Senator Coburn’s Call for a Constitutional Convention Invites Dangerous Consequences

Senator Coburn’s Call for a Constitutional Convention Invites Dangerous Consequences
by JBS President John F. McManus

Medical doctor Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has always crusaded against federal spending and the inevitable deficits that follow. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, he kept his pledge to serve no more than three terms and went back to doctoring in 2001. But in 2004, he won a Senate seat and pledged to serve no more than two six-year terms. Reelected in 2010, he recently decided he’d had enough and announced his resignation effective at the end of 2014, two years before his second Senate term would have ended.

Still crusading about Washington’s big spending and deficit building, Coburn has now announced that he wants the states to hold a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He would also like to have the Con-Con add an amendment mandating term limits for members of Congress.

Scott Bradley, PhD, Founder and Chairman of The Constitution Commemoration Foundation, Inc., speaks at The John Birch Society Council Dinner, May 4, 2013 in Ohio., regarding opposing a BBA Con-Con.

As much as Dr. Coburn’s numerous efforts to cut spending and deal with the national debt deserve accolades, he seems to have not considered that his new proposals are fraught with dangers. He should consider that term limits for the office of President have been in place since 1951. As a result Bill Clinton served only eight years. He was followed by George W. Bush whose eight years were followed by Barack Obama. There are some Americans who applaud the Clinton to Bush to Obama parade because it brought change. But it surely didn’t lead to less spending and an end to deficits.

The main change when term limits force one President to exit and a new one to enter is the name of the occupant of the White House. Real change would occur if the voting public were better informed and not captive of the phony claim that top Democrats are different from top Republicans. If real change is sought, there’s no alternative to an informed electorate.

Dr. Coburn doesn’t seem to realize that a Con-Con could cancel the entire Constitution, as happened in 1787 when the only Con-Con in our nation’s history exceeded its mandate to revise the Articles of Confederation, scrapped them, and produced the U.S. Constitution. A Con-Con can’t be limited. It could abolish the Bill of Rights, cancel term limits on the presidential office, destroy numerous limitations of federal power, etc.

But the other Coburn proposal for a balanced budget amendment (BBA) invites the question: Why should anyone expect current leaders to obey an amendment when they already cavalierly disobey or ignore many of the provisions already present in the existing Constitution? Even beyond that never-answered question, there are several proposed BBAs that are full of loopholes.

Some BBA proposals would allow a 60 percent vote in Congress to override budget restrictions. Other partisans for a BBA say that the way to balance the budget is to increase taxes. There are some who claim that the budget need not be balanced if there’s a war or a national security threat proclaimed by the President. More state that balancing the budget would not have to be accomplished for five years, meaning more deficits. And the most slippery of all these proposals is the one that would allow some federal expenditures to be declared “off budget.”

Beyond the loopholes in a BBA, creating a Con-Con for any reason should be blocked. One year after he participated in the Con-Con that abolished the Articles of Confederation, James Madison stated his opinion in 1788 that consideration of another would cause him to “tremble.” Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger pointed to the unlimited power of a Con-Con and advised against one. The late Justice Robert Bork insisted that “a federal constitutional convention could not be limited to a single issue.” These voices from the past and the present warn against convening a Con-Con.

So while we applaud Dr. Coburn for his praiseworthy years of service in Congress, we have to disagree with his call for a Con-Con. Term limits don’t bring about real change. A balanced budget amendment would be so full of loopholes that it would be worthless. And a Con-Con would be enormously dangerous.

The path for real change wanted by many Americans begins with an educated electorate. There is no other way. And the only organization doing this since 1958 is The John Birch Society. Join today!

Learn more about a Con-Con at our “Choose Freedom — Stop a Constitutional Convention” action page.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Jimmy Carter Shills for a Questionable Islamic Society

Jimmy Carter Shills for a Questionable Islamic Society
by JBS President John F. McManus

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held a national convention over the Labor Day weekend at Detroit’s Cobi Center. Formed in 1982, ISNA functions as an umbrella organization for several other Muslim groups, and is the largest Islamist organization in the United States with a sizable multi-million dollar headquarters in Plainfield, Indiana, an Indianapolis suburb.

ISNA has been the subject of several U.S. government investigations. In 2009, Federal District Judge Jorge Solis stated that, in a trial of various Muslim entities, the U.S. government had “produced ample evidence to establish ties between ISNA and other Muslim organizations with the terror group Hamas.

Even though the largest concentration of Muslims in America resides in the Detroit area, ISNA’s annual convention met this year for the first time ever in Michigan. As its custom calls for, the group’s officials invited the governor of the host state to address the gathering. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, accepted the invite and did appear. Even though he heaped praise on the group and on Muslims generally, he managed to cause a furor by simply affirming Israel’s right to exist. ISNA leaders immediately requested its members to send messages of protest to Governor Snyder. Their insistence that theirs is a mainstream association worthy of respect becomes a bit ludicrous once its reaction to a single sentence in the governor’s speech is noted.

The convention’s keynote speaker this year was former President Jimmy Carter. He began the first of his two presentations by urging all to “give generously to ISNA.” Stating that he was “proud to be with you,” Carter spoke mostly of the work of his own Georgia-based Carter Center but closed with praise for the “this great organization” and added that “the principles of Allah will benefit the whole world.” Over 800 convention attendees warmly applauded our nation’s 39th President who seems to have not yet heard of the escalating and very bloody Muslim-led terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and elsewhere.

Critics of ISNA claim that the organization is allied to Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood and also to the equally radical Wahhabi strain of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia. Investigative journalist and Islam watcher Steven Emerson has accused ISNA of links to terrorism. In 2013, Canadian authorities took action against the group known as ISNA-Canada after uncovering evidence of its links to terrorism.

Credible reports note that radical Muslims from the West (from England, France, elsewhere, and even some from the United States) have sped to Iraq and Syria to join the forces of ISIS. Shouldn’t heaping praise and supplying dignity to a Muslim organization whose claims to be peace loving lose credibility when one factors in its history and its severe reaction to Governor Snyder’s single remark about Israel?

Jimmy Carter should know better than to try to seem important by consorting with ISNA. So should Governor Rick Snyder.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Remembering the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis

Remembering the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis
by JBS President John F. McManus

The death a few weeks ago of former Congressman George Hansen (R-Idaho) brought back memories of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It also stirred reminders of the power of large U.S. banks.

Early in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini seized control of Iran. Former Iranian leader Shah Reza Pahlevi had already fled the country and eventually made his way to the United States. Khomeini demanded that he be sent back to stand trial. The Carter administration refused and, on November 4th, Khomeini unleashed a mob that took control of the American embassy. The Iranians kept 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Washington’s customarily weak response to this kind of indignity included denying Iranian Americans a parade permit!

On November14th, fully ten days after the seizure of the embassy and the virtual imprisonment of the Americans, President Carter declared a “national emergency” and froze all Iranian assets within the U.S. Why wait ten days and not act immediately when an embassy is seized? What happened to trigger the kind of response that should have been forthcoming within hours of the raid on the embassy? The answer is that Khomeini had just announced his intention to withdraw $12 billion in Iranian assets from American banks. Sudden withdrawal of billions would have left 12 American mega-banks in a very shaky condition. Embassies can be overrun; American citizens who held diplomatic immunity can be made prisoners; and a pitifully weak protest can be issued. But when mega-banks face a threat, the U.S. government took meaningful action.

Sudden withdrawal of $12 billion would have left most of those 12 mega-banks in a very shaky position. Hence, the prompt declaration of a “national emergency.” Shouldn’t it have been labeled a “banking emergency?” In mid-1980, Congressman Hansen went to Iran seeking justice for the hostages. He got nowhere. I met him not long after his return to America and asked him if the Carter administration’s ten-days-after-the-fact decision to get tough, declare an emergency, and freeze Iranian assets might have had more to do with protecting the banks than obtaining freedom for the hostages. With no hesitation, he said, “That’s it exactly.”

After 444 days of being imprisoned in the U.S. embassy compound in Tehran, the 52 American diplomats and military personnel posted there by the U.S. government were granted permission to leave the country. It was now January 20, 1981. Jimmy Carter had been defeated for reelection the previous November and was about to leave for home in Georgia. But incoming President Ronald Reagan arranged for the outgoing President to greet the hostages. They, of course, thanked Carter for his efforts to obtain their release. Whether the bankers sent Carter their own thanks for what he did for them remains a mystery.