"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
A Guru's Advice to a Presidential Hopeful
So, you want to run for president of the United States. Good for you. As your political guru, I need to cover a few things with you. First, you're a multimillionaire, right? You're a billionaire? That's even better. And of course you're either a Republican or Democrat. You haven't decided yet? Let me suggest flipping a coin. Your strategy during the campaign is to smile a lot and say the right things -- with conviction. I shouldn't have to tell you what I mean by the right things. A thing is right if it can never be pinned on you. Trouble is, though, if you say only right things people won't remember you. So you need a campaign issue that separates you from the pack. That's where I come in. I'll give you an issue that a few years ago would have been unthinkable, but which now is proper and logical. If handled properly, it'll be the decisive factor in giving you the White House. Realize that we are in a new era of history. People haven't fully digested it yet, but you'll help them along. You need to make sure the word 'security' comes out of your mouth as often as possible. The voters are shopping for security; they aren't shopping for freedom. This is the part they're having a hard time with. Freedom has such a wonderful ring to it, but they know unrestrained freedom is life-threatening. 9-11 and the Great Depression prove their case conclusively. So, if you're going to mention freedom, always couch it in terms of government inroads, like 'We need a strong homeland security department to preserve our freedom. Patriot Act XII will give us the tools we REALLY need to protect our freedom.' Whenever Americans go on an orgy of freedom, they get hurt. Government has to step in and save them. You, as the head of government, will save them by spending their money. Remember that -- you're here to spend. You're spending money for protecting the people. That's what they want to hear. Of course you don't tell them it's their money you're spending; you simply call for increased budgets. If they don't hear you talk about spending, they won't trust you. They'll conclude that underneath your coifed exterior runs a streak so mean you'd let them run their own lives. What would you expect from people who've never heard of Mises, Rothbard, or Bastiat? Funny thing is, they no longer have the money to run their own lives. You've taxed it away from them. They depend on you to spend it for them. You know from history that massive spending is part of the joyride that ends in a bust. So you're rightfully worried about what you would do if a recession should occur on your watch. Yes, you can blame it on the other Party, but that doesn't always go over convincingly. Better for you that people don't mind the bust at all. But how on earth will you insulate them from economic pain? Two things: extended unemployment pay-outs and invasive war. You look surprised. Yes, war has always been an incumbent's ally if used smartly. But invasive war ensures you pick the time, place, and opponent. You now have the perfect climate for attacking any country you choose. There are America-haters everywhere. Simple prudence demands that you prevent these animals from striking us first. So that you may campaign for unlimited spending without worry, let's review a few facts: 1) Since 9-11 we are in a perpetual state of crisis, which means you have to make some tough choices. But in a crisis, the patriotic will support their president, even if their leader puts them out of work or drafts them. 2) The world is full of countries with murderous rulers. Any one of those states can be proclaimed a threat to national security at a moment's notice. Any state except the U.S., of course. It's hard to hit terrorists. Any president who can read a map can hit a country. Selecting an opponent is easy. Start by getting your court intellectuals to spotlight the sins of some sordid regime. Any one will do as long as it's far away, is puny (i.e., has no nukes), lacks viable allies, and will be little or no cost to your financial holdings or reelection prospects. 3) You're commander-in-chief. You're leading armed men into battle against an evil foe -- never mind that you're leading from a fortress called the White House or, if need be, some remote spot where Air Force One and a squadron of F-16s can haul you. You look strong, heroic. This is the kind of leader the people want -- one who will crush foul, America-hating dictators. 4) Once the actual shooting starts, lips are sealed. Your conduct during war is above criticism -- any conduct, not just of the war itself. The economy and the tawdry side of your personal life vanish from public discourse. Your many media pals stand ready to lynch anyone who steps out of line. 5) With all eyes on the war front, you're able to do some much needed work behind the scenes at home. This is where you jam the knife into that annoying curse called the Bill of Rights. You're doing it for the people's protection, should anyone ask. 6) The people will expect a quick, no-fuss victory. Your handlers have picked an opponent who will fall quickly. 7) Your war will be popular even with your congressional opponents. When allocating the many billions of dollars needed for the war's down payment, friends and foes alike can pile on the pork. 8) A war victory lasts a long time if it's managed right. People who didn't do the fighting will love savoring it. It's like watching their favorite team sweep the World Series. They'll remember you like they remember Joe Torre -- a winning manager. They won't remember you as the manager of a team that swept Little Leaguers. 9) A crushing victory gives you countless photo ops. You can copter onto a carrier in full battle fatigues and praise the military for their superb skill and courage. Scenes of the commander-in-chief shaking hands with the men who did the fighting melt American hearts. Just don't get too close to the wounded. War's supposed to be glorious, not messy. If the invaded people aren't demonstrative in their appreciation, you can order a roundup and have them dance in the streets for your embedded cameras. 10) And lastly, your greatest reward -- the military's glowing performance will raise the esteem for government in general. If you can pound the stuffing out of some hapless Third Worlders, the sky's the limit -- you can do anything. The economy's lagging? Send in the Marines, ha-ha. A war winner can do no wrong. What's that? This is all too good to be true? You think there has to be a catch somewhere? You're right, but it's more like an opportunity. Listen closely; this is where your campaign takes a sharp turn. American presidents have worn a straitjacket called the Constitution for over 200 years. True, it's mostly a museum piece now, but that very fact gives pause for consideration. Why put up with it if it gets in the way? Aren't Americans -- the ones who vote -- generally happy with the way government handles its undertakings? Are they not pleased with the buildup of government intrusion into their lives? Elections are opportunities to vote for bigger government or bigger government. If they didn't like those choices they wouldn't vote. Since the Constitution gives the federal government very little to do, this obsolete document is obviously in conflict with our voters' way of life. People vote for politicians for any number of reasons, but not because they promise to obey the Constitution. So let the people speak. Let them remove what remains of the shackles binding our politicians. Let this be the highlight of your campaign -- retire the Constitution. Let the forces of government flow unrestrained, so that it may save us from ourselves.