Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton's 2012 Convention Speech

"We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor— to form a more perfect union. If that's what you believe, if that's what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama."
Except that "our sacred honor" was the Declaration of Independence in 1776. "A more perfect union" is the Constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation government, over a decade later in 1787. But screw it, he was on a roll.


Anonymous said...

The founders would have run the current "leadership" of the Democrat Party out of town on a rail. It is comic that a crook and liar like Clinton would invoke the Founders; it is sad that the some of us actually believe this claptrap.

jimmiraybob said...

That wascally wabbit!

jimmiraybob said...

Anybody else notice a certain somebody, during a talking thing last night, reference the natural law and providence?

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, that was "natural gas."

I did catch the "Providence," tho.

jimmiraybob said...


"You know what? That’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.


"America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

"Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States."

And, he even threw in some God language. Come on Tom, fess up. You wrote this part of the speech for him didn't you? After all this time, to find out that you're a top-level adviser to the POTUS.

I didn't see that one coming. : )

Phil Johnson said...

Do I detect sour grapes?

Tom Van Dyke said...


They dogged hasbeen Sarah Palin for blahblah

but not a single person in the 300+ million in the United States of America besides moi seems to have noticed that Bill Clinton just punted/squirreled a serious Founding factoid.

Phil, I laugh. How is it I'm the only one of 300+ million Americans who speaks American?

Well, actually, I cry. Nobody pledged their life, their fortune or sacred honor to the Constitution. It had slavery in it, fer lordssakes, and only the hint of a promise in Article I Section 9 that someday, somehow it might end.

Tom Van Dyke said...

To JRB, I was so on top of the Democratic Convention on another blog it was sick.

it wasn't the mention of "God." It was cutting out "God-given."

My friends from the left reject any of our rights are God-given. And the Democrat platform panel headed by Gov. Ted Strickland, former Dem governor of Ohio [and a Protestant minister!], knew damn well what they were doing.

I see all, bro, I hear all. What is said, and what is not said.

Phil Johnson said...

How is it I'm the only one of 300+ million Americans who speaks American?

Sounds like you're saying that everyone is crazy but you.

Phil Johnson said...

My friends from the left reject any of our rights are God-given.

Interesting you would repeat that spin.

Do you know the history of the word, right?

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, I mean they reject the idea of God-given or inalienable rights, straight up, as a fiction. And stop dogging me.

Phil Johnson said...


jimmiraybob said...

"...most justly called a Christian nation” because Christianity “has so largely shaped and molded it."

If the criteria are what shaped and molded America, then classical Greek and Roman culture, philosophy, and what would be called political science/theory, all played a leading role in determining the form and ethic of the new nation. In the secular sense this inheritance was the leading influence on the form of nationhood that was established. It was this inheritance that allowed 13 religiously diverse and antagonistic, sometimes violently, colonies to band together and then stay together for a broader common cause, even if just barely until the issue of slavery was resolved.

To continually miss or gloss over that point is to advocate for only a part of the story. To rebut with, but we have always been a majority Christian nation speaks to not just a narrow advocacy but infers special privilege to a majority that can, and usually does, lead to a kind of tyranny that the majority of founders rejected.

To be "just" is to refer to America as a nation shaped by many forces, unique opportunities, and ideas that have been shaped and reshaped and passed on from earlier thinkers to later thinkers (Rinse. Repeat.).

It is certainly "just" to say that Christianity, or more accurately Christianities, played a leading role in the religious life and moral tenor of the colonies and the new nation as they do now. But, as seen clearly in the 19th century struggle over the issue of slavery, Christians could clearly come down strongly on both sides of the issue. Is it fair to say that Christianity almost destroyed the nation? If secession had worked would both the respective republics have been "Christian." No doubt it depends on whose eyes were doing the beholding.

There was/is certainly something else at play, something more fundamental, and I'd suggest that it was the "moral sense" (sympathy or empathy) written about by Adam Smith and his predecessors in moral philosophy.

It's this moral sense, not a uniquely Christian phenomena, that shapes religious expression. Look at the Nuns on a Bus v. Bishops phenomenon. Two different sets of moral and ethical priorities; one religious tradition. Going against my faint recollection of the nuns during my early Catholic education, I have to say that my moral sentiments lean heavily in their favor. It's this moral sense that allows half the Democratic delegates to voice vote affirmatively to put God & Jerusalem as Capital of Israel into the platform and half to voice vote against, but all of them to stand and wildly cheer a Catholic Nun delivering a message of justice for the less fortunate.

It's this individual moral sense that leads us to choose our religious and/or philosophical affiliations whether it be with ideas or with institutions. Whether it be deciding for or against slavery or choosing to emphasize the Gospel mission to the poor or taking up the moral politics of abortion & contraception, or reconciling political differences with common religious conviction.

And then there's the religiously devoid Ayn Rand embrace of the natural law which I, a fellow-travelling non-theist, find ugly and appalling in its cold lack of a recognizable post-medieval moral sensibility; its cold lack of compassion and empathy for all members of the commonwealth.

If we're going to talk about and celebrate "justice" we have to acknowledge our fortune that the founding occurred at a time and under circumstances that the elite thinkers most responsible for inventing the new nation were able to choose a national governing system and ethic built to accommodate the moral sense of Smith et allia and that allows open religious expression while protecting against the injustices inherent in religious privilege.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Where Jefferson is wrong is in describing the Founding political philsophy/theology as some sort of polyglot---a little from here, a little from there.

Not atall. The Western tradition was "Christian thought": The Greeks means Aristotle [not Plato], the "Romans" means the Stoics. Both Aristotle and the Stoics were subsumed by Christian thought, "Christianized" by Aquinas and the "Scholastic" tradition into "natural law."

Top that off with some butt-kicking Protestantism---Calvinist Resistance Theory---and you're at what Jefferson called the "American mind."

jimmiraybob said...

That's an interesting bumper sticker approach to history. I assume that this is a macro that enables you to just punch one button to unleash the fury of that extremely narrow view.

Aquinas himself was a hodgepodge of ideas. All of which he synthesized to be compatible with the Christianity as he understood it (which nearly got him booted). There are scholars today that argue the influence of Plato and Aristotle on Aquinas (Augustine was not out after Aquinas).

We are all a hodge podge of ideas and experiences that we synthesize every moment of every day.

I would like to think, and because I'm a charitable person I will think, that your comments are meant to bait and that you don't really believe them. Too charitable?

No one can possibly think that on the scale of humanity and history, even paring it down to western European history, that the principle classical Greek and Roman authors had disappeared from broader study. This flies in the face of that notorious liberal super weapon known as facts and enters a world of fancy. No one can possibly believe in the linear transport of ideas. Well, maybe within the RCC, but in the real world many contemporary scholars scoffed at Aquinas' work.

And certainly the rigid Scholasticism was the springboard for restless more humanistic scholars to begin a journey of liberated exploration of ideas. Norman Cantor(1) calls the rise of humanism in the secular and religious spheres the beginning of the protestant movement and the beginning of the end for entrenched top-down authority.

The idea that Aquinas subsumed all that came before and, therefore, all that came before is irrelevant is Catholic doctrine and practice and not a depiction of the broader world.

(1) Norman Cantor, 1994. The Civilization of the Middle Ages (expanded edition). See also Charles G. Nauert,2006. Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe, 2nd ed.

jimmiraybob said...

As to "Christian thinking," I'm reading Jennifer Burns' Goddess of the Market(1) that contains various correspondence reacting to the publication of The Fountainhead. By the time of its publication, Ayn Rand had started preaching the evil nature of altruism and the virtue of selfishness. here's the passage that made me thing of the question of "Christian thinking:"

"A Presbyterian minister from Indiana testified, 'In Howard Roark I rediscovered the 'individual' - the individual I had been brought up to be and believe in, but who had been lost somewhere in the miasma of intellectual, moral, and spiritual confusions spawned in the unhealthy jungle of preachers, professors and the poverty of the Depression."

Which is the "Christian thinking," the before or the after? Which is the "Christian thinking," the Nuns on a Bus, pushing for social justice and care for the powerless, or the Bishops telling them to back off?

Which defines "Christian thinking," Luther's support of the peasants and merchants during the beginning or the Peasants War of 1524-26, or the Luther that ultimately sided with power and authority and helped bring the revolt to an end resulting in the wholesale decimation or the peasants and merchants, with an estimated 100,000 killed?

Which vision embraces Imago Dei?

(1) Jennifer Burns, 2009. The Goddess of the Market; Ayn Rand and the American Right.

Phil Johnson said...

All of which--in JRB's two posts--signals us to back off from our preconceived ideas of reality.
At least that what appears to me.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

"There are scholars today that argue the influence of Plato and Aristotle on Aquinas (Augustine was not out after Aquinas)."

This shows you're not even in the ballgame, jimmiraybob, and just giving me the business. Aquinas is every bit the Aristotelian.

That's the point, and illustrates the further point that few understand where their influences truly come from. Jefferson was a shallow scholar whose reading was a mile wide and an inch deep. He had no idea of the true origin of his ideas---especially the Romish* Scholastics---Aquinas and his successors such as Suarez and Bellarmine**.

Again, brother, that's the point, the secular narrative that erases the 1500 years of Western [Christian] thought between the Roman Stoics and the Founding, as if John Locke dropped to earth one day in 1688.

There's a 1500-year hole in Jefferson's story, Phil! Get to work!


* Romish = Roman Catholic, even though Aquinas wrote in the 1200s, well before Martin Luther the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.

Jefferson's milieu was not only "Protestant," it was strongly anti-Catholic, so much so that the "Schoolmen" [the "Scholastics"] were spoken of only with venom.

** Such as:

Equality of man

Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Bellarmine: “All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind” (“De Laicis,” c.7) “There is no reason why among equals one should rule rather than another” (ibid.). “Let rulers remember that they preside over men who are of the same nature as they themselves.” (“De Officus Princ.” c. 22). “Political right is immediately from God and necessarily inherent in the nature of man” (“De Laicis,” c. 6, note 1).

St. Thomas: “Nature made all men equal in liberty, though not in their natural perfections” (II Sent., d. xliv, q. 1, a. 3. ad 1).

Bumper sticker that.

jimmiraybob said...

Let me see if I have this straight.

If A says something that in translation sounds similar to what B says in translation which in turn sounds similar to C in the language to which A & B have been translated, then there is a linear relationship, and, voila, in retrospect C depends on A and A alone.


OK, I'll bumper sticker that:

A = B = C, therefore, A (and nothing before A counts)

Phil Johnson said...

I am not so sure of learning by rote is such a great idea. And, having set in class discussions with Rhode Scholars, it appears to me that even some bumbler can offer new and valuable understandings. We must remain open to input from a large variety of sources.
I respect Catholocism; but Catholic history is suspect from the giddy up.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What you have here is the idea that all men are created equal---the proposition from which all American political theory flows---well before the Enlightenment and the Founding. I cannot make someone see what they are determined not to see. Peace.

jimmiraybob said...

Well, you gave it your best. Peace unto you too.

Phil Johnson said...

What you have here is the idea that all men are created equal---the proposition from which all American political theory flows---well before the Enlightenment and the Founding. I cannot make someone see what they are determined not to see.

One of, if not the, greatest of all was Jesus who taught that we all have equal access to all that is for the Kingdom of God is within reach--at hand.
But, it took the American experiment to make it real in the broader political dimension where we find ourselves--men like Jefferson and Madison.
There I have mentioned three of my heroes.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The irony is inescapable, however, that TJ and JM were slaveholders themselves. As men, I have no use for TJ beyond penning the Declaration and must confess that as much as I admire his mind and his wisdom, I cannot quite bring myself to call Madison a personal hero of mine.

And I think that had GW at least not freed his own slaves at his death, there would be that black mark on him too.