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by William H. Benson

September 4, 2008

     Recently, I read Patrick Buchanan’s book, Day of Reckoning, a shrill attack upon George Bush’s noble vision of America’s grand role in the world. Buchanan, a pugnacious, opinionated, and argumentative journalist and television commentator, who ran unsuccessfully for President in 1992, 1996, and again in 2000, minces few words.

     The final chapter of his book, despite its attack upon the current state of things, does set forth solid ideas that he believes will produce a good government for the American people. Buchanan’s ideas seem, at least on the surface, workable and practical, although they are probably not politically feasible.

     At the heart of the book is a chapter entitled “The Gospel of George Bush,” in which Buchanan lifts the President’s words from his speeches.

     “[E}very time people are given a choice they choose freedom.” “Freedom is the design of our Maker and the longing of every soul. Freedom is the dream of every person in every nation in every age.” “Expanding freedom is the only realistic way to protect our people in the long run.”

     “We are led, by events and commons sense, to one conclusion : the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” “Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth.” “What every terrorist fears most is human freedom—societies where men and women make their own choices.” “Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologues.”

     Buchanan writes, “One wonders: Who writes this, and does the president read it before delivery?” He calls Bush’s vision the “divinization of democracy,” attributing to the representative republican form of government a faith unwarranted, and to each of Bush’s points, Buchanan offers a counter-thought. People do not always crave freedom, Buchanan argues; history has shown that on occasion, they will vote dictators into high office and that they will join, without much thought, vicious political gangs.

     Buchanan then lists a series of quotes from wiser former leaders and thinkers.

     John Adams warned that, “the people have waged everlasting war against the rights of men. . . . The numbers of men in all ages have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty. . . . The multitude must be kept in check.” And the historian Daniel Boorstin said it succinctly: “The Constitution of the U. S. is not for export.”

     Less than a year into his presidency, John F. Kennedy recognized the limits of American power: “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient—that we are only six percent of the world’s population—that we cannot impose our will upon the other ninety-four percent of mankind—that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity—and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”

     The English philosopher Edmund Burke wrote: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. . . . Their passions forge their fetters. . . . Believe me, it is a great truth, that there never was, for any long time . . . a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any kind.”

     Gerald Ford opposed the attack upon Iraq, saying, I just don’t think we should go . . . around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”

     Buchanan adds to these men’s ideas his own sobering prediction: “If we dethrone their tyrants, dismantle their states, and disband their armies, when we depart, the character of the people will recreate the institutions we have torn down.”

     As for the Gospel of George Bush, Buchanan says, “This is Manichaean. This is messianic. This is utopian. Investing the blood of our sons and treasure of our nation in pursuit of this vision will bleed, bankrupt, and break this republic in endless crusades and interminable wars. Unless this ideology is purged from power, it will bring an end to the republic. No nation, no matter how great, powerful, or rich, can sustain so apocalyptic and global a struggle.”