A Historical Perspective On Today’s Issues—Interview With Larry Schweikart
May 9, 2011
By Roger Aronoff
The massive increase in the size of the federal government since Barack Obama became President has raised many constitutional and policy questions regarding the direction this country is heading. A CBS/New York Times poll taken in mid April found that 70% of those polled believe the U.S. is on the wrong track, while only 26% believe it’s on the right track.
In a recent exclusive interview, Larry Schweikart, author of the new book, What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot’s Answer to America’s Most Pressing Problems, told AIM that if we listened to America’s Founding Fathers, we would be doing a number of things quite differently than we are today. He said that he “decided to write the book so we’d have a sense of what they would have said about the problems today based on what they did say in the Constitution and the Declaration.”
Among the topics he addressed were healthcare, education, economic bailouts, entitlements and going to war. “The point about declaring war,” said Schweikart, “is that you state your reasons for going to war, and you state your war aims, your goals. You know: The war will be over when we achieve x, y, and z. I think there are times—including the current War on Terror—when it is not palpable, for whatever reason, that you state your war aims, and the war aims, unfortunately, are to kill all the terrorists. Now Bush would never say that, certainly Obama would never say that, and most of the military wouldn’t—I don’t think even Petraeus would say that—but that is the aim of this war: We have to eliminate the terrorists.”
Larry Schweikart is a professor of history at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and the author of more than 20 books, including 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School) and The Entrepreneurial Adventure: A History of American Business. He is also considered Glenn Beck’s favorite historian, and has been a guest numerous times on Beck’s show on the Fox News Channel.
Below, in quotes, are excerpts from my interview with Schweikart. You can listen to the entire interview or read the transcript here.
“I think that whether it’s the Bible or the Constitution—the Bible doesn’t contain prohibition against Internet gambling, but it does tell you what to do in general about gambling. There are principles espoused clearly enough in the document that it can easily adapt itself to modern times. We don’t need to adapt it—it speaks for itself. In terms of the Internet, for example, we know what is said about freedom of speech, and we know that that freedom of speech was specifically political speech, that the Founders were very concerned about anybody limiting political speech in any way. So I think we can take from that that none of the Founders would agree with Cass Sunstein, one of Obama’s cronies, who constantly wants to regulate the Internet because he’s afraid people might go to places like Free Republic or the Drudge Report instead of MSNBC.
“Almost without exception, the Founders believed in public education—that is, taxpayer-supported public schools at the local level, governed by the state and locality, never the federal government. Benjamin Rush was one of the Founders who took the lead in this kind of stuff. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean they would support the modern education system the way it is, because what they thought should and would be taught in these public schools is very different from what is taught in modern public schools. The Founders wanted, of course, math and English grammar taught, but they also—and they almost used these exact words—wanted a patriotic history taught, and one of them came very close to a comment on modern multiculturalism when he said, “All nations have their advantages, and there are good points about all nations, but we are the United States of America, and we need to know what’s great about our nation.” I think they would all reject the multiculturalism that we see seeping into our schools, and the kind that Obama espoused, I think it was last year, when he said, “Well, the French believe in French exceptionalism.” Sorry, Mr. President: They don’t! They really don’t!
“I would think that Hamilton, Washington, Madison, and the rest would have supported the bailout of Lockheed back in the 1970s, because it was our leading manufacturer of fighter planes and spy planes. I think they probably would have supported the bailout of Chrysler in the ’80s because it was our leading tank manufacturer. But not Harley-Davidson, and certainly not Chrysler or GM in 2009 or 2010, because they weren’t of strategic, military importance.
“[Alexander] Hamilton is always accused by conservatives of favoring debt and deficits. Absolutely untrue! What he favored was good credit for the United States . He thought that the only way to do that was to pay our bills. Some people misquote him as saying that “a national debt is a national blessing.” He said it can be a national blessing—if you pay it off!
“Who was the first President to argue for the privatization of Social Security? Answer: Franklin Roosevelt, in his 1935 July speech, in which he said that we should include in the system private annuities which should, he said, eventually replace all these other forms of assistance. In other words, even Roosevelt knew that Social Security couldn’t last forever, that it was doomed.
“When Roosevelt started Social Security, there were about fourteen people paying in for every one person taking out. Today, there are three people paying in for every one taking out, and by the time most of my students retire, if it’s even still around at all, there will be one person paying in for every three trying to take out. Now that math simply doesn’t work. And Medicare, as you pointed out, is vastly worse. It’s the single worst program we have to deal with.
“I think Bush was right in invading Iraq based on the evidence that was out at the time. I think it pointed to the likelihood that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and we couldn’t wait around until he gave those to al-Qaeda. But, unintentionally, by going into Iraq , we created a roach hotel for all the terrorist roaches from all over the world — Yemen , Saudi Arabia , Algeria , Morocco , Indonesia , Iran —and they all came to Iraq to fight us there. In my book America ’s Victory, I gave some numbers that I was able to find that, apparently, no one else found or was interested in, that showed that we had killed an astonishing 40,000 terrorists in Iraq , wounded another 120,000, took 20,000 prisoners, and, in all likelihood, saw another 10,000 to 15,000 desert. Now that ’s an awful lot of terrorists taken out of the order of battle.
“Let’s be honest: The first thousand years of Islam, the only way it spread was not by willing conversion but by violence. Since that time, it has spread mostly through immigration and by Western societies allowing Muslims to come in—which is fine, I have no problem with immigration of anybody, but what I do have a problem with is, after they come in, you allow them to retain their national identities or their cultural and spiritual identities if they’re in violation of your Constitution and laws, which they clearly are in France and Germany and Britain today. If you want to come to America , be American, abide by our rules, and support our Constitution —yay! I’m all for you. If you want to come here and establish sharia law, we’ve got a problem.”