Author archives: Robert Morrison

Feeling our History

by Robert Morrison

September 12, 2014

Hurry, we’re late,” my wife called back to me. She was headed to the Midshipmen Store at the U.S. Naval Academy. A sale was on for Navy fan gear and we wanted to be well attired for the annual Army-Navy football game. I had the honor of accompanying my wife, then a Navy Captain and a commanding officer of the Academy’s health clinic.

Go on, I’ll catch up,” I called out, relishing the opportunity to stage my own little mutiny. I had seen a large cannon in front of MacDonough Hall just a few yards from the Mid Store. I was fascinated by the ding, the pronounced concavity in the mouth of that cannon. The plaque below told the story. I’m a slow reader of historical plaques.

As I ran my hand over that ding, I read how Lieutenant Thomas MacDonough had fired the cannon ball from his ship that had hit this naval gun and caused that depression in the mouth of this captured British cannon. Even more dramatic, Lt. MacDonough’s well-aimed shot had driven this very gun back on its carriage and had killed Commander George Downie, the British skipper of the HMS Confiance. That was a turning point in the Battle of Lake Champlain.

The Battle of Lake Champlain was fought two hundred years ago, on September 11, 2014. In our time, September 11th will be remembered, as it should be, for the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Flight 93, brought down by heroic American passengers over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

But the War of 1812 had its share of terror tactics, too. A Canadian writer, the late Pierre Berton, related the story of what happened when the American militiamen outside what was to become Chicago surrendered to Indian allies of the British. Six hundred Pottawatomie Indians, led by Black Bird, their chief, had pledged to let the captured soldiers and their families go free for a ransom of $100 each. Black Bird will not keep his promise.

At the wagon train, the soldiers’ wives, armed with their husbands’ swords, fight as fiercely as the men. Two are hacked to pieces, a Mrs. Corbin, wife of a private, had vowed never to be taken prisoner and…Cicely [a black woman, an enslaved person]who is cut down with her infant son. Within the wagons, where the [soldiers’] younger children are huddled, there is greater horror. One young Indian slips in and slaughters twelve single-handed, slicing their heads from their bodies in a fury of bloodlust.

[Pierre Berton, The Invasion of Canada: 1812-13, Penguin Books Canada, Ltd. Toronto: 1980, p. 254.]

Ransom? Beheadings? Woman and children slaughtered? Sounds like this morning’s headlines on ISIS. This was hardly an isolated incident. Such massacres on both sides were part of our country’s early history.

Knowing about such events in our past helps us cope with terrorism today. It’s not the first time we have faced such determined and bloodthirsty enemies. It won’t be the last.

What we need is to have a feel for our history. I have run my hand over that ding in the cannon’s mouth. I felt it. At the Lincoln Cottage in Northeast Washington, D.C., you can run your hand along the railing of the stairs that lead up to the room where President Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. Across the river at nearby Mount Vernon, you can mount the same stairs that George Washington descended when he learned that he had been elected the first President of the United States.

Through such experiences, we place ourselves in communion with all those Americans past and present who have taken the oath to defend the land we love. My wife and I have many times attended the Induction Day ceremonies at the Naval Academy. That’s the day when approximately 1,200 new “Plebes” arrive to begin their four-year period of instruction in military and academic subjects. On I-Day, the Plebes receive their immunizations; get extensive physical examinations, and haircuts. They are dressed in baggy uniforms called “whiteworks.” All their over-the-counter and prescription drugs are dumped in big piles. From now on, the Navy is responsible for their health and safety.

At day’s end, the Plebes and their parents gather in Tecumseh Court. “T-Court” is named for an enemy Indian chieftain we honor today for the fact he saved American prisoners from being tomahawked and scalped during the War of 1812.

Suddenly, over the massive columns of Bancroft Hall, four Navy jets thunder overhead, so low you can read the numbers on their fuselages. You can feel the roar in the pit of your stomach. It’s sound of freedom, they say.

And the Plebes raise their right hands and recite the Oath of Office. Many of their parents and many of us assembled as a cloud of witnesses will be in tears as these vibrant young people pledge their lives to protect and defend our Constitution.

They end their recitation of the Oath with the same words spoken by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and by every other commander-in-chief:

So Help Me God

You can run your hands over these words. They are engraved on a plaque affixed to the bulkhead (wall) in Bancroft Hall. You can feel your country’s history.

Wahoo, Terps!

by Robert Morrison

September 10, 2014

I just got back from an annual trek to Charlottesville to visit my dear old alma mater, University of Virginia, when O Say Can You See? It’s not the U.Va. football team, the “Wahoos,” who are the center of attention this weekend; it’s the University of Maryland’s Terps. Fear the Turtle!

I have to take my Cavalier hat off and cheer for Maryland for this wonderful way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of  “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” (Yes, they still spelled it the British way back then.) Francis Scott Key’s great poem was written to commemorate America’s victory in a “key” battle of the War of 1812. Key’s poem became better known as “The Star Spangled Banner” and in time, it became our national anthem.

Two hundred years ago this Saturday, September 13, 1814, the British had just come north from burning Washington, D.C. Admiral George Cockburn and Gen. Robert Ross had put the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress to the torch. They were acting in reprisal for the American burning of Canada’s provincial capital of York earlier in the war.

British Gen. Robert Ross was especially zealous in his desire to crush the Yankees. Baltimore was then thought to be the real target of the invaders because it was a major port. The nation’s capital was still a small town. After demanding breakfast from an American farmer, the general was asked where he and his army were headed. “I will have supper in Baltimore, or in hell,” he said defiantly.  Shortly afterward, the General was shot and killed by an American militaman. File under: Pride goeth.

I especially like the fact that the Terrapins’ uniforms will feature an outline of Fort McHenry on the helmets and words from The Star-Spangled Banner on their helmets, jerseys, and pants. Wow!

I cannot help pointing out that you would learn more of your country’s history, more of patriotism, and more about the meaning of this Home of the Brave and Land of the Free by going to a Maryland football game than by taking an Advanced Placement U.S. History Course (APUSH). The producers of that mess of pottage seem to think that they are really serious scholars if they are able to tear down this country and the people who pay their salaries.

We are shocked at the idea of several hundred Unamericans said to be fighting for ISIS or other jihadists abroad. One of those, Douglas McAuthur McCain joins other misguided young men serving their country’s enemies.

Who were this young man’s high school teachers? What did they teach him? When and where do young people learn what it means to be an American?

Are they taught to read the U.S. Constitution?

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Art. III, Sec. 3.

The Framers of our Constitution set a high standard of proof for treason. We have not had to prosecute many Americans in the past two hundred years for treason. But that does not mean it doesn’t occur. Fighting for ISIS is a pretty obvious case of treason.

Douglas McCain won’t have to worry about Eric Holder reading him his Miranda rights or having a pro bono lawyer take up his case. Young McCain was killed on the battlefield.

One of the lines on the uniform pants of the Terps says “Conquer we Must.” Well, I hope they win. The line is solely about football games, we will be assured.

But Francis Scott Key’s words were not about sport:

Then conquer we must

When our cause it is just

And this be our motto

In God is our Trust

With Bibles being banned at Walter Reed Hospital and burned at our military bases in Afghanistan, with Penn State University removing Bibles from housing, is it any wonder that some young people are hopelessly confused?

We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors among us,” wrote C.S. Lewis half a century ago.

I especially like the fact that the University of Maryland uniforms feature cursive writing for some of the lines from The Star-Spangled Banner. With the onset of Common Core, there is a push (APUSH?) to get rid of cursive handwriting. That’s reason enough to oppose this unnecessary and intrusive effort to have government control what is taught and what is thought.

I prefer Ronald Reagan’s idea: Ours is the only Constitution in the world that begins with three powerful words: We the People.

As long as we have the kind of enthusiasm and patriotism represented by the University of Maryland’s new football uniforms, and their fanatical fans, we will continue to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Go Terps!

The View from my Adirondack Chair

by Robert Morrison

August 29, 2014

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I’m getting a head start today by having lunch in my back yard with a good friend.

Working from home has its decided benefits. It’s been a good and productive week for me. (I hope my boss agrees). My friend and I will be sitting in my favorite birthday gift — my new Adirondack chairs. This very American invention seems to symbolize peace, order, creativity. Sitting side-by-side with a friend, in animated conversation, is one of life’s joys.

But there is a certain bittersweet quality to these days. We have never had a nicer summer in Maryland. Blue skies, low humidity, picnic suppers at the sea wall in Annapolis, watching red sails in the sunset, enjoying a summer of peace.

Yet the world has seemingly never been in worse shape, but here at home, peace is precious. The Mideast is exploding. War between Israel and Hamas brings condemnation — as usual — of those who are defending themselves from terrorists. From Gaza, Hamas has been tunneling under the Israeli primary schools and staging rocket attacks on their hospitals. The French have an old expression for this: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”

The president this week announced to the world: “We have no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.” Truth be told, this president has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Russia, or China, or Boko Haram. Not since Jimmy Carter’s uncertain course has the Ship of State been so obviously adrift.

I had the honor of interviewing President Carter’s own choice for Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malcolm Toon had been a thirty-year diplomat. He told me in 1982 that the only time in his career that he feared for the United States was when Carter was president. “I had never seen the Soviets so contemptuous of American weakness,” Amb. Toon told me then.

President Bush erred, badly, in saying he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and had seen “a good man.” He looked into the Russian strong man’s soul, Mr. Bush announced. Russian dissident writer Vladimir Bukovsky spoke to a Victims of Communism Dinner shortly thereafter. Asked about George W. Bush’s statement, Bukovsky deadpanned, with his lugubrious Slavic intonations: “I have looked into eyes of many KGB agents. I have never found it a particularly soulful experience.”

It took years for George Bush to gain a better understanding of Putin and his conduct. But at least he got it. Not so this administration. Vice President Joe Biden related how he had told Putin “I don’t think you have a soul at all.” This prompts one to ask: Is there a Nobel Prize for Jackassery?

The Obama administration’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, is famous for her evoking of “Soft Power,” whatever that is. But in the UN this week, she declaimed that the Russians had to stop “lying” about their activities in Ukraine. Why, Madame Ambassador, must they stop lying? Are you going to invoke Soft Power against them? Liberalizing Czech Communists tried Soft Power in 1968. The Kremlin crushed that Prague Spring under the tank treads of their T-34’s. So much for Soft Power.

We in America can thank God for our safety — and thank the U.S. military, too. There’s a quote — probably misattributed to the great English writer George Orwell — that says “people sleep safely in their beds because rough men are ready to do violence in their behalf.”

What the U.S. military does is not violence. The U.S. military has always been a force for peace. When obliged to use force, even deadly force, it is not engaged in violence. The “authorized use of deadly force” is what distinguishes legitimate and civilized nations from those — like Russia under the Communists, like the Nazis in Germany, like Hamas, Iran, or ISIS today — whose use of force is always violence, never legitimate.

Every Sunday, my wife and I join in prayers at Chapel for the families of young Americans who have died the previous week defending us. We thank God for the sacrifice of these heroes. They are not rough men ready to do violence. But they are brave men, capable men, men and women ready to defend our peace, our freedom, our laws and our Constitution, with their very lives.

To my friends and dear readers enjoying this last breath of summer may I share this poem?

The Last Rose of Summer

Tis the last rose of summer,

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred,

No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter,

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true hearts lie withered,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

August 24, 1814: Saving the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights from the Flames

by Robert Morrison

August 24, 2014

Professional football Hall of Famer Steve Largent liked to tell the story of his first real visit to Washington, D.C. He had been to RFK Stadium repeatedly when his Seattle Seahawks played our Redskins. As he rode in a cab to the Capitol in 1995, the newly elected Congressman from Oklahoma (R) marveled at all the huge government buildings he saw on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. “I wonder how many people work in those buildings,” he mused. “Oh,” his cabby said, “about half of them.”

Government workers in Washington had plenty of work to do on this date two hundred years ago. In the President’s House, First Lady Dolley Madison was supervising the emergency evacuation. During the War of 1812, most of our victories against Britain had come at sea, in ship-to-ship encounters or else on the Great Lakes. America’s army had repeatedly failed to conquer Britain’s northern dominions in Canada, but had managed to outrage the Canadians by burning their provincial capital of York, Ontario.

By 1814, it was payback time. A powerful British squadron sailed into Chesapeake Bay. Landing a strong contingent in Maryland, the redcoats marched overland. U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong was complacent about the threat to Washington, D.C. They are headed for Baltimore, he repeatedly told subordinates. Or maybe Annapolis.

President James Madison felt it his duty to join the troops defending the nation’s capital. The five-foot-four-inch, 63-year old commander-in-chief calmly mounted his horse and rode off.

Meanwhile, Charles Carroll of Maryland, a famed Signer of the Declaration and a leading Catholic layman, stopped by the Executive Mansion to warn Mrs. Madison of the British advance. She was all activity that day as the enemy defeated state militia forces at battles in Bladensburg and Upper Marlboro, Maryland. American troops were attacked with Congreve rockets. These newly developed weapons were not so deadly in themselves, and fairly inaccurate, but they served to panic the Yankees’ horses (and, truth be told, not a few inexperienced American militiamen.)

Dolley Madison had bravely remained behind to take care of last-minute details. She went from window to window with a spyglass, looking for the redcoats’ approach. She was determined to rescue Gilbert Stuart’s famous full-length portrait of President George Washington. The canvas painting had to be cut out of its frame.

At the State Department, a clerk was not one of those “half of them” — government workers who worked. On this fateful day, this clerk was all duty and all efficiency. As the National Archives website relates the story:

Secretary of State James Monroe rode out to observe the landing of British forces along the Patuxent River in Maryland. A message from Monroe alerted State Department officials, including a clerk named Stephen Pleasonton, of the imminent threat to the capital city and, also, to the government’s official records. Pleasonton “proceeded to purchase coarse linen, and cause it to be made into bags of convenient size, in which the gentlemen of the office” packed the precious books and records including the Declaration. A cartload of records was then taken up the Potomac River to an unused gristmill belonging to Edgar Patterson. Here the Declaration and the other records remained, probably overnight. On August 24, while the White House and other government buildings were burning, the Declaration was stored 35 miles away at Leesburg. The Declaration remained there at a private home until the British had withdrawn their troops from Washington and their fleet from the Chesapeake Bay.

Americans long remembered the British burning of our White House, our Capitol, and, shamefully, our Library of Congress. They held off burning the Patent Building only when a brave American, William Thornton persuaded them that it contained private property, a priceless record of inventions to benefit all mankind.

The mayors of Georgetown and Alexandria, Virginia, pursued the British Admiral for two days. When the harassed Royal Navy leader impatiently granted them an audience, they told him they wanted to surrender their cities to him. “I’m not even going there,” was the exasperated response of the man who burned Washington. True enough. He was headed to Baltimore. Georgetown and Alexandria are famous liberal bastions (ready then as now to surrender even before they are attacked.)

Stephen Pleasonton, however, is a great example of a government worker with a high sense of duty and the keenness and foresight to understand the inestimable value of the records that were given to him for safekeeping. We can all be thankful for the watchfulness and energy of Stephen Pleasonton, the dutiful government clerk. Now wouldn’t it have be wonderful if the IRS’s Lois Lerner had been as careful to preserve important government documents as Stephen Pleasonton was?

From Annapolis: A Capitol View

by Robert Morrison

August 22, 2014

I recently celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of my thirty-ninth birthday by climbing to the top of our Old State House in Maryland. The gracious capitol building dates from the 1770s and is the oldest legislative building in continuous use in America. This Old State House was the scene of many important events in U.S. history. General Washington came here to meet with Congress in 1783. He wanted to resign his commission to the civil authorities from whom he had first received it. This noble action would make him, King George III of England said, “the greatest man in the world.”

Previous victorious commanders — like Caesar, like Cromwell — had used their military renown to establish dictatorships. Washington’s model was Cincinnatus, the Roman general who had been called from his plow to defend the republic.

Thomas Jefferson had been in the Old Senate Chamber that cold winter’s day in December 1783, when Washington appeared before a tearful body of legislators. Congressman Jefferson had in fact drafted the response that the President of Congress, Thomas Mifflin, would give to Gen. Washington.

Intentionally, the Members of Congress remained seated while His Excellency stood before them. They wanted to emphasize the fact that their new nation was a republic. In England, when the King delivered his Speech from the Throne, Members of Parliament would stand before their seated Sovereign. America would be different; we would be a Novus Ordo Seclorum — a New Order of the Ages.

Climbing to the top of the Old State House affords a commanding view of the little seaport town of Annapolis. You can walk the entire city in an hour. You can go to City Dock, to Middleton Tavern, still serving dinners as it has since 1750.

Doubtless Alexander Hamilton and James Madison dined there in 1786 when they convened their Annapolis Convention. These young men (Madison at 35 was senior to Hamilton, just 31) had hoped to bring together delegates from all the newly united States to try to repair the defects of the Articles of Confederation. Only five states were represented and their twelve delegates could do little more than to issue a call for a general convention to meet the next year in Philadelphia. It would be called upon to revise the frame of government to “enable the United States in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for the exigencies of the Union.” But these young Framers would wholly overhaul the government. They gave us the Constitution, which all officeholders and members of our armed forces swear (or affirm) they will preserve, protect, and defend.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had climbed these very stairs to the top of the Capitol dome in 1791. By that time, they had split with Hamilton’s faction in the new federal government and were intent on forming a new political alliance, joining Southerners with Northerners who opposed Hamilton’s financial plans and his centralizing of power. Jefferson and Madison’s new political party would be called the Republicans, but they were in fact the ancestors of today’s Democratic Party. (Today’s Republicans date from 1854 and descend, mostly, from Hamilton’s Federalists.)

I am mindful as I climb in the footsteps of Jefferson and Madison to the top of the dome that they were also two of our leading advocates for religious freedom. Jefferson had introduced the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in that state’s legislature in 1779. It took James Madison’s skillful advocacy and legislative savvy to guide that historic measure to successful adoption in 1786.

Today’s world needs the wisdom of Jefferson and Madison more than ever.

In our own time, our State Department has collaborated with Islamic factions in Iraq and Afghanistan to produce unworkable constitutions that effectively deny religious freedom. “Nothing shall by done by this government that is repugnant to Islam,” say the clauses that our advisers placed in the constitutions of these two countries. These are lands and peoples our brave soldiers sacrificed to liberate. The present chaos we see throughout that Bloody Crescent derives in no small part from the simple fact that these people believe you should murder your neighbor if he leaves Islam. Or even your own child.

From the top of the Old State House, you can clearly make out the steeples of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. The Methodist and Presbyterian churches can also be seen. Across the way you can see the majestic dome of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

Beyond that dome is the newer Jewish Chapel, an architectural jewel and a house of worship that honors the contributions of U.S. Navy Commodore Uriah Philips Levy.

Here in Annapolis, you can walk from one of these cherished religious sites to another, each one standing apart from the other, but every one united in its respect for its neighbors’ rights. We need less bowing to desert despots and more candid talk. “Let facts be submitted to a candid world,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in our own Declaration of Independence. The fact is, those who murder their neighbors because they worship differently never have and never will enjoy true democracy. [When 89% of German voters affirmed Adolf Hitler as their Fürer in 1934, their votes didn’t express democracy, they killed it!]

Madison explained the link between civil and religious freedom most cogently in Federalist 51. He showed how religious freedom forms the foundation for political freedom:

In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.

The view from this Capitol dome helps one to consider how much of Jefferson and Madison’s wisdom is being disregarded today.

Our foreign policy — conducted by both parties — routinely ignores religious freedom. Our U.S. State Department has forgotten the strong beliefs of Jefferson and Madison, who were also two of our most eminent Secretaries of State!

Domestically, the Union that Washington called “sacred” is being subverted by ObamaCare. Under this most perilous measure, the religious freedom of Americans has been threatened as it has not been threatened since 1786. Under ObamaCare, the states cease to be states and become instead mere branch offices of the federal HHS Department.

In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson struck out the word Subjects and inserted the word Citizens. Our National Archives celebrated this important emendation with a press release on July 4, 2010, the very year that President Obama signed the legislation that will make us Subjects once again.

It took two years of patient petitioning with my State Senator, an honorable Democrat, to make that climb to the top of the Old State House dome. I’m glad I persisted. I pray I never forget the Capitol view it gave me.

Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly: America’s Own Iron Lady

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

I was being pressed by the bright and persistent students at Grove City College last year. They wanted to know what President Reagan thought about the question of men marrying men. I had been invited to be a guest lecturer at the Center for Vision and Values annual conference honoring the achievements of our fortieth president.

I was prepared to talk about my hero’s courageous stance against an Evil Empire and its 27,000 nuclear missiles, all targeted on us. So, the students’ fixation on the marriage issue took me aback. I was tempted to answer with wisecrack: President Reagan didn’t have to think about that — lucky guy. But as earnest as these young people were, I realized it would not do to be flippant.

Then, I remembered Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly’s heroic stand against the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — and the fact that Ronald Reagan became the first Republican candidate for president since 1928 to publicly oppose the ERA. He had been admirably briefed by Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly.

Mrs. Schlafly was a Harvard-educated and Washington University Law School-trained attorney. She had done her homework about the ERA. She led a spirited campaign of American women to resist the siren song of the ERA. In the 1970s, many of the mostly male Members of Congress and male state lawmakers were afraid to stand up to strident feminists. They feared crossing self-proclaimed women’s spokespersons who threatened: “We’ll remember in November.”

Not Mrs. Schlafly. She feared God and no one else. She waded into the controversy. She exposed the hidden agendas of radical feminists who had crafted the ERA. It would mean abortion on demand. It would force all of us as Americans to pay for this slaughter of innocents with our tax dollars. It would result in women being drafted and ordered into combat if America ever had to resort to the military draft. And, yes, it would doubtless force all jurisdictions in the country to recognize as marriages of the coupling of persons of the same sex.

All of these social troubles would have sprung from the ERA as unwary legislators opened that Pandora’s Box. In the 1970s, both parties, the TV networks, the “prestige press,” business and labor groups, academic and law organizations, and far, far too many church and civic groups fell in line behind the ERA.

That formidable correlation of forces only served to spur on the indefatigable Mrs. Schlafly. She relished the chance to make a goal-line stance and save the country she loves. She inspired in her grassroots supporters a vibrant sense of the enormous issues at stake. Nothing less than the country she loved was in peril.

When Mrs. Schlafly’s effort kicked into high gear, the ERA had already been ratified by more than thirty of the necessary thirty-eight state legislatures. As was said of the Battle of Waterloo, this was “a near run thing.”

In Britain in those years, another strong woman came on the scene. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher won the leadership of a Conservative Party that had lost its way. The Tories were a party that offered the British electorate not a choice, but a mere echo of the pale pastel socialism of the ruling Labour Party. Mrs. Thatcher had the right stuff. She was a formidable figure in British politics and, soon, she became Britain’s strongest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. Her Soviet adversaries called her the “Iron Lady.” Like Churchill, she made Britain great. And as Churchill said — in a phrase he coined — Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain could “punch above her weight.”

The movie “Iron Lady” was, to me, unbearable. I ejected the DVD and mailed it back. But I did value the remarkable movie trailer. That clip shows the talented Meryl Streep as Mrs. Thatcher, being coached on how to speak, how to move audiences.

It’s a valuable lesson in moving a public here, too. My own wife, a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Navy for thirty years, knows how to address a crowd and so does Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly.

I confess I have not always agreed with Mrs. Schlafly. She backed that solid champion of Midwestern Republicanism, Sen. Robert A. Taft, for president in 1952. No one could budge me from my enthusiasm for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. I wore my “I Like Ike” button to school. I was in second grade.

Phyllis Schlafly never had to raise her voice to raise concerns. She never had to equal the stridency of the radical feminists to make her points convincingly. In many ways, Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly is America’s own Iron Lady. And I am proud on this significant day in her life, to salute her.

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

July 28, 1914: The Great War Begins

by Robert Morrison

July 28, 2014

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia this day one hundred years ago. Serbian army figures had been implicated in the assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his consort, Sophie, in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo just one month prior. The shaky, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire had issued a list of nearly impossible demands of Serbia. Surprisingly, Serbia agreed to almost all of these stringent demands.

Nonetheless, the Austro-Hungarian military high command wanted war, needed war. And the Austrians had been given a “blank check” by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The unwavering support of Austria’s far more powerful ally was critical to Austria’s decision this day. Few could have imagined that Austria would risk war with its much smaller neighbor had it not had the German Army’s military might standing alongside.

That was because Serbia was under the protection of its huge ally, Russia. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia viewed himself as the leader of the Slavic peoples within and outside of his vast domain and Serbia was mostly a Slavic nation.

With Russia’s almost inexhaustible sources of manpower mobilizing for war against Austria-Hungary, Germany felt it had to move with lightning speed to counter this threat.

France, though republican and secularist, had aligned herself with Tsarist “Holy Russia” as a hoped-for counterweight to Germany’s 3:2 advantage in men and materièl. By threatening Germany with a two-front war — France in the West, Russia in the East, French military and political leaders had hoped to deter the Germans from going to war.

This intricate system of alliances and often-secret treaties contained all the combustible materials for a great explosion should diplomacy and military deterrence fail. On this day in 1914, they failed with catastrophic results.

Less than a week after Austria’s move, on August 1st, Germany declared war on Russia. Two days later, Germany declared war on France. Anticipating the need for a knockout blow against France before Russia’s huge manpower could be brought against the leading “Central” Power of Germany, Berlin’s High Command worked from the Schlieffen Plan.

This plan required the German Army to sweep into France and defeat the soldiers of the Republic in a lightning strike. “Let the last man on the right brush the [English] Channel with his sleeve,” they said of the great wheeling motion that would be required of their army.

The need for speed and the dictates of geography meant that Germany would have to drive her Army through little, neutral Belgium. Belgium’s independence and neutrality had been guaranteed by treaty Britain and Prussia (later Germany) since 1830.

Britain had an “understanding” with the French, what was termed an Entente Cordiale. Still, there was no formal treaty between the two historic enemies. With Belgium’s neutrality violated, however, Britain could not stay aloof from the continental struggle. No longer could she enjoy her “splendid isolation” from Europe’s quarrels.

English writer G.K. Chesterton would later write that there was never a chance that Britain would not go to war with Germany if the Kaiser’s troops invaded Belgium. But, because the ruling Liberal Party was financed largely by pacifist Manchester millionaires, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey could not issue a blunt, unmistakable warning: If you cross the border into Belgium, we will go to war. Instead, Lord Grey confined himself to euphemistic phrases, like “England expects all parties will observe their engagements.”

Years later, from his Dutch exile, the ex-Kaiser would tell diplomatic historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett that if he had known England would come into the war against him, he would never have allowed his generals to invade Belgium.

This may be a key lesson from the Great War: Pacifism doesn’t assuredly lead to peace. In the case of this cataclysm, pacifism may have led to war. When the British ambassador in Berlin brought word on August 4th of Britain’s Declaration of War on Germany to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the civilian head of the government cried out in anguish.

Bethmann-Hollweg simply could not believe Britain would go to war with Germany. Their royal families were even related by blood. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the petted grandson of Britain’s revered Queen Victoria. All of this, cried Bethmann-Hollweg, over “a mere scrap of paper!”

Philip Jenkins’s powerful new book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade, may be the most important of the writings in the ocean of ink overflowing in this Centennial of the Great War. In it, we learn that Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, Chief of the German General Staff in the pre-war years, was seriously involved in the occult. And we know how Social Darwinism had seeped into the consciousness of war planners on both sides of this conflict. German planners believed in “Weltmacht oder Niedergang” (World power or decline), This belief neatly fit in with Darwin’s ideas of survival of the fittest.

We live in an age when pledges, vows, and commitments are viewed as “mere scraps of paper.” Candidates of both parties in the U.S., for example, pledged to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there. President Obama is the most recent leader who has failed to observe his engagements.

Marriage vows made before God and a cloud of witnesses are increasingly disregarded. “He betrayed his wife, he did not betray his country,” said one Congressman in voting against Bill Clinton’s impeachment. In opening himself and his country to blackmail by twenty hostile foreign powers, conducting an adulterous affair over an unsecure telephone line, Clinton betrayed his wife and his country. Before that, another president had vowed: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” When he broke that pledge, his Budget Director dismissed it, saying “those were just words some speechwriter gave him to say.” A mere scrap of paper? Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger explained in his book Diplomacy how America had had no more loyal ally than Taiwan — and then coolly proceeded to detail how he intended to betray that faithful ally. Politicians elected on a commitment to marriage seem unfazed by breaking their vows and “evolving” on this vital matter.

The German word for such actions is Realpolitik. It stems from Chancellor Bismarck’s view that “treaties, like piecrusts, are made to be broken.” The English translation of Realpolitik is dishonor.

At London’s Royal Albert Hall recently, the Kaiser’s great-great Grandson, Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, asked the crowd of British Christians attending an Alpha Course convention for forgiveness. In an emotional appeal, Prince Philip, a Lutheran pastor, asked his fellow Christians to pray for Germany. He expressed his profound regret that his famous ancestor, the Kaiser, had not been closer to Jesus, and stronger to resist his generals’ pull to war.

We can certainly all join in prayer for a revival of Christian faith in all the nations that one hundred years ago this day were drawn into that hellish maelstrom of dcath and destruction we know as World War I. The true cause of that war is that men had forgotten God.

Wedding Belle Blues

by Robert Morrison

July 17, 2014

My wife and I were invited to a nice wedding. The reception for this event in the South was a most elegant affair. I enjoyed sampling the new and different foods and drink. Moving around the historic outdoor location on the water, I enjoyed exchanging pleasantries with the genial crowd of well-wishers.

Until, that is, I was accosted. A beautiful lady whom we and our friends knew socially from our town made a beeline for me. She had asked others if I still worked for that group. I hadn’t seen “Petra” in the years since she moved away, but I greeted her warmly.

You’re losing, you know,” she said, referring to Family Research Council’s fight to preserve true marriage. Realizing that others may be watching and not wanting to create a scene, I simply smiled and said, “Well, Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill were all losing for a while.”

Petra was not amused. Unsmiling, she said, “It’s all about Marriage Equality.” Warming to the topic, I replied: “So you are okay with twin brothers who are gay marrying? Is that your idea of marriage equality, too?”

Why would they want to?” she said, not taking the bait.

But if they do want to, you would not have a legal objection to their marrying. They truly love each other and have had a continuing relationship since before they were born. So that’s good?”

Clearly, she thought I was playing the fool. She didn’t want to continue down the clear path to what would be my next point: If twin brothers may marry, why not a twin brother and sister? And how about three spouses?

Fanciful? Not really. Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law Center has already pressed openly for polygamy. He rushed into federal court in Utah to have that state’s anti-polygamy law struck down—as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Windsor that the federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

I knew that the marriagenders don’t just want to expand or re-define marriage; they want to abolish it. In fact, they’ve said so in their manifesto, “Beyond Marriage.” You can read their plan to destroy marriage here.

Petra changed topics. “I suppose you think fetuses have property rights?” She wanted to drag me into the debate on personhood of the unborn. I replied: “The unborn child’s inheritance rights have been recognized in law for centuries.”

Then, I got inspired, especially considering these lovely surroundings and this glittering company:

Petra, you remember the scene in Downton Abbey where Lady Grantham is getting out of her tub?” (All liberals watch the great English soap opera, shown in the US on PBS.)

I continued: “Her maid, O’Brien, puts a bar of soap on the floor and the pregnant Lady Grantham falls. Her fall causes her to suffer a miscarriage. She might have been carrying the heir to the Downton Abbey estate. We are all meant to see this as a wrong and O’Brien as an evil woman for causing this death.”

Petra is not happy with this turn of the conversation as it heats up. She is beginning to get angry I can see—very angry.

Then it dawned on me: In her social set, she probably never had anyone disagree with her politically correct notions before. Thus, the fury.

They don’t need reasons; they only need rage.

Then, the ladies of our group—like an intrepid bomb disposal unit—intervene to take Petra away. They want to show her the fresh waffle cone making for the homemade ice cream.

Petra’s husband “Walt” takes me by the arm in a brotherly way. He is a fundraiser for a major college. His manner is of a practiced and soothing smoothness.

With hearty goodwill, he waves his arm and airily pronounces: “You know, this whole thing could be solved if we just got rid of marriage in the law and adopted civil unions. That’s the reasonable solution,” Walt pronounces.

I’m actually enjoying this back-and-forth. Agreeably as I can, I rejoin: “Except that the California Supreme Court used that state’s civil unions law as their pretext for overturning the marriage law that the people had voted on. They ruled that, since California gives all the same privileges and immunities to same-sex couples through civil unions, there is no rational basis to deny them marriage.”

Walt seems unfazed by this inconvenient truth. So what do I think about the view? And the weather? Both are superlative, I assure him. We drift apart.

An hour later, as my wife and I were preparing to go, I mentioned to our small knot of friends that I’d like to say goodbye to Petra and Walt and pay them my respects.

Someone in our group says Bob wants to “apologize.” I try not to be disagreeable or contentious in this amicable social setting. But, still smiling, I assure our friends I want to apologize for nothing. I will never apologize for standing for marriage.

And neither should anyone else.

United Germany’s World Cup: This is Bush 41’s Victory, Too!

by Robert Morrison

July 15, 2014

I finally found something about which I can agree with the liberal editors of Slate. They ran a story yesterday about the televised hug between Germans victorious goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and that nation’s diminutive Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It’s a most appealing picture to see the young giant lean over, almost fall over, in a spontaneous gesture of affection for his country’s leader.

I was happy for Germany. This is a Germany we can cheer. And it is fine to remember that without the visionary leadership of George H.W. Bush, there would not have been an Angela Merkel in this photo. She was raised in East Germany. (So, for that matter was Germany’s current president, Joachim Gauck.) Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are but two of the tens of millions of free Germans whose unification was staunchly supported by President Bush.

I distinctly remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. And I was, I will admit, plainly irked that my president put out the word: “I will not dance on the Berlin Wall.” Why not, I thought then. Isn’t this a day to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression?

The senior Bush was forever being lampooned on Saturday Night Live for his commitment to “prudence.” But is prudence a bad thing?

Actually, it is the best thing for a statesman. When I studied American history in the years of the early republic—1797-1801—I could not understand how the Founders whom I so admired—Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison—all seem to have gone a bit crazy. Why were they clashing with one another like drivers in a Demolition Derby?

Well, the retirement of George Washington might explain it. He was the personification of prudence. And why did the United States survive the Civil War but find itself adrift before and afterward? Might it be that Presidents Buchanan and Johnson lacked that most notable quality of Abraham Lincoln: Prudence, with a capital P?

George H.W. Bush was almost alone among world leaders to want Germany reunited. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl certainly hoped for German Reunification. His Socialist opponents certainly did not. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hardly enthusiastic for the creation of a continental political and economic powerhouse. French President Francois Mitterrand, no doubt recalling Germany’s three invasions of his homeland in less than one hundred years, was decidedly cool to the idea of East and West Germany coming together. Lech Walesa of Poland was not beating the drums for a Germany reunited.

As for the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, then riding a whirlwind in the Kremlin, he was the one who had decided not to send in the tanks. He would not order Communist border guards to shoot down spontaneous surge of East Germans toward the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. For not shooting his hostages, Gorbachev was being hailed by the Western media as a prince of peace.

If Gorbachev was really the wonderful reformer that Western journalists said he was, it was curious that all those vast crowds of West Germans did not flood through the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate and throw themselves into his arms. There are no pictures of young West Germans hugging Mikhail Sergeivich, however, the way Manuel Neuer hugged Chancellor Merkel. A point worth noting on this festive occasion?

George H.W. Bush deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his honorable, visionary, and yes, prudent statecraft at the time of German Reunification. He stood tall for America. This quiet and modest man said simply that America must keep her word to the German people.

For forty-five years, U.S. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—has said America supports German Reunification. We would be unfaithful to our word if we did not back our steadfast NATO ally in the hour of need.

The fact that President Bush was able to skilfully chart his careful course, to support a peaceful Reunification of Germany, to bring that new and democratic Germany firmly under the NATO umbrella, and to achieve all this with the Soviets’ acquiescence (if not with their enthusiasm) is a tribute to statesmanship of the highest order. If anyone had said in 1988 that he would accomplish this all without firing a shot (or costing the U.S. taxpayers a dime) it would have been thought a delusion.

So this is President Bush’s victory, too. Now, Madam Chancellor, may I respectfully speak to you about not persecuting homeschoolers?

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