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Pence Gives Landmark Speech on the Presidency

December 5, 2010

Conservatives and moderates alike are raving about Mike Pence’s genius speech on the Presidency, given at Hillsdale College on Monday evening. He calls for a Constitutional reading of the Presidency. Perhaps the great Congressman from Indiana would be the best choice for the Oval Office. Below is an excerpt, but its brilliance demands a full read.

“Without proper adherence to the role contemplated in the Constitution for the presidency, the checks and balances in the constitutional plan become weakened. This has been most obvious in recent years when the three branches of government have been subject to the tutelage of a single party. Under either party, presidents have often forgotten that they are intended to restrain the Congress at times, and that the Congress is independent of their desires. And thus fused in unholy unity, the political class has raged forward in a drunken expansion of powers and prerogatives, mistakenly assuming that to exercise power is by default to do good.

Even the simplest among us knows that this is not so. Power is an instrument of fatal consequence. It is confined no more readily than quicksilver, and escapes good intentions as easily as air flows through mesh. Therefore, those who are entrusted with it must educate themselves in self-restraint. A republic — if you can keep it — is about limitation, and for good reason, because we are mortal and our actions are imperfect.

The tragedy of presidential decision is that even with the best choice, some, perhaps many, will be left behind, and some, perhaps many, may die. Because of this, a true statesman lives continuously with what Churchill called “stress of soul.” He may give to Paul, but only because he robs Peter. And that is why you must always be wary of a president who seems to float upon his own greatness. For all greatness is tempered by mortality, every soul is equal, and distinctions among men cannot be owned; they are on loan from God, who takes them back and evens accounts at the end.

It is a tragedy indeed that new generations taking office attribute failures in governance to insufficient power, and seek more of it. In the judiciary this has seldom been better expressed than by Justice Thurgood Marshall’s dictum that, “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” In the Congress, it presents itself in massive legislation, acts and codes thousands of pages long and so monstrously over-complicated that no human being can read through them in a lifetime — much less understand them, much less apply them justly to a people that increasingly feel like they are no longer being asked, they are being told. Our nation finds itself in the position of a dog whose duty it is not to ask why, because the “why” is too elevated for his nature, but simply to obey.

America is not a dog, and does not require a “because-I-said-so” jurisprudence to which it is then commanded to catch up, or legislators who knit laws of such insulting complexity that they are heavier than chains; or a president who acts like, speaks like, and is received as a king. The presidency has run off the rails. It begs a new clarity, a new discipline, and a new president.

The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or ruler. He does not command us, we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision. It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law and beliefs; to appropriate industries; to seize the country, as it were, by the shoulders or by the throat so as to impose by force of theatrical charisma his justice upon 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power of decision away from them, and to him and the acolytes of his choosing.”

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