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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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa's Real Message? A Still Conflicted Tea Party Movement

By Michael Johns

At least for the next few days, the results of today's Iowa caucuses will dominate the political coverage of the tea party movement and the movement's influence on the 2012 Presidential election. But whatever those results end up being tonight, polls of individual tea party organizations continue to reflect a tea party movement deeply conflicted on which candidate is likely to best represent tea party principles and still defeat President Barack Obama in November.

The good news for the tea party movement's likely effectiveness in this year's general election is that the movement is united on supporting whichever Republican ultimately arises as the party's nominee. Scott Rasmussen, a pollster known for his accuracy, said December 30 that over 90 percent of tea party-aligned voters intend to vote for whichever Republican wins the nomination. That's bad news for Obama, whose top political advisers have hoped that the tea party movement would erupt in civil war over the primary process or, worse yet, support a third candidate, thus splitting the Republican vote.

Meanwhile, however, individual tea party organizations are reflecting deeply conflicting sentiments about their aspirations for the ultimate Republican nominee. In mid-December, reenforcing the promise of Newt Gingrich's candidacy, 23,000 members of the national tea party organization Tea Party Patriots granted Gingrich the most support among all candidates (with 31 percent saying they supported Gingrich), followed by Michele Bachmann (28 percent), Mitt Romney (20 percent), Rick Santorum (16 percent), Ron Paul (three percent) and Jon Huntsman (less than one percent).

Since then, however, two regional tea party organizations have announced candidate endorsements. In Illinois yesterday, the Rockford Tea Party announced results of its organizational poll, which was won by Paul (with 29 percent support) followed by Santorum (24 percent support).

Also yesterday, the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, which has supported conservative candidates in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, became the first tea party organization in the nation to endorse Romney.
In announcing the endorsement, however, the organization appealed mostly to the perceived electability of Romney in November's general election. The tea party movement, the organization said, has "come to realize, or will eventually realize, that the only way to defeat President Obama, whose policies are an anathema to conservatism and the tea party movement, is to rally around his strongest opponent, Mitt Romney."

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