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Cruz ‘lawless’ speech: are we a nation of laws or a nation of men?

In a Jan. 10 speech to attendees of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual Policy Orientation, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, spoke of President Barack Obama cultivating a “lawless” tone within his administration.

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Noting that traditional media sources largely missed the point of Cruz’ remarks, Texas Public Policy Action Executive Director Nathanael Ferguson offers this analysis of how the remarks centered on if our nation is to be one of laws or one of men:

In his remarks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual Policy Orientation conference last Friday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) made headlines by calling the Obama administration “lawless.”. The headline writers and those who draw conclusions based on the headline without reading or watching Cruz’ remarks totally miss the point.

The subject of Cruz’ remarks was not President Obama’s lawlessness. Rather, Cruz used the president’s well known disregard for the law and for Congress to make a larger philosophical point that transcends partisan politics and even the president himself. The subject of Senator Cruz’ remarks was the rule of law and his remarks revolved around the age old question of whether we are to be a nation of laws or a nation of men.

Our nation’s founders wisely understood that a nation of men can never be a nation of liberty, for a nation of men must necessarily bend to the ever changing whims of its leaders. Our founders knew from personal experience as British subjects and from careful study of history that such nations trend toward tyranny, despotism, cronyism, and the petty use of authority to crush political opposition. This is the story of most nations throughout history.

What was and continues to be so remarkable about the American Revolution is that in the aftermath of war, with liberty secured for the inhabitants of a new nation, the founders went out of their way to set up a system that until now has done a pretty good job of preventing ours from becoming a nation of men. They created a nation of laws where lawmakers – elected by the people – dedicated a limited portion of their lives to public service and then returned to live as private citizens under the laws they created.

The founders invented a system of government with checks and balances so that no one branch could govern alone and to prevent any one man from consolidating the reins of power and so shape the nation in his own image.

Since the 1789, 43 men have served as president and more than 12,000 have served in the United States Congress. Most of them, including most of the presidents, are by now obscure figures whose memory is mostly lost to history. Most Americans can’t name all the presidents or what policies they advanced, wouldn’t be able to pick most currently serving members of Congress (let alone their 12,000 predecessors) out of a lineup, and can’t name their own slate of federal, state, county, and local elected officials. This is by design. Our laws are more important than our lawmakers.

Our founders understood that by creating a nation of laws they were setting up institutions to guard the flame of liberty and promote justice for all. If we don’t like our laws we can demand that our lawmakers change them. If we don’t like our lawmakers we can throw the bums out! Even the highest office holders in the land are subject to the law and often – but not always – when they are caught violating it they leave office in disgrace and sometimes end up in the prisons they helped build. When lawmakers flout the law with impunity, the light of liberty is diminished.

Read the full post.

Ferguson concludes that a nation of men “will always wind up in the hands of a man whose hands you don’t want it to be in” and for this reason, both parties “must vigilantly guard the constitutional balance of power and why its members must sometimes oppose a president of their own party.” Failing to do so, he further states, will result in those who govern and their branches of government becoming increasingly irrelevant leaving our nation to flounder as each new president attempts to mold it in his or her own image.

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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