The Washington Post ran an interview with Virginia Senator George Allen yesterday. He had a few interesting thoughts. Consider:
Why do you think the political environment in this country is as sour as it is?
ALLEN: I don’t know, and it’s something that I’m trying to find ways to unify this country and recognize who our enemy is. Usually you can unify — and this does come from football — you try to get people motivated and inspired for something. We are in the midst of a war. That doesn’t mean we don’t have differences on domestic policy, tax cuts maybe, exploration of the north slope of Alaska, who knows what. But as far as the war on terror we ought to have unity of purpose and there just doesn’t seem to be that.
That’s the opening question and part of the answer? Is Sen. Allen just trying to stay on point, bang the War on Terror drum, and say nothing offensive? Here’s a better answer. The political environment is sour because Republicans can’t understand that we have a common enemy as Americans and it’s not gays and lesbians. The political environment is sour because Democrats can’t understand that President Bush is not the anti-Christ trying to kill little children by withholding health insurance. The political environment is sour because everyone else is watching the two parties punch each other in the face for the chance to steal a few more dollars and a few more bits of liberty. It’s not complicated. If I can realize that, a United States Senator should be able to do so, as well. Of course, I’m not running for president for the next 34 months.
But then when Karl Rove goes to the RNC and says here’s what we’re going to make this election about and says the Democratic Party has a pre Sept. 11 mindset and the GOP has a post Sept. 11 mindset — that doesn’t do a lot to bring the two sides together. Do you think that was a mistake?
I’m not going to say it was a mistake. I do think there are three key things for our country or three conditions or matters that are important. One is security, clearly. Second is competitive. The third is our values as a country. …
There’s nothing else in the answer about either competitiveness, unless he means between Democrats and Republicans. There is also nothing else about values. That’ll change later in the interview, since everyone has to hold the same values or else the terrorists win/the children get hurt/Jesus wants to punish us/whatever. Moving on.
What does it mean at this point given the record of the Bush administration to say, “I am a conservative”? What are the elements of conservatism today?
… The term conservative means different things to different people. I haven’t looked at a dictionary definition. For me, it is one who trusts free people and free enterprise as opposed to meddling, burdensome government. There’s a need for government in a civilization, but it should be very focused on its key responsibilities. At the state level, the top responsibilities are education and law enforcement. The federal government level — it is clearly national security, national defense issues and I think key areas of research beyond the interstate commerce matters. And you need to do those things and focus on those.
Otherwise, leave people free. There are those though who think people won’t make the right decisions and so therefore the government makes those decisions for them. You end up with higher taxes because the government needs to provide services. I’d just assume leave people to their freedom and they may not make the decisions that are the best decisions but it’s their life. And I like the concept of individual responsibility. …
I like the spirit [described] by De Toqueville in the mid 1830s — his observations of America where everything’s in motion, nothing is settled, the only things that haven’t been done are those that man has not attempted to do. In other words, we are only limited by our imagination. Maybe that’s conservative, but that’s my view of it. Trusting individuals rather than large institutions and authorities … all this nanny government and pestering regulations.
Someone so inclined could write a dissertation on how poorly Senator Allen’s statement above meshes with his actions as a United States Senator (and as Governor of Virginia). I won’t highlight the obvious contradiction that people are free and should remain free of nanny government, and that people may make decisions, no matter how poor, as long as those decisions don’t violate the moral code of another. No, I’m above pointing out that flaw in Sen. Allen’s reasoning, because that would be too easy. Instead, I want to point out that government should “be very focused on its key responsibilities”, like telling individuals who they can marry. To accomplish what, I have no idea, but it all sounds very liberty-loving conservative. Wave the flag for me.
Aside from Jefferson and Reagan, which presidents have influence your political philosophy or your political approach?
Another great leader that I learned over time was George Mason, a very unsung person. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which is … a predecessor to the Bill of Rights and it’s much better than the Bill of Rights because it’s more words to it. The Statute of Religious Freedom is paragraphs as opposed to one sentence. He was one that if this country had listened to George Mason in the beginning — and he lost his friendship with George Washington over this because he would not support the Constitution without a Bill of Rights. He also said that we should have gotten rid of slavery right at the beginning. And what a better country this would have been. He was one who put principle over everything else.
I agree about George Mason. It’s not Senator Allen’s domain now that he’s a U.S. Senator, but I’d be curious to know how he feels about the Virginia General Assembly tarring the Virginia Bill of Rights with the proposed bigoted marriage amendment? Given that he supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, I think I know the answer. But it’s good to know that he respects that, by his natural rights, every man is free. Quite consistent. Perhaps I can learn something.
I’ll just leave it with this statement about whether or not Sen. Allen will run for president, since I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll hear this statement
You never know the future, but no matter what I’m doing I’m going to be advocating these common sense Jeffersonian conservative principles.
He also mentioned “Mr. Jefferson’s university” earlier, which is not the official name for the University of Virginia. Ass.