It is, to use one of President Obama's more overwrought phrases, a "teachable moment." To be sure, it is neither the lesson nor the moment he had in mind, but liberalism is nothing if not an ongoing tutorial in unintended consequences. Less than a fortnight after the President urged the American people to reject those who, as he disparagingly put it, "…warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner," his administration proceeded to provide a taste of tyranny's power and reach.
For his part, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough acknowledged that, "My argument is less persuasive today because of these scandals. People say, 'Hey, if they do this with the IRS, asking people what books you read, then how can I trust them with information about my Second Amendment rights?'" On CNN, no less a champion of liberal causes than Piers Morgan conceded:
I've had some of the pro-gun lobbyists on here, saying to me, 'Well, the reason we need to be armed is because of tyranny from our own government,' and I've always laughed at them. I said, 'Don't be so ridiculous, your own government won't turn itself on you,' but actually, this is vaguely tyrannical behavior by the American government. I think what the IRS did is bordering on tyrannical behavior. I think what the Department of Justice has done to the AP is bordering on tyrannical behavior.
Concerning which, a few observations:
1. The point many of us have been making is not, as the President so fatuously claimed, that "tyranny is always lurking just around the corner." Rather, ours is the historically incontrovertible position that, A) government is organically inclined to aggrandize power unto itself, and that, B) such aggrandizement, incremental though it may be, typically occurs at the expense of human freedom, sovereignty, and dignity.
2. When a government seeks out and punishes select citizens on the basis of their political beliefs using its most powerful, its most feared, and its most unaccountable enforcement agency, unashamedly and belligerently stating before the people's elected representatives that it retains the legal prerogative to do so, that government is quickly growing out of control.
3. When the acting chief of this tax collecting agency refuses to denounce his agency's inquiries into the content of a private citizen's prayers, we are entitled not only to observe that the government no longer works for the people, but to draw quite obvious conclusions on the wisdom of entrusting this agency or this government with our healthcare.
4. When unprecedented intrusions on First Amendment protections of a free press are treated so cavalierly by an Attorney General who breezily testifies to his contented ignorance of it all, our concern over the security of the rest of the Bill of Rights is entirely justified.
5. When the President voices his continued faith and confidence in this blissfully incurious and benighted Attorney General, we are right to be alarmed.
6. When, in the midst of these fundamental transgressions on our liberty, the President departs to a campaign stop, from which remove he labels these assaults as "fleeting issue(s)," he betrays a disturbing indifference to such rights as he took an oath to uphold.
7. In so doing, the President has not only underscored the folly of his earlier denunciation of those who remain skeptical of ever-expanding government; he has not just validated Lord Acton's warning that, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely;" but he has vividly re-certified the continuing relevance of America's Founders.
8. James Madison's observation in Federalist 51 is as fresh and relevant as the morning's headlines: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." And Thomas Jefferson appears to have read the Democratic Party's platform when he advises that:
I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on his ground: That all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people (10th Amendment). To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible to any definition.
So while we welcome the epiphanies of Messrs Morgan and Scarborough, and hope they will hang around awhile and help the rest of us in a continuing defense of the Bill of Rights, along with the rest of the Constitution, it's not an assurance we can "take to the bank," as they say. The liberal infatuation with centralized authority runs deep, after all. From Franklin Roosevelt's early admiration of Mussolini's handiwork to the gushing praise of American progressives over Stalin's governance (typified by Paul Robeson's remark upon his return from a visit to the Soviet Union that, "From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!"), the liberal heart swoons to the siren song of paradise on earth and of human perfection, accomplished through the force of persuasion if possible, at the point of a gun if necessary.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony," goes the old Coca-Cola jingle. The liberal, upon learning that not everyone wants to sing, and that perfect harmony is unachievable without total conformity to a prescribed sheet of music, goes from teaching to instructing. Individualism is at first discouraged, and then eventually rooted out as instruction yields to regulation. For those who still cling to their individual sovereignty, refusing to conform to the designs of the liberal maestro, harassment and coercion are the order of the day, resulting in headlines announcing the IRS's tormenting of those who resist the designs of the state on their lives, beliefs, and property. It is all utterly predictable, utterly diabolical, and totally unfathomable to adherents of paternal government.
It is likely only a matter of time before Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, Dana Milbank, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, the Associated Press and the rest make their prodigal way back to the welcoming arms of Barack Obama and his legions of government enthusiasts. Unfortunately, more epiphanies are coming, not the least of which will be the colossal train wreck of Obamacare. When it is too late, perhaps a few of them will understand that the masterpiece of modern liberalism was unveiled long ago by Alexis de Tocqueville:
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.