As Herr Schroeder was babbling on in Mainz,
during his joint press conference with President Bush, about a need for carrots
to coax Tehran off its nuclear program, Bush interrupted the chancellor to issue
yet another demand – that "the Iranian government listen to the hopes and aspirations
of the Iranian people."
"We believe," said Bush, "that the voice of the people ought to be determining
policy, because we believe in democracy…"
Who, one wonders, is feeding the president his talking points?
Is he unaware that the Iranian people, even opponents of the regime, believe
Iran has a right to nuclear power and should retain the capacity to build nuclear
weapons? Tehran's decision to stop enriching uranium, to appease EU negotiators,
was not at all popular.
While 70 percent of Iranians may have voted to dump the mullahs, just as
Pakistanis were delirious with joy when they exploded their first nuclear device,
we should expect Iranians to react the same way. What people have not celebrated
when their nation has joined the exclusive nuclear club?
"We believe … that the voice of the people ought to be determining policy,"
said Bush, "because we believe in democracy."
But does Bush really believe this? How does the president think the Arab
peoples would vote on the following questions: (1) Should the United States
get out of Iraq? (2) Is it fair to compare Israel's treatment of Palestinians
to Nazi treatment of the Jews? (3) Do Arab nations have the same right to an
atom bomb as Ariel Sharon? (4) Is Osama bin Laden a terrorist or hero?
If Bush believes he and we are popular in the Islamic world, why has he
not scheduled a grand tour of Rabat, Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Riyadh, and Islamabad
to rally the masses to America's side, rather than preaching democracy at them
from the White House? If one-man, one-vote democracy came suddenly to the Arab
world, every pro-American ruler in the region would be at risk of being swept
Yet there is a larger issue here than misreading the Arab mind. Whence
comes this democracy-worship, this belief by President Bush that "the voice
of the people ought to be determining policy"?
Would Bush himself let a poll of Americans decide how long we keep troops
in Iraq? Would he submit his immigration policy to popular vote?
"We often hear the claim that our nation is a democracy," writes columnist
Dr. Walter Williams. But, "That wasn't the vision of the founders. They saw
democracy as another form of tyranny. … The founders intended, and laid out
the ground rules for, our nation to be a republic. … The word democracy appears
nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution."
Indeed, the Constitution guarantees "to every State in this Union a republican
form of government."
Asks Williams: "Does our pledge of allegiance to the flag say to 'the democracy
for which it stands,' or does it say to 'the republic for which it stands'?
Or do we sing 'The Battle Hymn of the Democracy' or 'The Battle Hymn of the
There is a critical difference between a republic and a democracy, Williams
notes, citing our second president: "John Adams captured the essence of that
difference when he said: 'You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments;
rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from
the Great Legislator of the Universe.' Nothing in our Constitution suggests
that government is a grantor of rights. Instead, government is a protector of
The founders deeply distrusted democracy. Williams cites Adams again: "Remember,
democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There
was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." Chief Justice John Marshall
seconded Adams' motion: "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference
is like that between order and chaos."
"When the Constitution was framed," wrote historian Charles Beard, "no
respectable person called himself or herself a democrat."
Democracy-worship suggests a childlike belief in the wisdom and goodness
of "the people." But the people supported the guillotine in the French Revolution
and Napoleon. The people were wild with joy as the British, French, and German
boys marched off in August 1914 to the Great War that inflicted the mortal wound
on Western civilization. The people supported Hitler and the Nuremburg Laws.
Our fathers no more trusted in the people always to do the right thing
than they trusted in kings. In the republic they created, the House of Representatives,
the people's house, was severely restricted in its powers by a Bill of Rights
and checked by a Senate whose members were to be chosen by the states, by a
president with veto power, and by a Supreme Court.
"What kind of government do we have?" the lady asked Benjamin Franklin,
as he emerged from the Constitutional Convention.
Said Franklin, "A republic – if you can keep it."
Let us restore that republic and, as Jefferson said, "Hear no more of trust
in men, but rather bind them down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution."
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