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Obama and Cruz: Two Harvard Peas in a Pod Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Monday, 30 September 2013

During my forty-five years as a political activist, one group of pols has gotten my dander up time and again: Harvard Law School graduates. Many of them are overly strident and have an inflated sense of themselves. They believe they are above the rules of civility and fair play (and sometimes above the law) because they think they’re the smartest people in the room.

Over the years I have culled a long list of sanctimonious crimson graduates that include Senator Charles Schumer and former N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer.  But today, given the threat of a government shutdown by this evening, President Barack Obama and Senator Ted Cruz top my list.

After five years in office, President Obama still believes he is always right and anyone who challenges his vision is unworthy, insensitive, evil, and morally and intellectually bankrupt.  He takes no responsibility for our fiscal, economic and cultural woes.  Instead he blames George W. Bush and Republican legislators.

Obama has had no reluctance to undercut the very foundations of our democracy and to impose the rule of a single elite. Hence, he has not been bashful about ruling by executive fiat.  He has ordered his minions to force Catholic institutions to cover morally objectionable procedures in their health insurance plans, while not enforcing laws on the books like the Defense of Marriage Act. And his administration has executed immigration policies that violate existing statues.  He has arbitrarily suspended parts of the Affordable Health Care Act he signed into law because he determined they are administratively or politically inconvenient to enforce.

The junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, while on the side of the angels when it comes to several hot-button issues that matter to Catholics, also exudes Harvard Law School arrogance.

 He believes he was elected to office last November to uphold his principles in the halls of the Senate no matter the long-term consequences.  He has referred to Republican colleagues who disagree with his tactics and his crusade to defund Obamacare as “squishes” and that they betray the opposition to Obamacare.

It appears that both Obama and Cruz fail to understand that the national government was purposely designed by the Founding Fathers to ensure a certain amount of gridlock in order to force all factions to compromise and to forge a consensus.  They wanted to make sure that no branch of government or chief executive or congressional cabal possessed too much power to impose its political will or agenda.  They wanted to curtail impulsiveness in politics that could lead to contagious epidemics that pass bad legislation that was not property vetted (i.e., Obamacare).

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, argued for three branches of government to avoid political decisions that were “impetuous,” “overheated” or “hasty.”  Madison wanted federal government to be “focused on ‘permanent’ needs rather than immediate desires.”  That’s why the U.S. Senate is called the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Madison believed that the government was framed to reconcile order with freedom.  In Federalist 51 he described why that was necessary, and he drew on knowledge of human nature and a larger religious perspective:

It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 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. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
He continued:
In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each [is] subdivided among distinct and separate departments.  Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people.  The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.

Conflicting parties and philosophies and a system designed to be inefficient prevent fleeting majorities and demagogues from becoming tyrannical.  “America’s public policy dysfunction exists,” George Will has pointed out “not because Democracy isn’t working, but because it is.”

To learn to govern, the Harvard men should look to Ronald Reagan.  He negotiated agreements consistent with his vision and principles, but concluded, “If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say you take it and fight for the rest later, and that’s what I told those radical conservatives who never got used to it.”

Senator Cruz and his Congressional confreres must learn that the “my way or the highway attitude” is not going to work – particularly when the GOP controls only one half of one branch of the government. They need to look to seasoned colleagues who fought against passage of Obamacare, and wisely argue it will collapse under its own weight.

If they refuse to negotiate and to achieve what is possible and the government closes down – which could happen before today is out – there will be untold long-term damage to causes they claim to champion.  The backlash from the 80 percent of Americans who oppose a shutdown could cost control of the House, any hope of achieving a Senate majority in 2014, and the presidency in 2016.

The next two federal election cycles are very important for the future composition of the U.S. Supreme Court and for religious liberty issues.  We can’t afford cul-de-sac tactics that might give momentary satisfaction but cause irreversible harm.

Unlike his fellow Harvard alum, Obama, who refuses to negotiate and accuses opponents of being “extremists” and “anarchists,” Cruz should take a lesson from the man from Eureka College who understood Madisonian democracy and, as a result, became a transformational figure.

 
George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
 
 
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Comments (26)Add Comment
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written by Jack,CT, September 30, 2013
Could not agree more!
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written by Michael Pakaluk, September 30, 2013
I'm puzzled by your "two peas in a pod" idea. It seems to me that on your own principles you ought to be praising Senator Cruz for effecting "a certain amount of gridlock in order to force all factions to compromise and to forge a consensus.
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written by Jacob, September 30, 2013
The younger generation isn't very receptive of your thesis that America is great no matter how many babies are murdered and it's just this or that person who is responsible for all the evil in it.

We're all Nazis now, most of us are just delusional but we'll find a lot out in Purgatory!
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written by stoney, September 30, 2013
If you think that Obamacare (which is not about healthcare) is going to go away if we just let it fail, you are sadly mistaken. When has something that is obviously a failure, ever stopped liberals from shoving it down our throats anyway? It must be blasted at all possible times. Go Cruz.
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written by Sir Mark, September 30, 2013
I have a very serious question. How do we get Obama to compromise? Oh, and by the way, where did you get the idea that the man from Eureka College was above holding his ground and refusing compromise? I seem to remember him walking out of negotiations with the Soviets. I seem to remember him firing all the air traffic controllers. I seem to remember many things that you appear to forget.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 30, 2013
When you're right, there's no negotiation. Christ didn't negotiate with the truth. I'll support the Harvard graduate Cruz; I am sure he would have no difficulty disclosing his academic records. Obama is a falsifier from the start.
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written by Deacon Jim Stagg, September 30, 2013
Thank you, Mr. Marlin, for the history lesson from James Madison.

While I agree fully with your perception of Schumer, Spitzer and Obama. and probably more Harvard grads on whom we could both agree, your perception of Ted Cruz is cross-eyed.

I rise to Cruz's defense only because he, alone of the "group", fights against issues that harm his constituents, and us others in different states. Cruz, being a freshman senator, has nothing to "offer the masses", as do the others......even though their promises are hollow. His description of "squishes" seem to match my list, exactly, including an Arizona senator (former presidential candidate) too humbled by dementia to serve the country any longer.

Some of us feel that Ted Cruz is a principled person with the best interests of the country at heart; needless to say, the others do not qualify.

Tread lightly on Mr. Cruz, please.
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written by Philip Knaff, September 30, 2013
Mr. Marlin correctly identifies the Obama administration as being immoral, destructive, undercutting the foundations of democracy and attempting to establish the rule of a single elite. Mr. Marlin then proceeds to indict Mr. Cruz for not negotiating and compromising with the administration. He asserts that Mr. Cruz does not understand the design of our representative republic. He cites Madison's Federalist Papers as evidence of how our government is structured and the explicit requirement for factions to negotiate and compromise with each other. While alluding to Madison's famous characterization of people as greedy, vindictive and rapacious, he fails to cloak the Obama administration in these terms. President Obama's popular election was not the apotheosis of Madisonian divided government, but instead was the ultimate victory of factionalism. Madison would be the first to insist that there is no cooperation with despots. The ACA was passed as a budget reconciliation bill in the middle of the night along strict party lines. It was passed in contravention of evidence that it was unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable. Congress may constitutionally pass illegitimate and partisan laws that benefit only certain groups at the expense of the national welfare. It is, however, the duty of all of those that oppose such measures to do so with all tools at their disposal. Mr. Marlin's reliance on Madison is misplaced. Madison's view of human nature and consequent call for limited government has been ignored. Madison would object both to the ACA a a matter of substance and as a matter of process. Senator Cruz should stand firm as the true defender of Madisonian government. Mr. Obama represents the forces of despotism, cronyism, and corruption. Perhaps Mr. Marlin's many years as a political activist have blinded him to the Leviathan into which government has grown and the evil men who seek to control it. We should all stand with Ted Cruz before we are all forced to worship before the White House.
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written by Athanasius, September 30, 2013
I agree with this article. Sometimes it is better to make a difference than to make a statement. There are victories to be won here, such as keeping current spending at sequester levels, and pointing out the inconsistency of Obama giving corporations a year of reprieve from the mandate but not giving this to individuals. This has to be an incremental fight.

Politics is the art of the possible. I have some respect for Cruz, but he has to recognize which fights are winnable. That is the skill Reagan had, to know which fights were winnable.
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written by William Manley, September 30, 2013
Just as every fetus has a right to life; every person has a right to affordable medical care. Obamacare may not be perfect but at least it's a start. Let's give it a chance. Our task as Catholics is service to others: protect the unborn, feed the hungry, and heal the sick.
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written by Henry, September 30, 2013
By the way where did Justice John Roberts go to school? [Harvard Law - ed.] To hope or believe that any single entity in our government will collapse of its own weight is based on dreams. Dreaming on in place of cleaning up our mess as we go seems more like a loser.
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written by Matt, September 30, 2013
You have misjudged the times.

Compromise on principles has failed as it is the political right that gives the left the 80 to 90 % of what they demand. This process of transformation is called Incrementalism and has been very strong since the 1960s.

Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals”, that is actually dedicated to Satan , has some of the most powerful people in the world as adherents (ex. Obama and Clinton). These folks are deeply imbedded into our governing, educational and cultural power structures and are taking Incrementalism to the next logical stage - Coercion by the state supported by the media.

We are now on the precipice as a Republic and beyond the point of a "Christian" country. Obama's picking and choosing of laws to enforce or not enforce, of picking winners and losers, of granting exemptions to friends, of imprisoning the innocent and releasing the scoundrel, gives evidence that the U.S is a banana republic as even the pretense of the rule of law has been discarded.

And what is your complaint in the face of this? Of the most powerful nation in the world becoming a great dark force? …a Harvard grad's demeanor.

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written by James P. Lucier, September 30, 2013
Mr. Marlin writes from the standpoint of political theory with little understanding of the practical functioning of Congress. I was a senior staff member the U.S. Senate staff for 25 years and I know exactly what is going on. Senator Cruz is not only correct in his tactics but correct in principle. In all of this, the House of Representatives has the trump card, for the Constitution requires that all appropriations must originate in the House. The claim of the left that Obamacare is "law" and must be funded is a fallacy. All legislation includes two phases, authorization and appropriation. In both houses, two separate committees deal with each phase. The chaiman and the membership of each pair of authorizing committee and each appropriation committee are different by design so that there is no "interlocking directorship," and they do their work separately, and bring their work-product to the floor separately. The authorizing committee can set a top limit on how much will be spent in its area of authority, but cannot cause the spending of one dime. The appropriation committee can chose any dollar number from zero up to the authorized limit, but is not required to act at all, a right that, historically, has never been questioned. When each side works through this process and votes on the floor for legislation with different provisions, each house appoints members to a committee of conference where the negotiation that Mr. Marlin advocates is supposed to take place. All of this takes place under the umbrella of the Budget resolution, which sets out in general how much money is available for the appropriations committees to spend within each prescribed function of the U.S. Government.

Now the reason why the present crisis exists is because the House has meticulously preformed every stage of its obligations, and the Senate has not. The Senate refused to pass its own budget resolution for four years because that would put Democratic Senators on record for more reckless spending than the nation can afford. This year, the Senate did pass a budget resolution, but without any negotiation with the Republicans. I was so exteme that not one Republican Senator voted for it, and not one Democratic Senator who is up for re-election and have to face the voters.

Moreover, not one appropriations bill has been been completed in the Senate, by design. In the past, there have been occasions when one or more appropriations bill has not been completed, and the practice developed of passing a "continuing resolution," which would continue spending at current level until the legislation is completed later. This is unconstitutional, but became convenient as a practical matter. If no continuing resolution were passed, only that agency or group of agencies would be affected. What is unprecedented here is that Senate Majority Leader Reid has deliberately blocked the whole appropriations process to force an all-or-nothing crisis. It is a direct assault on Constitutional government. This is not a crisis about Obamacare; it is a Constitutional crisis that calls into question the foundations of our government.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has done its duty at every stage of the process. It deserves no blame whatsoever, except that the House leadership has been extremely weak and had to be brought back to its senses by the members of the Majority caucus. This is not the time for a Hegelian dialogue with the forces that want to destroy our Constitutional system. Senator Cruz is to be commended for his battle against what Benedict XVI has called the dictatorship of relativism.


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written by Tony Francois, September 30, 2013
Without endorsing Cruz' tactics or strategy, I am unpersuaded that the Senate comes anywhere near deserving the title of "World's Greatest Deliberative Body." Again, without endorsing Cruz, would someone please explain what the alternative strategy is for preventing the full implementation of ObamaCare? McConnell Knows Best does not sound like a good one at this point.
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written by Seanachie, September 30, 2013
I join the several commenters above in defense of Senator Cruz and his courageous stand and actions regarding defeating Obamacare. Mr. Lucier's comments are especially elucidating and instructive. I salute Senator Cruz for deciding that defeating Obamacare is a hill worth fighting for...regrettable that all his GOP colleagues did not join him! Merely hoping that Obamacare will collapse because of its own weight seems a feckless tactic.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 30, 2013
To Sir Mark -

I heartily agree, and to underline your point, I can report with certainty that in the 1990's, in a Harvard grad school course on Negotiation (Prof. Jim Sebelius), used by the Harvard Business School and the School of Government, Harvard negotiation experts cited Reagan as the negotiator "par excellence" when faced with seemingly "intractable" opponents, in two cases: (1) his walk-out on the Soviets/and upping-the-ante by stationing of mid-range missiles to pose a counter-threat to Russia; and (2) his principled firing of the illegally-striking air traffic controllers.
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written by John Hinshaw, September 30, 2013
I am sorry that someone steeped in New York politics doesn't understand the deep change which has occurred in our "Constitutional Republic", but it's to be expected. Before I begin, let me say that the U.S. Senate ("world's greatest deliberative body") now numbers among its members one Alvin Franken. It has also refused to do its simplest Constitutional duty, pass a budget, for 5 years running. Bow and scrape to Madison all we want, this is not HIS world we live with. Republicans continue to live with arcane protocol which is done away with by Democrats every time they need a victory. Innovative new ways of doing things, even if it looks like grandstanding, are going to be needed by Republicans. The idea of ANY government program "failing" or even being allowed to appear to "fail" is naive. Medicaid is bankrupting numerous States, yet is not regarded a "failure". So much of the criticism of Cruz by Republicans and Conservatives, particularly about his egoism, sound suspiciously like egos in envy.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 30, 2013
To Wm. Manley and all Supporting the "Affordable Care Act"

The "Affordable Care Act" is designed to do for Medical Care in the United States what "Affordable Housing" does for housing.

As to: "Obamacare may not be perfect but...Our task as Catholics is service to others: protect the unborn, feed the hungry, and heal the sick."

The Act you support is designed - as we all well understand - to help to slaughter the unborn. If you have any doubt, just contact Ms. Sebelius, who takes political contributions from live-birth abortionists; or The Attorney General, whose wealth accumulates monthly in rent money from abortion providers renting his property; or POTUS, who ended his recent address to Planned Parenthood, the nations largest abortionists, with "God Bless You."

And yes - this is not merely a start - it is much more than that - it is the beginning of the end - as the engineers of the ACA have intentionally designed a system that they know will cause the medical system to collapse - their end is a National Health Welfare System - run by technocrats who are at war against those who love God and defend life - from conception to natural death.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 30, 2013
The ACA = gold-plated Ivy League lawyers who are arguing that doctors make too much money...while they take K-street pay-offs from insiders who are purchasing advantages and/or opt-outs from the ACA!!
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 30, 2013
Stoney's comment is (hilariously, and at the same time sadly) correct.
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written by Walter, September 30, 2013
Reagan was unwilling to risk any meaningful political capital to further the pro-life cause. He signed an abortion rights bill as governor of California. His addresses to the pro-life marches in Washington were always by telephone, not in person. Two of his Supreme Court appointments, O'Connor and Kennedy, upheld the core of Roe v. Wade.

In the end, Reagan got less than 20% of what he wanted on abortion, not 75% or 80%. By contrast, Obama got almost 100% of what he wanted on healthcare.
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written by Matt, September 30, 2013
Given what is happening to the Republic: suicidal national debt, Obamacare's support for euthanasia, abortion and coerced contraception, a culture in the abyss, a financial system that commits fraud without consequence, a media promoting government lies and a government that has broken free of the rule of law - the very definition of a Banana Republic.

All these critical issues facing the Republic and what does this "political activist" waste his time on?

Harvard University's production of arrogance?

The author complains of dust bunnies in a house as it burns down around him.
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written by tom, October 01, 2013
Extending Medicare to everyone was, and is, the best way to provide universal health care. The Affordable Care Act was an unfortunate compromise with pro-private enterprise Republicans, who, of course, are now complaining about it. It's complexity is the result of efforts to cater to private business, particularly insurance companies.
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written by John Flaherty, October 02, 2013
Mr. Marlin, I must confess to being pretty disgusted with your view presented here, especially regarding Sen Cruz.

Since his election, Pres Obama has gone about behaving as though he could dictate to the nation pretty much what he wanted; he'd throw a petulant fit if people didn't do as he wished. Oddly, even his own Democrats didn't willingly go along with him in passing PPACA originally; you'll recall that then-Speaker Pelosi wound up pulling about every legislative dodge imaginable to finally shove it through a reluctant House.

Sen Cruz, on the other hand, has been doing PRECISELY what I would want him to do: He's insisting that we WILL follow the Constitution, that the Congress WILL do it's job of acting on behalf of The People, and that he WILL force the President and Senate Democrats to reconsider their approach.

He and a few of his Republican friends have done us a service; they have helped create a government shutdown, precisely because the President has made clear that he will only negotiate if he's practically dragged to the table, kicking, screaming, and clawing away at the floor to resist every last inch of the way.

Frankly, I wish my two Senators would get on the ball and help Sen Cruz. I'm tired of the President's bullying; I'm sick of his contempt for the Constitutional process of law.

If nothing else, we know that a few of the Senators--and some Representatives--are willing to act on behalf of the general populace, not merely the idiots who want to nationalize health care.
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written by Christopher Ekstrom, October 05, 2013
It used to be said of Bob Micheal that he was a good man too long inside the Beltway. Perhaps George Marlin has suffered too long in New York State. I had the pleasure of making Mr. Marlin's acquaintance at a pre-election event honoring the superb Man for All Seasons, Judge Buckley. Certainly Marlin should have been Govenor & not clowns like Cuomo I & II, Pataki (talk about narcissism: he actually thought he could win the GOP nomination?), and those that shall remain nameless for the sake of decency. Senator Cruz is the hope of Conservatives. Equating Senator Cruz with the current occupant of the White House is wrong headed & defeatist. Look at our so-called Roman Catholic "leaders". Cardinal Dolan is an out & out enemy of traditional priests (he recently side-lined Father George Rutler to an obscure parish). Dolan's defeatist conduct of what should be a Holy War on the Mandate is reprehensible. Is that what you advocate, Mr. Marlin. President Reagan was a FIGHTER. He took on Ford & Carter. He whipped them in arena. God Bless Cruz for doing what faint-hearted priestly politicians like Dolan fail to do!
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written by Christopher Ekstrom, October 05, 2013
Wrong on all counts. You have been on the losing side too long. Like intelligent defeatists your argument is mundane conventional wisdom. The American people hunger for leadership. Cruz is that leader. Like the sad defeatist Timothy Dolan you lack heart for the battle. Don't follow Dolan's ant-Conservative crusade (the disgraceful & idiotic of side-lining Father Rutler). Wake up!

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