Blogs > Liberty and Power > Presidential Hermeneutics

Oct 12, 2004 1:27 am


Presidential Hermeneutics



[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test -- that passes the global test -- where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

      -- John Kerry, 1 October 2004


He said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. That's what he said. Think about this. Sen. Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.

      -- George W. Bush, 2 October 2004


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. ... The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

      --Thomas Jefferson, 4 July 1776


He said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. That's what he said. Think about this. Mr. Jefferson's approach to foreign policy would give"the opinions of mankind" and"a candid world" veto power over our national security decisions.

      -- George W. Bush, 5 July 1776 [alternate history timeline]

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Charles Johnson - 10/17/2004

"Jefferson did not say that separation had to pass any global test, only that the causes should be laid out publicly. Bush did that." That is not the only thing that Jefferson said. Jefferson argued that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" should be the reason for laying out the causes of action, and that the facts submitted to a candid world should prove the charges. In other words, the case given should be such as to make the justification for the action clear to honest observers throughout the world. (N.B.: this is not the same thing as an "international veto over policy". Determining whether policy passes or fails a "test" of this sort is a matter of determining the merits of the case presented to the world--not a matter of deferring to anyone who says they don't buy it.)

I think there's a pretty solid case to be made that Bush did <em>not</em> lay out the causes for war in such a way as to prove his case to a candid world or, for that matter, out of any respect for the opinions of mankind whatever. I think there's also a pretty good case to be made that given the context of Kerry's remarks (a discussion of the importance of the credibility of U.S. foreign policy decisions) there's no good basis for saying that he meant anything more by "global test" than Jefferson did by "Facts ... submitted to a candid world".


John T. Kennedy - 10/15/2004

I think this is pretty weak. Bush did present his case to the the world, whether you like it or not. To say policy must pass the global test implies that implies that it could fail the global test, it seems fair to me to say it implies an international veto over policy. Jefferson did not say that separation had to pass any global test, only that the causes should be laid out publicly. Bush did that.


Common Sense - 10/13/2004


Excellent point. I thought the same thing myself during the "debate."