Alan Dershowitz Debunks John McCain’s Claim of a Christian Nation

John McCain recently claimed that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The absense of any support for religion in the body of the Constitution has been interpreted as evidence of the belief of the founding fathers in separation of church and state. If there was any doubt as to this intent, this was made clear both in the First Amendment and in various other writings. Alan Dershowitz discussed this at Huffington Post:

Recently John McCain–whose presidential campaign is in the sewer–declared that “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” What an ignoramus! McCain should go back to school and take Civics 1, where he might learn that the United States Constitution was called “the godless constitution,” by its opponents, because it was the first constitution in history not to include references to God or some dominant religion. The Constitution mentions religion only once, in prohibiting any religious test for holding office under the United States.

The Bill of Rights mentions religion twice, once in prohibiting an establishment of religion (a clear reference to any branch of Protestant Christianity, which was then the dominant religion) and a second time, in guaranteeing the free exercise of all religions. Several years after the ratification, the Senate ratified a treaty with the Barbary regime of Tripoli which expressly proclaimed that “the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” In fact, many of our Founding Fathers, including the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, were not Christians but rather were deists. In other words, they believed in the existence of God, but not in the divinity of Jesus or the divine authorship of the bible. Today they might be called Unitarians; in fact, John Adams, another author of the Declaration, and the President under whom the treaty was ratified, is buried in a Unitarian church, along with his wife Abigail and his son John Quincy.

Roger Williams–the religious leader most responsible for separating church and state in America–put it very well a century earlier: “no civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christians be in it.” That is what is so striking about American history, namely, that a nation of Christians ratified a Constitution that did not in any way establish “the United States as a Christian nation.” We are in fact the most diverse nation in the history of the world and that is the secret of our success. McCain may prefer to vote for someone who “has a solid grounding in [his] faith,” namely, Episcopalianism (though he is apparently thinking of changing his faith to Baptism), but in doing so, he is violating the spirit of our Constitutional prohibition against requiring a religious test for the holding of office in our diverse country.

The religious right has been trying to rewrite history by denying the important role of separation of church and state in the founding of this nation. Note in the final paragraph above that one of the leaders promoting separation of church and state was a religious leader. While the religious right tries to erroneously portray support for separation of church and state as an anti-religious belief, in reality many religious leaders have recognized that freedom of religion can only be guaranteed if we have separation of church and state.

Light Weight Edwards Attempts To Play the Jury

If John Edwards really had ideas he believed in, he would respond to his opponents by presenting arguments why his plans are better. However, being a lightweight who I doubt even understands all the policy papers he has had staffers write, he choses instead to attempt to play the jury. Rather than defending his own ideas, Edwards is whining to the media and the voters that Hillary Clinton and now Barack Obama have stolen his ideas.

Edwards might just as well complain that Obama stole the English language from him as he was using it first (having been born earlier). There is nothing in either Edwards health care plan or his position on nuclear disarmament which others have not also spoken about. This is true about virtually every position in every race. All the candidates have consulted with experts in the fields and all the candidates look back at ideas proposed by others to synthesize their own platforms.

Edwards made statements about a variety of topics in this election cycle only because he started campaigning earlier. As I noted earlier, Obama’s statements on nuclear disarmament are similar to the views of Ronald Reagan. While I doubt that Ronald Reagan took any ideas from John Edwards, I wouldn’t put it past Edwards to claim this if he thought he could get away with it.

There are similarities between the views of all the Democratic candidates on health care, but Obama takes a significantly different approach than Edwards. In 2003 John Kerry rejected mandates understanding how this goes against the grain of most American voters. Kerry still could not fight criticism that his primarily voluntary plan represented a “government take over of health care.” This year only Obama realizes that the goal is to offer means to assist those who are unable to get affordable coverage and has not fallen for the phony goal promoted by Edwards that only universal care is worthy of consideration. Any plan which includes mandates begins with two strikes against it, and Edwards got his third strike in calling for making preventative care mandatory.

This is a country where there is considerable protest over simply being required to wear a helmet on a motorcycle. Democrats became a minority party largely because of failing to understand that most Americans may require certain government assistance but generally desire as little interference from government in their lives as possible. Democrats retook control of Congress largely because the Republicans have been taken over by social conservatives who became even more intrusive in the lives of Americans than the Democrats. If the Democrats see this as a mandate for any big government idea they come up with they will find themselves in the minority for another generation at least.

Hearing Edwards making statements about making preventative care mandatory demonstrated why he will never be able to sell his plan to American voters and raised questions as to his understanding of health care. This only reinforced doubts about Edwards as someone who made healthcare a cornerstone of his campaign but didn’t know that Cuba has a government run health care system, especially as he asked this just a few days after recommending that people watch Sicko. The more Edwards attempts to talk policy, as opposed to these desperate attacks on his opponents, the more he reinforces the view of Bob Shrum that Edwards is “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”

Edwards can attempt to spin his conversion on Iraq but no amount of razzle dazzle from him will convince the jury that he wasn’t guilty of gross misjudgment in his support for the war, as well as the Patriot Act. A primary concern in choosing among the candidates in foreign policy is whether they have the judgment to determine whether it is necessary to go to war. This is a decision which can only be made correctly prior to the war and second guessing years later does not excuse the initial mistakes of either John Edwards or Hillary Clinton.

Stossel Falsely Promotes HSA’s As Solution For Health Care Crisis

John Stossel provides another simplistic look at health care. Previous articles by Stossel were discussed here and here. Stossel repeats the usual Republican argument promoting Health Savings Accounts, claiming that people will be more responsible in spending money if they see it as their own money.

One problem is that many people choose not to pay for preventative and routine care if they see it as coming out of their own pocket, increasing the cost of care in the long run. Stossel writes:

Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger says studies show that “people who have these high-deductible health-insurance policies take a lot better care of themselves. They have more yearly physicals. Because they’re saying, ‘If I keep myself healthy, in the long run, I’m going to be spending less money.'”

The studies are far from clear on this point. It depends upon who you are comparing. If you are working with the types of plans Stossel discusses, where the employer both provides the plan and  also places a generous amount of money into the plan, then some will use it for annual physicals. Many others either cannot afford the out of pocket expenses or chose not to spend their own money.  Stossel describes the plan at Whole Foods:

Five years ago, the Whole Foods grocery chain switched to a high-deductible plan. If an employee has a sore throat or a sprained ankle, he pays. But if he gets cancer or heart disease, his insurance covers it.

Whole Foods puts around $1,500 a year into an account for each employee. It’s not charity but part of the employee’s compensation. It’s money Whole Foods would have otherwise spent on more-expensive insurance. Here’s the good part for employees: If they don’t spend the money on medical care this year, they keep it, and the company adds more next year.

That’s a good deal if you can get it, but those who have employers who are able to both purchase the plan for them and put $1,500 annually into their account are not those suffering under the current system. Some Republicans argue that, as Health Savings Accounts cost less than low-deductible plans, more employers will be able to provide them to their employees. If that is the case, we wouldn’t have seen a growing number of employers dropping or reducing coverage, and more people who are uninsured and under-insured, over the past few years, as HSA’s have become more aggressively marketed by the insurance industry.

HSA’s are of benefit to some, although they are often utilized more as a tax shelter than as an insurance program. They offer little benefit to those who currently do not receive coverage from an employer and who cannot afford either the premiums or the out of pocket expenses required by these plans.

The Impact of Edwards’ Decision to Accept Matching Funds

The desperation move by John Edwards to accept matching funds has raised considerable concern in the liberal blogosphere that supporting Edwards for the nomination will result in putting a Republican in the White House. Kos expresses such concerns and had a campaign law expert analyze the impact of this decision:

Then come the expenditure caps, and on this there’s been confusion because there are two sets of caps.  There is a cap on per-state spending which appears bizarrely low ($1,486,433 for Iowa?) and is not what it seems — the caps only apply to television and radio advertising, or to direct mail that is sent within 28 days before the vote.

No, the real cap issue is the overall spending cap for the primaries, which lasts from the start of your campaign through the end of the Convention in late August (when you’re no longer seeking the nomination), and it’s believed to be around $43M for 2008.  And that sum includes almost everything — only “certain fundraising expenses (up to 20 percent of the expenditure limit) and legal and accounting expenses incurred solely to ensure the campaign’s compliance with the law” are exempt from that limit, and it’s those figures which bring you to the $50M+ cap generally quoted.

As to that sum, Edwards spent $9.8M over the first six months, and is estimated to have spent about $8M more this quarter.  Subtract from that the exempt expenditures, and he’s got $33-35M left to spend between now and next August.  (Obviously, if he is the nominee, he’ll have no problem raising the rest of that.)

Kos is right to be alarmed by these numbers:

This is dramatic and worse than I ever imagined. When talking to the Edwards campaign, they stressed the state limits, and how so few things applied to it (mostly advertising, and not even the full cost, at that). They neglected to tell me the far more important overall spending cap — the $50 million figure. And that’s what makes his nomination so dangerous.

No matter how much the Edwards campaign argues that this is a decision based on principle, it’s not…

No, this decision wasn’t based on principle. It was based on a simple cold calculation — Edwards isn’t raising the money that corporate-backed Hillary Clinton or people-powered Barrack Obama are raising. And as much as they claim that they had the money to compete in the early states, this was the only way Edwards could reach some kind of parity with the two big dogs in the race.

Based on winning the primary, this decision makes sense. But if it succeeds, we will have a handicapped nominee for a long, painful six months. The RNC, the GOP candidate, the conservative 527s (like Freedom Watch) will all be beating the shit out of our nominee, and without the ability to control message and directly fire back, we’ll be at a gross disadvantage.

So what would Edwards do, depend on free media? Really? The same ones that trashed Gore and Kerry, and have already done a good number on Edwards? Rely on the good sense of the voting public? Please. If you can’t talk to them, they listen to the people who can.