Yesterday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visited Drew University in New Jersey, where he took questions from 20 political science majors there. When one asked him how the government could justify stripping rights from Americans in such pieces of legislation as the Patriot Act, Gingrich said that the government has a “right to defend society,” and when under threat, “people will give up all their liberties”:
“If there’s a threat, you have a right to defend society,” Gingrich said. “People will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat.”
Gingrich is directly contradicted by Benjamin Franklin, who rejected the notion that one should give up one’s liberties out of fear:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
This disagreement is significant, because Gingrich considers Franklin one of his heroes. He prides himself on his Pennsylvania upbringing, where he says “it was easy…to imbue a deep sense of the freedom that is at the heart of the American tradition,” and he frequently invokes Franklin to buttress his conservative claims about individual responsibility and religion in public life:
“Only Franklin personified the striving, ambitious, rising system of individual achievement, hard work, thrift and optimism found at the heart of the American spirit. Only Franklin worked his way up in the worlds of business and organized political power in both colonial and national periods. Only Franklin was a…creator of the American mythos of the common man.” [LINK]
“During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin (often considered one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers) proposed that the Convention begin each day with a prayer. … [T]he Founding Fathers, from the very birth of the United States, saw God as central to defining America.” [LINK]
“Franklin, who was quite old and had been relatively quiet for the entire Convention, suddenly stood up and was angry, and he said: I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men, and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without His aid?” [LINK]
Gingrich accuses “the secular Left” of trying to rid religion from public life, thereby “distorting the Constitution to achieve a goal that the Founding Fathers would have found to be a fundamental threat to liberty.” Yet it his own cavalier subordination of civil liberties in the name of national security that would truly offend the Founders.
[featuredcomment]Doc Rock Says: “’All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones.’
‘I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.’
‘A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.’