In the middle of Hillary Clinton's push for national healthcare in 1993, Bill Clinton cited Thomas Jefferson's concern for health issues as, somehow, apparently indicative of a need for federal management of the nation's healthcare system.— Paul Kengor
The most floundering Paul Kengor quotes that will inspire your inner self
[Ronald Reagan] called the image of [George] Washington praying on his knees in Valley Forge "the most sublime image in American history."
The presidents varied in the degree to which they cited the founders.
Some, like JFK, LBJ, [Richard] Nixon, and [Bill] Clinton, cited them somewhat frequently, in the range of 100 to 200 times, though, regrettably, not in a thematic or notably profound or even interesting way. Others, like Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, cited them rarely.
There's the unique case of Ronald Reagan, who cited [founders] some 850 times, and in a way that was absolutely fundamental to understanding Reagan's vision for America.
Freedom cannot exist alone.
The American founding is not just about a group of people, a group of men.
It is about an ideal: Both a vision and understanding of the very essence of democracy, constitutional government, a representative republic, and the remarkably powerful concept of being endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.
Many of these failures can be laid at the feet of the awful state of American higher education, and especially the way in which our secular universities have divorced their instruction from timeless truths like faith and freedom. Many of the professors at these places plainly don't respect the founders and, in particular, the religious foundation of the founders.
Speaking of [Ronald] Reagan on the faith of the founders, he was particularly fond of George Washington, who he cited nearly 200 times, and almost twice as much as all the presidents since [John F.]Kennedy combined.
[Gerald] Ford and [Jimmy] Carter, in fact, were huge disappointments to me.
Think about this: They were the presidents around the time of America's historic bicentennial, and yet rarely quoted the founders.
When Reagan was outspoken about his faith it was usually for a purpose, but never for getting votes.
[ Alexis de] Tocqueville said it in 1835, and it's as true today as it was then: 'Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is more needed in democratic societies than in any other.'
"Freedom" is probably the word he said more than any other.
He used the word freedom constantly. I think for some his frequent calls for freedom became a cliché because he did it so often. They didn't get it, but Reagan certainly did. He thought deeply about the relationship between God and human freedom and the nonrelationship between atheistic communism and that freedom.
As has been reported, and is unmistakably evident to all but the most naïve, federal employees have been ordered to exploit this crisis, to make the government shutdown as uncomfortable as they can. The White House is actively soliciting complaints from the general public on 'how the government shutdown has affected you.' These testimonies are tools sought for the propaganda kit; the better to agitate with.
I was disappointed in how [Bill] Clinton, like [Jimmy] Carter, used the founders to argue for huge expansions in federal power, clearly beyond what the founders could have ever conceived.
I noticed some time ago that neither of the candidates are quoting the founders.
If they are, they're doing it so rarely that I haven't noticed, or enough to be negligible. Certainly, neither is invoking the image of [George] Washington at Valley Forge or the Shining City Upon a Hill. In addition to this being true for John McCain and Barack Obama, it was true for Hillary Clinton as well.
You would hope that the supposed best of American educational institutions would teach its students about America as an institution.
Reagan didn't want to wear his faith on his sleeve in a political way.
Reagan thought that was egregious, and he was first turned off by it in the 1976 campaign when he thought Jimmy Carter was doing it. Reagan simply did not want ever to appear to be using faith for political purposes.
Which founders have these presidents cited - and why? What did, say, President [Ronald] Reagan's view of George Washington, or President [Bill] Clinton's view of Thomas Jefferson, tell us about their view of America and where they intended to lead the country?In many cases, it told us a lot about the president.
In part, it's almost surely a failure of modern education, whether K through 12 or higher education, or really both. Barack Obama went to Ivy League institutions like Columbia, which are reputed to be among America's top colleges. And yet, this very recent product of those American institutions is not publicly articulating an appreciation of the American founding or the founders and their vision for America.
Issues are important, yes, but issues come and go. America as an ideal is timeless.
Reagan thought that school prayer was important because it was crucial to begin each day reminding students that their inalienable rights came to them from their Creator and not from government bureaucrats.
Ronald Reagan [ cite the founders] on behalf of emphasizing the faith of our founders, of limited government, of the uniqueness and exceptionalism of America, of a nation with a people facing another historic challenge beyond the American Revolution, and in contrasting the system of the United States with the system of the USSR.
Colleges need learning, faith, and freedom.
Each reinforces the others, each makes the others possible. For what are they without each other?
[Barack] Obama isn't pointing to anyone, and certainly doesn't like it when others note (correctly) that his influences were the likes of Saul Alinsky, the Chicagoan and modern founder of community organizing, or Frank Marshall Davis, the communist journalist and agitator from Chicago who mentored Obama in Hawaii in the latter 1970s, and who Obama warmly acknowledges in his memoirs.
When [Jimmy] Carter did quote them, he quoted them in what I believe were misapplications, such as arguing for the creation of a federal Department of Education. In one case, Carter quoted [Tomas] Jefferson's and [George] Washington's appreciation of education and then, in a leap, implied that they would be delighted that he was creating a giant federal bureaucracy for education.
Frankly, neither president [Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter] was an inspiring figure; so, maybe their lack of inspiration by the founders shouldn't surprise us.
Reagan loved and respected his father, Jack Reagan.
But if there was a father figure to Reagan in the religious sense, it was Ben Cleaver. What Reagan's father didn't provide spiritually, from a fatherly point of view, Cleaver did.
Throughout American history our presidents have invoked our nation's founding fathers. This is particularly true of recent presidents.
I was a child or didn't live through those presidents prior to [Ronald] Reagan, and thus didn't realize how little attention they had paid to the founders.
Reagan saw the Soviet Union as evil, all right, and not only because it was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people but also because it was atheistic. [Vladimir] Lenin said that religious faith and communism were incompatible.
It is quite sad, to me, that that ideal, that vision and understanding [of American founding ], doesn't seem to be a part of the current political season.
[John] McCain references favorite presidents like Teddy Roosevelt. Hillary cited Eleanor Roosevelt.
President Bush, yes, spent money like a drunken sailor, and left the nation with a record $400-billion deficit. President Obama, however, is spending far more money than Bush, with a record $1.8 trillion deficit projected for his first year.
Learning is a good thing, but unless it's tempered by faith and a love of freedom, it can be very dangerous indeed.
In [Ronald] Reagan's view, the American Founders had anchored their experiment in Judeo-Christian beliefs; the Bolsheviks deliberately established an antithetical model. Those founders of communism divorced their "faith" from God.
Maybe the most interesting find in my research is that it is clear that Ronald Reagan, among all modern presidents, plainly rediscovered the founders.
If our presidents, or potential presidents, don't know this or don't articulate [an America ideal], that's a blown opportunity. The president can teach as well as lead.