, the number of Americans holding jobs actually decreased 17 million between 2000 and 2014. When the longer-term unemployed are included, the number of jobless Americans is not 4.9 percent. It’s at least almost twice that—9.5 percent, and some believe considerably higher than even that.

Seldom reported in these routine "official" employment statistics was the fact that, under Obama, the number of Americans not in the labor force kept creeping upward. In December 2016, this number of Americans not in the labor force reached an all-time high: 95,102,000. That's nearly thirty percent of our entire nation. On Obama’s watch, it’s a fact that a bad employment situation got even worse and that the "forgotten man and woman" has been hurt and is hurting.

Economic growth: We first began formally recording the most important economic growth metric—gross domestic product growth—in the early 1930s. In the time since, every President until Obama had at least one year under their leadership where the country’s GDP grew by at least three percent. But in eight fiscal years under his management, Obama was the first president since GDP was first recorded to not have even one year of three percent growth or higher. On economic growth, as with jobs, Washington has been failing the "forgotten man and woman."

Debt: On Obama’s watch, our national debt doubled from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. This incremental, additional $10 trillion in debt that Obama added literally exceeds the cumulative debt total of every U.S. President from Washington through George W. Bush. In his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama famously said that George W. Bush’s contribution to the public debt was literally "unpatriotic" in his words. But Obama then went on to double it—all without ever retracting his "unpatriotic" comment about Bush or questioning his own patriotism.

Taxes: Under Obama, our corporate tax rate was—and still is--the highest in the developed world, which has made the U.S. an increasingly uncompetitive location to do business—and it showed as company after company left during his and previous administrations. And despite Obama’s campaign promise that he would only raise taxes on the rich, he increased them substantially on working Americans too, including with taxes associated with Obamacare and the penalty for non-enrollment. In fact, despite his campaign pledge, Obama increased over 20 different taxes that specifically penalized and harmed the poor and working class American. On taxes too, the "forgotten man and woman" was both betrayed and forgotten.

Poverty: Obama ran for election in 2008 promising to lift up the nation’s poor, and that’s a goal we conservatives share too. It was a centerpiece of his campaign. Yet here too, he failed by every significant metric. The nation’s poverty rate was higher on Obama’s departure than it was upon his arrival, increasing roughly 3.5 percent on his watch. Real household income decreased 2.3 percent during his presidency. And under Obama, Americans’ dependence on food stamps rose considerably—to an all-time high of 47 million Americans, or 13 million more than before Obama took office. Great lip service was paid to addressing poverty, but here too the "forgotten man and woman" was left worse off.

Regulatory costs: Regulations too were no friend to the "forgotten man and woman." Obama imposed over 20,000 new regulations on the American economy—many of them offering negligible value and all of them weighing heavily on working Americans, whose employers were forced to absorb over an astounding $700 billion in costs associated with these regulations, which harmed employment, harmed wages, made America less competitve, and ultimately harmed the “forgotten man and woman” considerably.

Home ownership: Home ownership admittedly might be exaggerated as an indicator of a nation’s economic healthiness but it’s certainly a metric that most want to see increasing. But like just about every other indicator under Obama, it moved in the wrong direction on Obama’s watch, falling 5.6 percent during his eight years in the White House.

Wages: One of the most important metrics to the "forgotten man and woman," wages did not come even close to keeping pace with inflation under Obama, especially in such important sectors such as housing, food and tuition. In fact, for roughly 35 years, as we ignored the "forgotten man and woman," wages in this nation have been outpaced by inflation, contributing to economic despair and anxieties for the "forgotten man and woman."

Healthcare: When Obama ran for president in 2008, he told us over and over again about the 42 million Americans without health insurance—and also about how he would fix this problem. And don’t worry, he famously and repeatedly promised, "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. And if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance."

But eight years later, there are still tens of millions of Americans without any health insurance—and for those who enrolled in the Obamacare plan, which had to be passed, Nancy Pelosi said, so we could know what was in it, it turned out to be a vast expansion of federal intrusion into Americans’ healthcare and a program that offered little real value to most since both its premiums and deductibles were cost prohibitive.

If Obamacare costs you roughly $5,000 a year in monthly premiums and the deductible is that or even more, can you really say you’re insured? For most Americans, Obamacare has proven a very costly catastrophic care plan that was nothing as advertised. And contrary to what Obama promised, millions lost their health insurance and lost their doctors as the new coverage mandates forced employers to drop plans, and physicians left insurance plans that were paying lower allowables or proving unduly bureaucratic and time-consuming from a claim filing perspective. Again, the "forgotten man and woman" was betrayed.

Legal and illegal immigration: This is a sensitive topic because we are all correctly taught that we should be inclusive to people, religions and cultures that are different from our own, and I agree that we should.

But it’s also true that the mass legal and illegal immigration of the past few decades has shaken the fabric of many communities. Where English was once spoken universally, it is now spoken less so. I saw one public high school recently where 22 languages were spoken. Accommodating these students who were not fluent in English had become the preoccupation of the school—and at the expense of basic learning.

And of course we have all read of the other changes that have shaken the foundation of traditional American society. The decorated Christmas tree that once stood every December in the public square and was a source of community pride is now deemed offensive to some immigrants who reject Christianity and want its symbolism removed from communities where it is has long stood. "Christmas break" must now be called "winter break." And the "forgotten man and woman" is deemed "insensitive" if he or she is not welcoming to all aspects of foreign cultures, sometimes up to and including Sharia law that violates the very foundation of the American Constitution.

As millions of immigrants entered the U.S.—both legally and illegally--from seemingly every Third World nation of the world these past few decades, no one paused to ask the "forgotten man and woman" how they felt about it, or whether it was strengthening or dividing their communities and nation. The reality is that this mass immigration has driven up unemployment, driven down wages as the labor pool has expanded but jobs have not, burdened public resources that were already heavily burdened, and been at the core of several brutal terrorist incidents and many, many criminal incidents.

To the "forgotten man and woman," it’s difficult to understand why we need more people in this nation when we have nearly 100 million Americans not in the labor force; our schools, highways, hospitals, welfare programs and other public resources are increasingly overcrowded or stretched thin, and when these many immigrants have arrived in the U.S. wholly unprepared and sometimes even unwilling to integrate into our nation. And there has been a substantial cost to taxpayers from this mass immigration. As of 2010, the cost per illegal immigrant to American taxpayers was nearly $25,000 per illegal immigrant, including child welfare, education, and public infrastructure costs.

Then there’s the issue of all of the associated crime committed by these illegal immigrants. I often hear that "not all illegal immigrants are criminals," which of course is untrue. The first thing they did upon entering our nation was break our federal and state laws. But many have gone on to commit still more crimes, and many very serious felonies.

A few years ago, I was one of the first to write of the case of Josh Wilkerson, an 18-year-old Texan who was beaten to death, strangled and set on fire by an illegal immigrant who had many times before been deported. When Josh’s mother Laura buried her son, the mass immigration and open borders advocates were nowhere to be found. She received no letter or condolences from Obama. She was, in so many ways, the quintessential "forgotten American."

Nor are these one-off cases. In 2014, illegal immigrants were an estimated 3.5 percent of the total U.S. population but comprised 36.7 percent of all federal criminal sentences. That’s an astonishing and alarming statistic—and once again the victim is almost entirely the "forgotten man and woman." The "forgotten man and woman" was victimized by the crime in most cases. And the "forgotten man and woman" is left with the burden of paying to incarcerate an illegal immigrant who never should have been here in the first place.

And then there is the issue of drugs. The porous southern border has become a primary entry point for some of the country’s most harmful drugs, including heroin, Fentanyl and a wide range of opioids. As the children of the "forgotten man and woman" fell victim to addiction and overdoses, not one singular national political leader took action on the obvious first step in solving the crisis: Closing the open southern border through which most of these illegal drugs were entering our nation. In fact, for thirty years at least, both parties in Washington have talked about securing our southern border, but they never did. It took Trump to answer this call from the "forgotten man and woman" to take the hugely reasonable step of securing it. The chant "build that wall" heard at seemingly every Trump campaign rally in the 2016 presidential campaign was the chant of the "forgotten man and woman" who had witnessed first hand the costs to our nation of inaction on securing our southern border.

Trade: In the early 1990s, as a foreign policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., I championed the North American Free Agreement, or NAFTA, as a trade agreement that would prove positive for both Mexico and the United States. We got it at least half right. It clearly benefited Mexico, as our trade deficit with Mexico expanded and whole companies picked up and moved there. But the benefit to Americans was not a net positive. And this has been the case with American trade with just about every one of our largest trading partners the past few decades. We have shipped jobs and cash to nations of the world, and they have shipped us goods somewhat cheaper than we may have produced them ourselves. It’s also true that trade does also create American jobs. But on the whole, because our trading partners manipulate their currencies, fail to meet the regulatory standards and costs incurred in the U.S., and pay their workers substantially less, these trade agreements have largely been rigged from the beginning against the "forgotten man and woman."

Consider the staggering statistics of trade deficits with our largest trading partners:

China: $579 billion trade deficit.

Japan: $69 billion trade deficit.

Mexico: $63 billion trade deficit.

As companies and manufacturers have left communities across this nation—and this is especially true in rust belt states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others—they left emptiness, hopelessness and desperation in their wake. Laid off by the departure of these companies, the "forgotten man and woman" and their entire communities have never since been quite the same. Drive through these states, and this fact is self-evident—and the "forgotten man and woman" will be more than happy to tell you all about it if you ask.

American strength in world: Most Americans have grown up in a nation where we have been seen globally as the world’s leader. Most saw us win the 45-year-long Cold War without firing a shot. They heard Reagan say "tear down this wall" in 1987 and then watched it fall just a few years later. Most Americans know well of how our engagement in World War II essentially saved the world. It is the view of most Americans that America should not be illogically engaged around the world. Nor can or should we seek to solve every world problem. But American strength to protect itself and address the world’s most serious crises until these past few years has never been much in question.

Over the last eight years, however, the "forgotten man and woman" watched as our military was decimated and dismantled. They saw Obama label ISIS a "JV team," only to see ISIS go on to expand its reach throughout Iraq, Syria and—through terrorist attacks—into the EU and U.S. itself. They saw Obama declare a "red line" in Syria designed to halt the humanitarian suffering in that region only to do nothing after it was violated. They saw several thousand great Americans come home from Iraq in body bags—sometimes only because their military equipment and manpower was deficient for the battlefield. They saw four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, die brutally and needlessly in Benghazi only because saving them would have proven politically inconvenient to Obama's 2012 reelection. And they saw our enemies—Iran, North Korea, and to some extent Russia—move aggressively and uncontested to expand their own military might and global reach.

In fact, on Obama’s watch, the American military fell to its weakest state of readiness at any time in history since World War II. Our fighter aircraft are the oldest and our fleet the smallest in a long period of time. For the first time since World War II, there was a period under Obama when we literally had not one naval carrier at sea anywhere in the world. Our ship strength also fell on his watch. And our ability to confront a major threat to American security from a formidable enemy—much less our ability (should the need arise) to fight two conflicts at once—fell to its weakest point since World War II. These were not oversights by Obama; they were part of a calculated policy of weakening America and thus leaving it more vulnerable than ever to aggression, terrorism and other security threats. Instead of building a military force that was best suited to fight and win wars if necessary to defend American security and interests, the "forgotten man and woman" watched on as the singular focus seemed to be turning the American military into a politically correct social experiment.

Energy: At a time when we could and should have been substantially decreasing our dependence on foreign oil we purchase—much of it from nations that don’t particularly like us—Obama refused to develop the Keystone Pipeline, to expand drilling in the U.S. and its waters, and to substantially increase our development of petroleum, natural gas, clean coal and other energy sources in our nation. In the meantime, Obama crippled the American energy sector with extensive and prohibitive regulations that only deepened our reliance on energy resources from countries not so burdened. The "forgotten man and woman" looked on as American energy workers needlessly lost their jobs from these policies and as the inability to utilize our domestic energy resources contributed to ever higher energy prices.

Infrastructure: And finally, on the issue of our national infrastructure—our airports, train systems, interstate highways—Obama talked a big game about "shovel-ready jobs" and allocated a lot toward these ends. But he has left office with our air, train, highway and other transportation systems in a state of unprecedented disrepair and certainly not competitive with other developed nations of the world. Meanwhile, many American conservatives and Republicans—skeptical of government’s ability to do much of anything well—offered no real solution to the problem. Trump, of course, arose with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and promised to make our infrastructure cutting edge again and do so in a timely and cost-efficient fashion. It was a promise the "forgotten man and woman" was waiting to hear.

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All of this was the background and environment in which the 2016 presidential election took place. One candidate, Hillary Clinton, ran openly as a third term extension of these negative trends. She refused to acknowledge almost any of these as major problems. In fact, she wanted more of it—more refugees, more illegal immigrants, more regulations in our economy, more government intrusion into health care, even higher taxes, more government, and a continuation of a failed national security and foreign policy agenda that emboldened enemies, alienated allies and timidly refused to even utter the name of "radical Islamic terror."

Additionally, at a moment when Americans were seeking a more harmonious identity, Clinton instead continued the Obama agenda of identity politics. In seemingly every speech, she spoke of the women’s vote. She spoke of the Hispanic vote. She spoke of the African-American vote. And she spoke of the gay vote. But at almost no time did she recognize what the "forgotten man and woman" believe—that the aspirations of Americans really do not vary by gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We want economic growth, job creation, peace and security, good schools, safe communities. At a moment when the American people wanted a unifying message, Clinton could not bring herself to break with the identity politics on which her Democratic Party increasingly rests.

Trump was much more astute. He saw that the typical American voter had seen enough of business as usual in Washington, D.C. He called out politicians and the dysfunctions they created and offered solutions to the trade, immigration and fiscal policies that were harming the "forgotten man and woman." He promised a rebuilding of American defenses, support for American law enforcement, tax and regulatory cuts to stimulate our economy, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, renegotiation of trade agreements in terms that would be fairer to American workers, an end to illegal immigration, and a commitment to protecting an American identity that ultimately defines all of us as Americans.

Some final comments on the significance of all of this: I believe Trump’s election is precisely the sort of historic shift that the Republican Party needed if it were to survive as a national political force. If you look at 2008 and 2012, it was clear that neither McCain nor Romney, nor the messages they communicated, spoke to what the "forgotten man and woman" wanted to hear. Their candidacies were doomed to fail.

But with Trumpism, the Republican Party can once again say that it is in fact the party of working Americans.

And this, I believe, ultimately points to the legacy of Obama—not just that he left the nation worse than he found it, but that on his watch the Democratic Party was reduced to a minor, far-left political party with narrow appeal geographically and demographically.

The ultimate metric of Obama’s legacy is not just all of the statistics I have cited tonight. It’s this number: 1,030. That’s the number of state government, gubernatorial and Congressional seats the Democrats lost on Obama’s watch as he ignored and argued with the "forgotten man and woman."

It’s true that Trumpism is shunned and misunderstood by mainstream media and at prestigious universities like the one at which we gather tonight. Ultimately these institutions too need to decide whether they wish to participate in the mainstream of American political discourse, or, as was just the case with the Democratic Party, be reduced to a minor sideshow.

What’s not misunderstood, however, is that the "forgotten man and woman" has been heard loud and clear. And should Trump execute on the promises and commitments he’s made, as I believe he will, the Republican Party and indeed this nation are going to be vastly better for it--and America will be great again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Legacy of Antonin Scalia

By Michael Johns

When I first became engaged in national public policy and politics in the mid-1980s, the conservative movement had a saying, which I believe originated with former Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner: “People are policy.” In essence, the phrase represented our collective recognition that success (or lack thereof) ultimately rested with the people of our movement. Without capable and committed conservatives, little was possible. But with them, nearly anything was.
               
In the years since, we have lost a number of American conservatives who were more than just capable and committed. They were and are conservative icons whose work helped shape and develop American conservatism—and our Tea Party movement—as the major global political and intellectual force it is today.

Who are these icons?
  • Austrian school economist Ludwig von Mises, who provided much of the intellectual foundation of today’s free market economic thought, left us in 1973 at age 93.
  • Prominent anti-communist Whittaker Chambers, who fled the Communist Party, went on to articulate fundamental truths about communism and ultimately outed State Department employee Alger Hiss as a Soviet agent, died in 1961 at age 60.
  • Author and intellectual Russell Kirk, who helped define many of the enduring principles of conservatism, died in 1994 at age 75.
  • Ayn Rand, whose individualist fictional writings have proven hugely inspirational to our national Tea Party movement, died in 1992 at age 77.
  • William F. Buckley, Jr., who inspired many of today’s most prominent conservative intellectuals and writers, died in 2008 at age 82 (read my 2008 tribute to him here).
  • And of course (most prominent of all), our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, who proved that conservatism can win and succeed as a governing political force, died in 2004 at age 93.
This weekend, sadly, we add one more icon to that list: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, whose extensive legal opinions and thinking were rooted in the conservative view that the “original intent” of the U.S. Constitution’s authors must guide modern law, has died at age 79.

Scalia deserves his place among conservative icons that have helped shape modern conservatism. Appointed to the Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1986, Scalia was a reliable conservative presence on the Court for three decades. He defended the rights of the unborn on a Court that largely did not. He opposed affirmative action as antithetical to the principles of equality under law. He defended the death penalty as legally permissible. At the core of these and many other rulings and opinions was a simple yet vastly critical concept: That the U.S. Constitution should be taken for what it says and what its authors intended—and nothing more or less.

Scalia’s written opinions on the Supreme Court rival those of liberal Thurgood Marshall as the most consequential legal opinions of modern times.  In Boumediene v. Bush in 2008, Scalia correctly dissented from the Court’s majority view that terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay were afforded legal rights of due process essentially indistinguishable from those of American citizens. The Court’s ruling, Scalia wrote in his dissent, “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

In the critical Second Amendment case District of Columbia v. Heller also in 2008, Scalia wrote for the majority that the right of Americans to keep and bear arms was to be taken, as it is written in the Constitution, literally. “What is not debatable,” Scalia wrote, “is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

And most recently (and prominently), it was Scalia, in Obergefell v. Hodges last year, whose scathing dissent on this same sex marriage case argued that religious liberty was stomped on in the Court’s ruling. In his dissent, Scalia wrote: “The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

In addition to his defense of original intent on the Court, it should be remembered, Scalia never shied away from his Christian faith in a city and Court that increasingly shuns it. When one of his law clerks once refused to attend church with him, Scalia emailed the young clerk: “I shall tell the Creator of the Universe you were too busy to see him.”

As our national Tea Party movement enters its seventh year, our work, values and political positions benefit from being rooted in the thinking of some of the greatest conservative minds this nation has ever produced.

Antonin Scalia, we must remember, was one of them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

This November, Remember the Benghazi Four


As far as cemeteries go, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in the Point Loma area of San Diego is likely among the most beautiful and pristine. Its bright green grass extends to the deep-water San Diego Bay on one side and the vast Pacific Ocean on the other. Over 100,000 upright, identical marble headstones lie in meticulous order, marking the final resting places of brave American veterans from the Mexican-American War of 1846-1847 through the present.

One of these graves belongs to an American hero, Tyrone S. Woods, who should still be alive. Woods, who served the United States for over two decades in the U.S. Navy Seals, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and ultimately as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contract agent, was killed in an attack by Islamic militants in Benghazi, Libya on the evening of September 11, 2012. Three other U.S. officials, U.S. Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, fellow CIA contract agent Glen Doherty, and U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens also were killed.

The story of Benghazi, like many of the Obama administration’s other policy failures, is tragic and angering for many reasons, but especially because it was preventable. Prior to the attacks, the Obama administration, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was warned repeatedly that the Benghazi compound was highly vulnerable to such an attack and in urgent need of additional security.  The requests for additional security never came.  Then, on the evening of September 12, the Obama administration was asked repeatedly by U.S. officials in Libya for permission to intervene against the Benghazi terrorists. Like the additional security, that request also was denied. And then, following the attack, the Obama administration lied to the American people about the fact that Benghazi was undeniably a terrorist attack (coming, in fact, on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks).

On January 15, encouragingly, the true story of Benghazi was unveiled in brilliant detail in the new film 13 Hours, directed by Michael Bay (who directed TransformersArmageddonPearl Harbor and other successful films).

Americans should make a point of seeing this extraordinary film—and for many reasons. On the most basic level, 13 Hours tells the story of Benghazi with granular accuracy. On a deeper level, though, it’s really the story of the heroic instincts of five Americans in Libya who compassionately and heroically sought to intervene to save their fellow Americans under siege that day and the Obama administration, which found such an effort a political inconvenience two months prior to the 2012 presidential election and refused their requests.

In the days following the attack of Islamic extremists in Benghazi, the Obama administration misled the American people repeatedly, stating that the Benghazi attack was unrelated to terrorism when they knew undeniably it was terrorism. “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al-Qaeda-like group,” then Secretary of State Clinton emailed her daughter Chelsea at 11:12pm the night of the Benghazi attack. The following day, Clinton told Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil that “the attack had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

These were the lies of Benghazi. But there also were lies about the War on Terror more generally, which the Obama administration sought (for political expediency) to say was being won.  It was a theme (and a lie) central to Obama’s 2012 campaign—and one the administration continues to tell to this day.

As we’ve learned painfully in the years since Benghazi, al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist movements around the world have expanded significantly on the Obama administration’s watch, largely because the administration set arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines for the removal of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and because it failed (and still fails) to have the fortitude necessary to confront radical Islamic terrorism decisively, or even to utter its name.

In recent months, following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and just a few weeks ago in Philadelphia, the Obama administration has continued to go to great lengths to deny the reality that these and other terrorist incidents are connected, coordinated and conducted in the name of Islam.

The story of 13 Hours tells how they did the same in Benghazi, ordering American officials to stand down in their effort to save fellow Americans under siege and then lying about Benghazi’s etiology, seeking to depict it as some spontaneous outrage against an anti-Islamic film that never happened. The American people were sold these lies by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who promptly took to Sunday talk shows to say Benghazi was not an act of terrorism and ultimately by then U.S. Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who brazenly lied to the families of these four fallen American heroes as their remains were returned to Andrews Air Force Base three days after the attack.

Politically, the Obama administration ultimately succeeded in permitting enough doubt to surround Benghazi that it became largely a non-factor in Obama’s November 6, 2012 reelection. But reality has a way of fighting back, and the reality of Benghazi is now reaching the American people with one of this year’s greatest films, communicating with impeccable accuracy the betrayal of the Benghazi four. 


Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Our Tea Party Movement Should Honor MLK

By Michael Johns

In the early 1980s, as my interest in politics and my now three-decade alignment with American conservatism first began, I distinctly remember one of that time’s prominent public debates: Should a federal holiday be developed and named for American civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.?
               
Like now, issues then often became quickly contentious and polarizing.  Conservatives and liberals saw the world and nation ultimately in very different ways and each held their views with self-righteous adamancy. So it was, at least initially, with the King debate.

Newly elected conservative President Ronald Reagan initially opposed the holiday, not on the basis that King did not hold a special place in United States history but that the cost of a federal holiday in his name would prove prohibitively costly to the nation. But the real opposition, espoused by then U.S. Senator Jesse Helms and others, cut more to the definition of King as a person. In 1983, when legislation that would have authorized the holiday reached the floor of the U.S. Senate, Helms argued that King held views that he then labeled “action-oriented Marxism.”

Nonetheless, it was Reagan who, in November 1983, ultimately signed a bill creating the day as a federal holiday. “Let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day,” Reagan said on November 2, 1983 following his signing the bill creating the holiday.

Placed in comparative context, it’s an extraordinary recognition.

Other than King, George Washington is the only person who has a U.S. federal holiday named in their honor.  While we honor Christopher Columbus with a federal holiday the second Monday of every October, several states (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota) refuse to commemorate it.  There is no federal holiday for Thomas Jefferson, who authored our Declaration of Independence and helped lead our nation’s independence, nor Lewis and Clark, who spearheaded the first American expedition of the American West, or Abraham Lincoln, who preserved the nation amidst civil war and effectively abolished slavery, nor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who guided the U.S. to victory in World War II and ushered the nation through the Great Depression, nor Reagan himself, who most have come to conclude brought an end to the Cold War without firing a shot.

Yet, just as Reagan ultimately came to support and sign legislation supporting the King holiday, the Tea Party movement today has good reason to recognize this great man’s leadership and the holiday named in his honor for at least four significant reasons:

1.)    King’s vision was to end racial identity: While the civil rights issues of the time required King to appropriately lead the crusade for equal representation of African-Americans, close scrutiny of his words and actions reveal his underlying message was that race should never be used to separate Americans.  Despite a modern Democrat party that bases almost its entire political strategy on selfishly dividing the American people by race, religion, gender and sexuality and a liberal political culture that still champions affirmative action on many levels, King never sought special privilege for African-Americans or any race. As King famously said in his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Were he alive today, King almost certainly would reject the tactics and messages of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others who wrongly represent that they are carrying on King’s message and activism.

2.)    King believed that people, even more than laws, defined our nation: While much of the civil rights debate at the time understandably centered around what were and were not federal governmental responsibilities and how to protect the civil liberties of all in rule of law, King equally believed that the character of the American people were just as influential and impactful. King was a devout Christian who was on record at the time advocating many of the traditional values the conservative and Tea Party movements support today. He supported the traditional family and vehemently opposed abortion and saw both positions as vital to the social fabric of African-Americans and the nation as a whole.

3.)    King championed fiscal and personal responsibility: Just as it is seldom recognized today that King almost certainly would have been a vehement opponent of the abortion industry and culture that has developed in our nation, so too are we rarely told that King was a significant champion of personal responsibility. In the last book he authored before his death, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, King praised hard work, thrift and self-reliance. Were he alive today, he likely would see merit in many of the same messages our Tea Party is advocating and communicating about the limits of government’s responsibilities and the self-destructive nature of its punitive policies toward industriousness and productivity.

4.)    Like the Tea Party today, King was targeted by government for peacefully challenging unjust policies: Just as the Internal Revenue Service (almost certainly at the direction of the Obama White House) has illegally monitored and targeted our Tea Party movement because it feels threatened that our common sense message may inhibit their ability to control and mislead the American people, King too was targeted for his peaceful opposition to the country’s then unjust laws. As the Obama administration fears the Tea Party movement’s peaceful organization and message, the Kennedy and Johnson administration feared King. Then Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover famously kept King under surveillance and maintained an active FBI file on the civil rights leader. 

As we close the 30th consecutive Martin Luther King holiday today, the trepidation to embrace King among many conservatives and Tea Party members, I believe, is not rooted in any lack of recognition for the bravery and ultimate success of his constructive efforts, but that his period of U.S. history is used so frequently by American liberals to challenge our contention that our nation is both exceptional, unique and divinely guided. But how can that be, liberals like to ask, when our government, a mere few decades ago, denied basic civil rights to both African-Americans and women?

The answer is this: Unlike totalitarian nations that crush human and civil rights crusaders who threaten their power structure, or European nations that continue to inhibit individual rights and organize their societies predominantly on familial, hierarchical societal structures, our nation has been one of ongoing progress led by individual and collective crusades to improve our nation and expand liberty with each consecutive generation, to make it more just and successful and to enhance individual opportunity for all Americans.  American exceptionalism lies not just in our nation's unequaled and exceptional founding on a set of extraordinary ideas and ideals, but in our continued commitment to perfecting and promulgating these principles in each subsequent generation.

The Tea Party movement most certainly carries on in this great tradition, just as King did with his civil rights leadership that we properly commemorate today.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

13 Hours of Heroism

By Michael Johns

“By the rude bridge that arched the floor, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled. Here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.” 

The words are from the introduction to The Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and they capture the heroism that was at the heart of the American Revolutionary War launched by American patriots at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.The “shot heard around the world” was an act of heroism. Without it, there may never have been a United States. Without hundreds of individual and collective acts of American heroism since, our nation likely would never have persevered.

Several years ago, our national Tea Party movement began referring to themselves as “the three percent.” It referred to the fact that, among the American colonists of the 1770s, the battle for liberty was not waged by all, or even most. A mere three percent of the population participated in the Revolution, even though many more (roughly 40 to 45 percent supported it).This has largely been our nation’s experience with heroic acts since. While the nation embraces these acts in theory (especially once they prove successful), they are acts of heroism precisely because not everyone has done, or could do, them.  After they unfold, we typically look back with a largely revisionist sense that all Americans embraced these causes and selfless acts at the time.  In fact, it’s seldom the case.

Roughly fifteen months after Lexington and Concord, heroism again manifested with the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It was signed by a mere 56 Americans and written almost exclusively by one, Thomas Jefferson.  In retrospect, the 56 founders who signed the Declaration actually had every reason not to sign it.  Most lived lives of relative tranquility and luxury for the time and were not ultimately the primary beneficiaries of the liberty and independence the Revolution achieved.  Yet, they acted—as did the unknown patriot who fired the “shot heard round the world”—out of principle over practicality, and this also made them heroes who pledged their lives to a cause that they likely knew at the time could have failed miserably and (in the case of the American Revolution) was not even embraced by a solid majority of citizens.

Every generation of American history to date has had its heroes.  The iconic ones, of course, are etched in stone: Washington and his soldiers at Valley Forge in the brutal winter of 1777-78, Lincoln and his perseverance as the nation threatened to fracture, and the political and military commitment to victory over fascism and later communism by a series of American leaders and patriots.Throughout what ultimately proved to be the final days of the Cold War, I saw firsthand the depth of commitment of American-led rebellions against Soviet hegemony in Africa, Asia and Latin America that comprised the foundation of the so-called "Reagan Doctrine."

As was the case with the American Revolution itself, these efforts were both supported and opposed by many but carried out by only a few. Sadly, many of those few never lived to see the post-Cold War world they helped create.  They were killed in action, as was the case with Angola's Jonas Savimbi, or they were assassinated, as was the case with Afghanistan's Ahmad Shah Massoud and Nicaragua's Enrique Bermudez.  But had the Soviet Union not encountered the brave resistance of these leaders in places like Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua, former Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev likely never would have reached the conclusion that retreatment and reconciliation, not continued investment in Cold War conflict, was in his nation’s best interest.  Had that proven the case, what world might exist today?

In very recent months, of course, ths tradition of American heroism has continued.  When an Islamic terrorist from Morocco entered their train car with an AK-47 machine gun and 300 rounds of ammunition in France last summer, it was three brave Americans (Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone) who jumped immediately to the passengers’ defense, likely saving the lives of many.  “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” French President Francois Hollande later said of their efforts.

And this past week, in Philadelphia, police officer Jesse Hartnett, who sustained multiple gun shots from an ISIS-inspired terrorist, heroically persevered against the terrorist, even in his bloodied and bullet-ridden state.  “Shots still…shots fired. I’m shot. I’m bleeding heavily. Get us another unit out here. 6-0 and Spruce,” Hartnett can be heard saying in a chilling Philadelphia police radio call as he stumbled from his car to pursue the terrorist, who was apprehended.

This Thursday (January 14) evening, the ongoing story of American heroism continues with the national release of 13 Hours, an exceptional and historically accurate film that compellingly tells the story of six brave Americans who navigated the Obama administration’s political trepidation and intervened in defense of American personnel under attack by al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

Release of the film is prompting broad Twitter use of the hashtag #AHeroIs, as Americans reflect on the many other acts of heroism they have witnessed in their own lives or interpreted in their assessment of America's bold history.

While four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed in the Benghazi attack, the efforts of these five American heroes over the 13-hour conflict in Benghazi likely saved the lives of many others.  

13 hours tells this compelling story of Benghazi, a continuation of the long-standing tradition of American heroism.  It's an important story, and one all Americans should make a point to see.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Tea Party: Then and Now


The largest and most impactful grassroots political movement, at least since the civil rights movement and perhaps in all of American history, originated in the minds and efforts of less than a couple dozen Americans.  

It was late February 2009, just weeks after the inauguration of Barack Obama, and there was every reason for conservatives to fear the worst: That we had elected a polarizing, far left and ultimately ineffectual president who would prove a threat to constitutional law, our economy and America’s global standing in the world.  Most concerning was that he would gradually or even quickly erode our nation's two centuries of respect for individual rights and liberties upon which America was founded, “fundamentally transforming” (as he promised) our nation in destructive ways.

On the morning of February 19, 2009, as was often the case, I had the financial media outlet CNBC playing on a distant television in my suburban Philadelphia home.  This particular cold February morning, Rick Santelli, a Chicago-based CNBC reporter, was doing his usual stand-up reporting from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade (COMEX).  Santelli began reporting on Washington’s federal subsidies of housing under Obama when mid way through his report his sense of outrage began to escalate passionately.

Santelli accused the Obama administration of "promoting bad behavior" in subsidizing mortgages then at default risk with a $75 billion housing program, known as the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. He then turned and, while still live on CNBC, stated assertively to COMEX floor traders: "We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party!" His suggestion of a Tea Party response to the federal government’s overreach was greeted with supportive applause and whistles of approval from COMEX traders. Santelli then said: "What we are doing in this country is making our founders roll over in their graves.”

I found Santelli's Chicago comments accurate, inspirational and even bold for a mainstream reporter in a media world that really never challenged Obama on much of anything during or since the 2008 campaign. What I did not realize was that his remarks were viewed similarly by several other conservative-leaning Americans, who would go on to inspire a national political movement that would shake the nation.

The day following Santelli’s rant in Chicago, roughly 22 conservative activists, including me, were invited to participate in a strategic organizing Tea Party conference call moderated by Nashville-based, Stanford-educated conservative Michael Patrick Leahy.  It was Leahy who earlier launched the now famous #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter) hashtag, where it remains today one of Twitter’s most commonly used hashtags and a key methodology for conservative communication. 

Most on the call, unlike me, were new to political engagement.  They had largely never worked in government, public policy or politics. Aside from Leahy and me, the others had never managed an organization either.  They had largely never written or spoken on political or public policy themes, even though all of us would soon be called upon to articulate our Tea Party message nationally and even globally in the weeks to come.  Most had never even worked on a political campaign.  But the passion on that call was infectious.  The 12 or so of us left it with a feeling that a potentially influential national political movement was emerging—and quickly.

Several follow-up calls were scheduled, and they led us to devise a now well-known plan for Tea Party protests across the nation on Tax Day, April 15, 2009.  The aggressive six-week timeline, like much that the Tea Party movement has undertaken since its creation, was organized hastily, with a sense of urgency, and not without its errors. But April 15, 2009, is now a fairly notable day in American history in the sense that it was the physical manifestation of a national political movement, comprising tens of millions of Americans and quite possibly the largest in American history, that would go on to impact significantly the nation’s political debate and power structure.

The day of April 15, 2009, was a busy one. For my part, in the afternoon, on Boston Square in downtown Boston, just blocks from the original Samuel Adams-led Tea Party on December 16, 1773, I spoke to a large and passionate crowd furious with Obama and the country’s direction.  I then left Boston to speak that evening at one of the nation’s largest tea parties of the day, held in lower Manhattan, not far from the memorialized 9/11 attack location. Three days later, on the grounds of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, I spoke for a third time in just three days to a very large and vibrant Tea Party rally organized by the Independence Hall Tea Party Association, of which I was then an officer. 

The years 2009 and 2010 were full of flurry and a sense of urgency for the national Tea Party movement, an urgency that has continued to this day.  In 2010, in Quincy, Illinois, where Lincoln held his sixth debate with U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas on October 13, 1858, I joined Leahy and the late media personality Andrew Breitbart in addressing a large Tea Party crowd on the precise location where Lincoln pointedly articulated his anti-slavery message: “We (the Republican Party) also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread itself,” Lincoln said that day in Quincy. 

By this time, the message of our movement was being refined and polished, comprised mostly of three universal themes that were and continue to be both constructive and broadly popular with the American people: First, the federal government has grown too big and its taxes vastly too excessive.  Second, the sovereignty of the United States—in controlling its borders, in developing its national security and foreign policies, and in other matters-- must be defended at all costs.  And third, that the U.S. Constitution was a document containing absolute truths to which government needed to adhere if it was to avoid lawlessness, chaos and an erosion of its foundational liberties.

As I was in Boston and New York City, Leahy and others organized one of the day’s largest and most successful events in Nashville, drawing thousands.  In downtown Chicago, just a couple blocks from where the Santelli rant heard round the world took place, another Tea Party founder, Eric Odom, organized a large and hugely successful Tea Party rally.  

Quickly, the passion and activism of this small cadre spread to thousands, then tens of thousands, and ultimately to millions of Americans who identified themselves as being supportive of the Tea Party movement. On November 2, 2010, a highly motivated Tea Party movement rocked the nation, sending 65 new Republican House members to Washington and thus forcing then Speaker Nancy Pelosi to surrender her gavel to new Republican Speaker John Boehner. Four years later, on November 4, 2014, the Tea Party movement again proved a huge difference maker, further increasing Republican presence in the U.S. House and increasing its U.S. Senate seats by nine, including pulling out wins in hugely contentious races in many states, including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota. 
  
Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Tea Party Caucus, chaired by former Congresswoman Michele Bachman, had been developed with the movement’s input to coordinate the Tea Party agenda in Congress.  And the national strategy discussions continued. In Chicago, for instance, Odom and I spent three long days in detailed discussion on the movement’s strategy, messaging, decentralized structure and allocation of limited resources. 

In the months and years since, along with other Tea Party founders from the February 2009 conference call, we continued tireless efforts of what by then had become a vast, influential, though sometimes chaotically organized movement of political consequence. All the Tea Party movement founders from Leahy’s first conference call are impressive in their own ways, and have their own personal stories about what sparked their leadership in this now historical movement.
In the years that followed, along with other national Tea Party leaders, Leahy, Odom and I crisscrossed the nation articulating the Tea Party message and helped to organize the movement politically in order to prevail in elections.  

In Dallas, for instance, Leahy organized a national Tea Party leadership meeting that included many of the founders from the original February 2009 conference call.  “Let’s begin this meeting with a prayer to God for His guidance of this movement,” I suggested privately to Leahy, who agreed. We began the meeting exactly that way.  Later, also in Dallas, we organized a two-day training course for regional and other Tea Party leaders on political and public policy activism.

One of those leaders was Chicago-based Eric Odom, who has been an ongoing national Tea Party force--and a friend.  Odom had been a part of the first Tea Party organizing calls and influential in the development of the successful April 15, 2009 Tea Party rally in Chicago.  In fall 2010, from Las Vegas, Odom and I poured ourselves into the final days Nevada State Senator Sharron Angle's U.S. Senate campaign in hopes of replacing the Obama administration’s strongest Senate ally, Harry Reid.  As the movement’s prominence (and the associated strategic questions facing it) evolved, I found Odom one of the movement's most constructive leaders.  We visited together for strategic discussions in Chicago.  And on my home turf of Philadelphia, I invited Odom to join me in addressing a large and important pre-election Tea Party rally held on the iconic grounds of Independence Hall in front of the very building where 56 founders of our nation pledged with a “firm reliance of the protection of divine providence,” their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to remove imperial British forces and rule and establish a self-governed nation rooted in liberty and the rule of law. 

But together Odom and I also helped each other laugh off the obsessive, unjustified and inaccurate politically-motivated criticism we endured by organizations supported by billionaire liberal George Soros and others whose agenda has been to mortally wound our movement.  Some of it bordered on the outrageous.  In May 2011, for instance, Odom and I were leading a highly confidential national Tea Party strategic leadership call when Lizz Winstead, creator of Comedy Central's Daily Show, and liberal comedian Elon James White crashed our call after call details, secured codes and other information were leaked or surreptitiously obtained by a still unknown source.      

The Tea Party movement’s efforts, as even its detractors would concede, have since proven hugely consequential, ensuring that Obama, at least since 2011, was not given full reign of the legislative and executive branches of government.  A Tea Party-influenced Republican House and Senate, along with our extensive grassroots efforts, have held liberal Obama’s agenda at bay, despite the Tea Party’s ultimate inability to defeat Obamacare.  Along the way, tens of millions of Americans, comprising all races, religions, political party affiliations, and demographics, have embraced our work and embraced our patriot and Tea Party labels.   

Since that first February 2009 conference call, the founding and ongoing development of the historic Tea Party movement is comprised of many intriguing personal stories, and a singular collective story.  Along the way, we have done many things well (removing Pelosi and then Reid as Speaker and Majority Leader, respectively), strengthening the Republican Party as a party that stands more than before for conservative principles expressed (but too often ignored) in the GOP platform, and we also quickly obliterated the 2008 progressive political culture that maintained that Obama was a man who singularly held the answers for the nation.  Time has proven his ideas were not at all innovative and were actually just a rewording of those from the liberal playbook of more government and more taxes.  In all these ways, since those February 2009 planning calls, the national Tea Party movement has exceeded the accomplishments of the effective and well-constructed 2008 Obama for America campaign that ultimately propelled Obama to the presidency.

All this history is important because it reaffirms the veracity of Margaret Mead’s famous statement: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It’s worth asking: If those first organizing calls had not been launched, would Republicans today control the U.S. Senate and House? If no, that means that Obama’s entire far-left political agenda would have been rubber stamped by an equally liberal Congressional leadership.  Has the Tea Party movement saved the nation?  I believe it likely has.

Yet, to be truthful about the inner workings of the Tea Party movement, we have done many things well, but failed in others.  In 2015, the Tea Party and patriot movement’s top priority must be communicating and impacting public opinion and explaining why and how Tea Party principles can make America great again: creating jobs and economic prosperity, restoring rigid adherence to the U.S. Constitution, and restoring a strong America that can defeat serious national security threats.  We must demonstrate to the American people, as they already seem to be recognizing, that liberalism is a false religion ultimately about the manipulation of society for political ends.  

With a reliance on divine providence again, let’s roll back this utterly destructive, unconstitutional government and welcome in a century or more of strong liberty leadership.  Next step: We must explain our Tea Party vision and solutions for America.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Listen to the American People: Secure Border, No Amnesty

By Michael Johns      

“He was tortured, beaten to death, strangled and then set on fire,” Laura Wilkerson said earlier this month in McAllen, Texas. She was recalling her beloved 18-year-old son Josh, who was brutally murdered by illegal alien Hermilio Moralez in November 2010.

The details of Josh Wilkerson’s murder are gruesome. Moralez, in the United States illegally from Belize, violently kicked Wilkerson in the stomach, slicing both his liver and spine and rupturing his spleen. The illegal alien then proceeded to beat Wilkerson over the head with a closet rod with such force that the rod ultimately shattered in four pieces. With Wilkerson defenseless and motionless, Moralez then took two dollars from Wilkerson’s wallet, purchased gasoline, and set Wilkerson’s motionless body aflame. Moralez's mugshot reveals a young man smiling smugly. Later, at his trial, the illegal alien would speak from the stand about how he was a “trained killer” and that his “killing instincts” had taken over. There was no remorse.

Young Josh Wilkerson is just another life lost and another cost paid in a long list of lives lost and costs paid because Washington, D.C. policymakers continue to fail to do what logic and all sensibility dictate should have been done decades ago: Securing the United States border with Mexico so that illegals are not afforded access to the United States.

The U.S. federal government’s multi-decade failure to secure its 1,989-mile border with Mexico now stands as the most glaring example of both major political parties’ ongoing refusal to be responsive to the American people’s overwhelming belief that this border needs to be secured.  Josh Wilkerson’s murder stands as just one of many examples why it is now perhaps the most critical issue facing the nation, presenting increasingly grave economic, security and other threats.

It’s worth asking the obvious question: With more than 35,000 illegals monthly now crossing the border into the U.S., why exactly has this border not been sealed? Laughingly, the Obama administration has said that the border with Mexico is more secure than it has ever been. It’s a sentiment shared by Congressional Democrats. “The border is secure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid absurdly stated last month. Other policymakers acknowledge the obvious, but obfuscate the issue, speaking wrongly of supposedly insurmountable challenges associated with keeping illegals from entering the country.

The reality, of course, is the very opposite. The U.S. border with Mexico is consciously not secure because (for decades now) both parties have seen a political self-interest in ensuring it is left unsecured. Democrats, envisioning ultimately granting citizenship to these illegals, see the influx as politically advantageous: Millions of largely government and benefit-dependent illegals who, once afforded amnesty, will (Democrats believe) represent a groundswell of additional votes for their party and its candidates, possibly ushering in generations of Democrat victories in national and regional elections. Similarly, some Republicans, influenced by the desire of some private sector forces to attract cheap, illegal and sometimes sub-minimum wage labor resources, see the influx as a means to breaking organized labor and serving as a deflationary force in the largely blue collar and labor positions these illegals are likely to assume. Never stated openly is this reality: The U.S. does have a policy on the border, and it is--scandalously--to keep it open.

In many respects, it is exactly this sort of unresponsiveness of elected officials to the concerns of the American people that gave birth to America’s Tea Party movement in 2009. Five years later, the practical reality of Washington’s unresponsiveness is such that this crisis may now well be left to the Tea Party movement to solve. Should the Tea Party embrace this cause, as we must, the movement can count on more ridicule from Washington elites. But the Tea Party will find an ally in the American people, who see the seriousness of the border crisis, resoundingly support logical conclusions to it and importantly believe this administration has been at least complicit and likely even a force behind the latest influx of illegals that now threatens the nation.

Support for border security and opposition to amnesty is broadly popular. In a Rasmussen Poll taken last month, on July 17, a clear majority of likely voters (59 percent) were clear: They want those who have entered this country illegally to be returned to their home countries. And the American people largely recognize this is not a blameless crisis: Another Rasmussen poll, also taken last month, found that nearly half of likely voters (46 percent) believe the Obama administration, through its policies and statements, has contributed to it. Understandably, an overwhelming majority of Americans (58 percent, according to the same poll) believe the top priority in the crisis is for the U.S. to gain control of its border.

The arguments for urgently securing the border with Mexico and opposing Washington’s illogical amnesty initiatives are extensive and they strike at the very heart of the issues that most concern Americans:

1.) National security. The American people have patiently endured extensive and intrusive governmental security measures since the September 11, 2001 attacks, ostensibly designed to protect the country against an al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist attack. They can be forgiven for asking a reasonable question: What point exists in prohibiting American citizens from boarding U.S. airlines with, say, 3.5 ounces of non-flammable liquid, as opposed to the mandated 3.4 ounces, when literally any non-citizen--including the bloodiest of terrorists--can simply walk across our southern border?

As it is today, our government cannot answer basic questions about the flood of illegals across our border. How many illegals exactly have crossed the border and are in this country? There are only estimates (more than 12 million and as many as 20 million or more). Where in the U.S. are these illegals located? Answer: Just about everywhere, but no government agency can say exactly. And how many of these millions of foreigners have crossed the border illegally with malicious intentions for this country? We do know that they have included members of a broad range of global terrorist movements, violent gangs (including arguably the most violent, MS-13) and felony criminals, including murderers, violent criminals, rapists, and sexual offenders. And even when (by good fortune alone) they have been detained, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have released thousands of these illegal felons into the general U.S. population. As evidence of the utter lack of border security to criminals and potential terrorists, videographer James O’Keefe last week released video of him crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. dressed as Osama bin Laden. What barriers did O’Keefe encounter in entering the U.S. dressed as the infamous al-Qaeda terror leader? Answer: None.

2.) Jobs. America’s job crisis is vastly worse than what one might gather from the numbers released monthly by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which systematically exclude the many millions of Americans who comprise the long-term unemployed and those who have simply given up looking for work. Including these, there are roughly 102 million working-age Americans without jobs as of August 2014, an all-time high and growing. A stunning study released by the Center for Immigration Studies this past June found that all of the net gain in American jobs created since 2000 has gone to illegal and legal immigrants—that is, there has been no job growth for 14 years for native U.S. citizens.

It is absurd that the obvious must be stated: Basic supply and demand economics indicate that granting amnesty to the estimated 12 to 20 million illegals now in this country will only further exacerbate the U.S. employment crisis, both adding to the existing number of jobless Americans and also contributing to wage deflation (lower pay) as a greater number of Americans compete for a fewer number of existing jobs. As such, it should not prove surprising that sealing the border and opposing amnesty are items very high on the agendas of traditionally progressive constituencies, including labor unions and African-Americans, both of whom correctly see amnesty and a failure to secure the border as a recipe for higher unemployment and wage deflation, especially in traditional blue collar and lower wage occupations.

3.) Public resources. It is perhaps the greatest irony of all that progressives who clamor for vastly greater federal and state funding for health care, education, transportation and other public services are also those spearheading the opposition to border security initiatives and amnesty support. The influx of millions of illegals has only made all of these mounting problems worse as illegals consume these resources (and, of course, pay no offsetting federal or state taxes in exchange for them).

4.) Fairness. Many millions of foreigners from all over the world are, right now, legally seeking U.S. citizenship. The legal process to obtain U.S. citizenship is cumbersome, bureaucratic and lengthy. Unlike the illegal aliens now here because of their brazen disregard for U.S. federal law and national sovereignty, these would-be U.S. citizens follow this process both legally and patiently. Under amnesty proposals, however, these foreigners, those we might call “legal immigrants,” continue waiting in their foreign lands as those who crossed our southern border in violation of U.S. federal law are rewarded with U.S. residency, access to many of our country’s public benefits and infrastructure, and ultimately citizenship. These illegals will enjoy the backing of an entire U.S. political lobby that (motivated by its own selfish political and economic agendas) seeks to reward their lawless entry with the same highly-coveted U.S. citizenship denied those now following the process legally.

5.) Will of the American people. There are few issues on which Americans are more united than the fact that the borders of the country should be secure and that those who enter this country illegally in violation of U.S. federal law should not, in turn, be rewarded. The American people remain understandably compassionate towards those fleeing tyranny, but they are united in their logical, on-target conclusion that open borders and amnesty are harming the U.S. in multiple ways. Indeed, perhaps never before in the modern history of the conservative movement, has there been such an enticing opportunity for conservatives (and now the Tea Party movement) to build political alliances with unions, minorities and low-wage workers than there is right now in supporting an urgent securing of the U.S. border and opposing amnesty, showing that the Tea Party and conservative movements stand with working Americans and the rule of law.

Of course, all of these are facts lost on most Washington policymakers who are increasingly disengaged from the sentiments and concerns of the American people they purport to represent. Americans in 2014 are hurting. Failing to secure the border and granting amnesty to millions of illegals stand to further inflame these problems, damaging the already anemic U.S. job market, increasing crime and the demand on public resources, and perhaps even opening the door for what Americans have feared most since September 11, 2001: a coordinated terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland. These are deadly serious problems. But a political movement that can, right now, understand and communicate these facts with the urgency they require is likely to find broad support among the American people.

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