Left‐​Wing Demagoguery

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Only in Washington could a Republican win the presidency and Democratsexpect to select the Cabinet. At least, that seems to be the attitude of theleft, which is opposing George Bush's nominees who represent philosophicalRepublicanism at its best.

Labor Secretary-designate Linda Chavez went down because she offered shelterto an abused woman who happened to be an illegal alien. Hopefully, a fewDemocrats are sleeping more uncomfortably knowing that their attacks havefueled the very anti-immigrant sentiments they regularly criticize.

John Ashcroft faces opposition as potential attorney general because hedoesn't believe that judges should rule the country, the unborn are worthyof protection and a free people has a right to the means to defend itself.These are sentiments with a curious similarity to those of the nation'sfounders.

Then, there is Gale Norton, Bush's nominee for interior secretary. Young,bright, and experienced, she may be Bush's most enlightened choice. But, shebelieves that Washington is not the fount of all environmental wisdom, ashocking sentiment to the left-wingers who have been in power for the lasteight years. Norton is not an easy target. Although only 46, she served twoterms as the elected attorney general of Colorado, before losing a primaryrace for the GOP Senate nomination.

A committed free marketeer, she is nevertheless pro-abortion in contrast toAshcroft. And, before moving to Colorado, she worked on environmental policyat a public interest law firm and the Interior Department. Her left-wingopponents naturally pose as defenders of the environment, but they wouldprefer to smear her than debate issues.

Their silliest attack has been based on a 1996 speech that she delivered tothe Independence Institute, a Denver-based think tank. Norton lamented theloss of state authority in the Civil War. She noted that ''we certainly hadbad facts in that case where we were defending state sovereignty bydefending slavery,'' an obvious sentiment for anyone who believes inliberty.

The benefit of the federal principle sharing and spreading government poweramong states and localities rather than concentrating it at the nationallevel is evident from the disastrous mess spawned in Washington. Today,Uncle Sam gives us confiscatory tax policies, ludicrous spending priorities,unrealistic regulatory burdens and counterproductive welfare programs. Theresult is public disillusionment with unresponsive political elitesunconcerned about popular frustrations and intent on ruling irrespective ofpopular sentiment.

And, it was the Civil War that transformed the Constitution and establishednational supremacy. The result, a conflict that killed more than 600,000people, devastated much of the country, and set the federal government onits course of imperious domination, proved to be a disaster for individualliberty. Other than for the freed men, the very point made by Norton. Thecause of states' rights ultimately, if imperfectly, advances individualrights.

The problem with the Confederacy was that it sabotaged the fight againstcentral authority by linking it to the hideous institution of slavery. Notthat national power was an ally of the enslaved. At that time, the centralgovernment, including newly elected President Abraham Lincoln and mostcongressmen, backed slavery; the institution's death was an inadvertentresult of the Civil War.

But, Norton's environmentalist critics don't care about the facts. KennedyCook, president of the Environmental Working Group, charged that ''herdeeply divisive remarks suggest she lacks a vital instinct to protect whatneeds protecting, whether it's wilderness or the rights of people ofcolor.'' Cook would probably have said the same had Norton endorsedmotherhood and apple pie.

He certainly wasn't going to seriously address her thoughtful attempt todraw philosophical lessons from history. Just play the race card, hint thatmaybe Norton likes slavery, and see if the demagogic spark ignites apolitical fire. It is the same shameless, tiresome game played over and overby the left. The real issue is centralized environmental decision-making.

Cook & Co. fear federalism because it means different people in differentregions can make different decisions. Given their druthers, residents of LosAngeles might accept different standards of air quality than people in Utah.Citizens of Washington might strike a different balance among logging,recreation and preservation in their forests than might residents ofConnecticut.

The notion that people should be able to exercise choice about their ownfutures bothers the authoritarians who dominate the environmental movement.So, the Cooks of the world do their best to seize control of the levers ofcentral power and impose their will on 280 million Americans. Stand in theirway and you obviously are a closet racist.

Gale Norton is a woman of integrity. She is smart and competent. And, shebelieves in federalism, limited government and individual liberty. Which iswhy the left hates her so. And why she should be speedily confirmed.