Nader and Peroutka: Throwing a Left-Right Counterpunch at the Establishment’s Jaw in 2004
Michael Anthony Peroutka of Baltimore will use a presidential candidacy on the Constitution Party line to make an indelible imprint of his own on the 2004 Sweepstakes for the American presidency and, along with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, may play a kingmaker’s role in determining the eventual winner on the first Tuesday in November. On February 21, the day of his official declaration of intent to seek the presidency of the United States, he spent two hours with Lutheran pastor and free-lance journalist Mark Dankof to discuss the vision and roadmap ahead.
Two hours before the official declaration of his presidential candidacy outside of Baltimore this past Saturday, Michael Peroutka greeted me at his law offices in Pasadena, Maryland. At age 50, with an established law practice, a wife and three children, and full-time activity as an instructor and lecturer for the Institute on the Constitution, one wonders where the time and energy to run as a Third Party candidate for the presidency of the United States will come from. But Peroutka, armed with a Loyola College and University of Baltimore Law School education, an expansive intellect, seemingly limitless energy, and a charmingly disarming personality, would appear equal to the daunting task ahead.
His professional law office is a most interesting combination of literary and artistic classics and an atmosphere of the casually affable. Shelves of books dedicated to law, Christian theology, and American history line the perimeter of the room; the academic degrees on the wall are complemented by portraits of icons of the American historical past like Patrick Henry. An incased Civil War-commemorative Bowie knife with symbols of the mid 19th-century Confederate States of America on the blade and handle suggests other kaleidoscopic dimensions and themes in the Peroutka past and present.
Close friends and family members come in and out of the candidate’s war-room at will. Brother Steve’s jovial, heavy-set appearance manifests itself in the office during one point in the interview. He indicates to his brother that before the latter’s declaration for the presidency in a few short hours, the former has committed to attending a high-school basketball game. Several campaign aides, who look wholesome, naive, and barely old enough to shave, stop in to greet their boss by his first name. Wife Diane telephones to ask her husband routine questions about food, dress, and the afternoon’s impending activities. Later, she and the candidate offer me the opportunity to follow them personally in their white Chevy Astro van to the announcement gala and speech at Michael’s Eighth Avenue restaurant in Glen Burnie. It proves to be a two-vehicle motorcade.
Peroutka’s answers to the interviewer’s questions seem as direct and forthcoming as his persona and the ambience of his law office. The first question is a softball, designed to give the outside world a sense of his mission, his ideology, and the window to his soul. For Michael Anthony Peroutka, one senses that the first two are inextricably linked to the third. Why a heretofore nationally unknown Baltimore lawyer as a viable alternative to George Bush and the Democrats in the first Tuesday of November? The candidate’s demeanor remains affable as he answers, but the steely character of his eye contact with the interviewer suggests the fire that burns within.
My candidacy, and the existence of the Constitution Party itself, have to be seen in the context of a country—and a Republican Bush Administration—careening out of control. We’re in the middle of a constitutionally undeclared, preemptive war in Iraq with no viable occupation policy and no end in sight; a 2.3 trillion dollar federal budget with a 500 billion dollar + deficit; a non-existent immigration policy comprised of open borders and a presidentially declared amnesty for another 12 million illegal aliens; our New World Order NAFTA, GATT, and WTO treaties are exporting American manufacturing, service, and tech jobs abroad while allowing for the importation of cheap Third World labor at home; the USA Patriot Act threatens the civil liberties and constitutional protections of every citizen in this country; Bush’s budget and trade deficits (330 billion with China alone over 3 years) will have a long-term disastrous effect on the value of the American dollar; and we are stuck with activist Federal and State judiciaries trying to usurp legislatures by un-constitutionally imposing a radical, perverted social and economic agenda on the entire country. Our elected officials are not looking out for the interests of the average American or the country as a whole. This is where it is. Time is running out. But I must emphasize—most emphatically for your readers—that all of these terrible policies stem from a root cause: a complete ignorance and disregard for the Constitution of the United States and the underlying philosophy that characterized the Founders.
I became fully aware of how tactfully and skillfully the benevolently shrewd interviewee had maneuvered an experienced interviewer into asking the obviously begged question. Sensing that it would provide the Rosetta Stone of interpretation and understanding of the psyche of the Candidate—and his subsequent exegesis and analysis of every derivative policy position—I acquiesced with, “What are the cohesive philosophical principles in your understanding of the American Constitution, and how do they differ from the policy makers you believe have betrayed the American people?”
Michael Peroutka looked thoughtful as he stood up from his chair and made a purposeful beeline for the office coffee-maker. Pouring pure black octane into his cup, and that of his office interrogator, one sensed the interlude in conversation was a purposeful silence leading to the point he wished to softly brand into the center of the debate which will surround his fledgling candidacy and its public examination between now and the first Tuesday in November. Carefully replacing the pot on the burner and returning to his seat, he reacquired the eyesight line of his counterpart sitting across the expansive wooden desk. Simultaneously, he keenly reacquired the exact point of the conversation, resuming it as effortlessly as he did earlier after the departure of his brother, continuing with the segment of the hour’s conversation key to understanding him and his Constitution Party brethren:
America needs a president who actually applies the Constitution and the underlying principles of the Founders to daily governance. First and foremost, any fair understanding of the Constitution presupposes the acknowledgment of the existence of a Creator God. It must be foundationally emphasized that all fundamental constitutional rights of individuals stem from God and not the State. Government exists to secure these God-given rights for each person. Our rights are constitutionally inalienable only insofar as our acknowledgment of their Divine origin and conveyance. The notion that the State is the source of our rights is incompatible with the notion of the Founders regarding their inalienable, divinely-imparted character. If the State is the source of our rights, it logically follows that the State can always revoke what it has granted. The Federal Government and its allies, in the drive toward a New World Order infrastructure of World Government, are not in the business of securing the divinely-imparted, inalienable rights ensconced in the American Constitutional tradition—they are specifically in the enterprise of controlling and suppressing what used to be a free people. The specific purpose of constitutional government can never be the redistribution of wealth (socialism) or any other version of radical social engineering. And the presupposition of the existence of a Creator God as understood by the Founders preempts the neo-pagan view of Culture and State so pervasive today. Properly understood, it is clear that the prevailing view of the Founders which underscored the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, was that God’s revealed law, along with a proper understanding of natural law, were given absolute priority—to insure that municipal law was in harmony with the first two. This philosophical foundation would eliminate the acceptability in our government and culture of two of the biggest moral blights and cancers of our time—abortion-on-demand and the gay rights movement. Constitutionally speaking, there is no Federal or State court in the land, including the State Supreme Court of Massachusetts, that can make moral or legal what the revealed and natural law of God have made immoral and illegal. This is the bottom line, without equivocation or apology. And (emphasis) I’m not talking about a theocracy. Recognition of the doctrine of the existence of the Creator God and His role in the bequeathing of inalienable rights to the people has no inherent connection to the notion of theocracy as some charge. Freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and the avoidance of a congressionally declared State Religion of America are all a part of the package of what I believe, and what the American Constitution teaches, foundationally. The charge that either I or the Constitution Party stand on the premises of governmentally induced notions of theocracy is absolutely false—a complete canard.
What would Peroutka do to rein in a runaway, activist Federal judiciary? It’s really simple, you see. I endorse the Constitution Restoration Act (CRA) recently introduced in Congress in the aftermath of the Judge Roy Moore controversy in Alabama. It basically states that; (1) the future jurisdiction of Federal courts in cases like the Supreme Court’s ordering of the removal of the 10 Commandments Monument in Montgomery would be restricted, per Article III of the United States Constitution; (2) United States Supreme Court judges will confine their rulings to what conforms to the United States Constitution, without reference to foreign constitutions or legal precedence established in foreign countries; and (3) Federal judges who consciously and continually ignore their oath of office to uphold the United States Constitution will be summarily impeached. Period.
The proliferation of books in the candidate’s office—and their weighty subjects—suggests a predisposition for personal and professional reading which clearly outstrips that of the incumbent 43d President of the United States. Any recent reading which has informed and enlightened the political and theological world view of the Constitution Party’s new standard-bearer? Michael Anthony Peroutka looks thoughtful before answering.
I read a lot of material, but Thomas DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln comes to mind. He makes a convincing case for the fact that slavery, however immoral, should have come to an end in the United States as it did in the rest of the Western, industrialized world—without a war. That Lincoln destroyed Jeffersonianism in favor of an all-powerful Central Government is self evident. He set the stage for the oppressive Federal Leviathan we know today and the presently sick state of an American Empire which has destroyed the Old Constitutional Republic. The statism and globalist orientation of Woodrow Wilson and FDR—to name two—was presupposed by what Lincoln did in the War Between the States. DiLorenzo and Charles Adams, the author of In the Course of Human Events, both recognized and affirmed the truism that Constitutional America lost the War Between the States. Pastor Steve Wilkens of Auburn Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana, states it succinctly when he says that Lincoln didn’t end slavery, he simply expanded the scope of the plantation—that we are all now slaves of the Central State and the globalist New World Order in partnership with it. As DiLorenzo puts it, Lincoln was the Great Centralizer and Consolidator of Federal power. Now we see the wholesale transfer of federally usurped powers to the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the Import-Export Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, NATO, and the like. We have become the classic expression of the Welfare-Warfare State. I would withdraw us from the entire mess. And I think DiLorenzo and Adams would agree with me that Article I, Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment explicitly spell out what the Federal Government of the United States is authorized to do. And outside of that, every single thing it involves itself in is specifically un constitutional. If we understood that, these budgetary and deficit-spending quandaries would resolve themselves. And getting the Central State out of areas that are the prerogative of the individual, the family, the Church, the Synagogue, and other voluntary associations, is the prescription for returning sanity to American government and the people whose God-given rights it should be securing.
How does an American conservative oppose George Bush’s war on Iraq? Peroutka settles comfortably back in his chair with a cup of coffee before continuing the conversational tone and atmosphere of his exposition.
Opposing this thing is a no-brainer. When anybody asks me about this war, aside from the clearly un-constitutional way in which the Chief Executive started this thing—and with faulty intelligence and Congressional acquiescence—I simply tell them to check out the web site of the Project for the New American Century. One can clearly see in the documents posted there that the invasion of Iraq was part of a pre-9/11 agenda that is constantly obfuscated by the stated—and constantly shifting reasons—offered by Bush for the war’s prosecution. Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld—that entire crowd—are signatories to these policy affirmations from years ago. One day it’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction”; the next day it’s “the freedom of the Iraqi people”; the day after that it’s “nation-building” and “democracy in the Middle East”; and the day after that it’s “Israel and pipelines.” The bottom line is that none of it meets the criteria for war laid down in Article 1, Section 8 of the American Constitution. The immortal words of John Adams come to mind here: “We are the friends of liberty everywhere; the guardians of our own liberty.” Washington’s Farewell Address foreign policy is similarly instructive: “Friendship with all; entangling alliances with none.” Simply put, it is clear that Mr. Bush’s preemptive, offensive war with Iraq is a war in search of a rationale. And the possible expansion of this madness will cost more American lives, money, and international goodwill than we can afford to spend.
The wall-clock warns us that we have only five minutes to go before departure to one of the most significant events in the half-century life of Michael Anthony Peroutka. Searching for a quick concluding query, I finally ask, “What are the bright lights for you as you look at this country? Anything to be optimistic about?” The candidate pauses, then smiles.
My faith and family, of course. And when it comes to America, I guess I’d have to say that the homeschooling movement is a particular source of hope for me where this great country is concerned. The writings of John Dewey, Horace Mann, and Robert Dale Owen remind us that the Government School Movement of the mid-1850s was a breeding ground for the secularism, humanism, atheism, and statism that State-owned institutions inculcate kids in today. The homeschooling movement understands that the primary purpose of education is to train up a child in faith and respect for God as the foundation of all subsequent learning. The home and the family are the proper and only jurisdiction for this—not the State and George W. Bush’s Federal Department of Education.
The conclusion of the interview is followed by Peroutka’s two-hour public event designed to formally announce his candidacy. I am incredulous at the large size of the gathered crowd at Michael’s Eighth Avenue ballroom. There is a small chamber orchestra comprised of a woman on electric keyboard, a man well-versed in wind instruments, another woman with brass, and a fine vocalist who would later begin the official portion of the program by a stirring, operatic version of The Star Spangled Banner. Prior to the beginning of the stage-podium portion of the event, individual diners were treated to a hauntingly beautiful series of melodies, ranging from a poignant tribute to the Old South excerpted from the movie Gods and Generals, traditional Christian hymns, and several extractions from Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
During the meal, I am seated next to a young man and wife in their 20s, obviously new to political gatherings and the rubber-chicken circuit. They voted for Bush in 2000, their first year of voting eligibility. Distressed at their own economic plight and the Iraqi War, it had crossed their minds to “. . . vote for Nader. But then friends of ours told us about this man, Peroutka. We decided to drive down here from West Virginia to find out for ourselves.” Their story is repeated throughout the day by large minions outside Maryland, from every section of the United States. The candidate’s speech of formal declaration of presidential candidacy does not disappoint either the faithful or the curious who have gathered—including a handful of print and electronic media reporters carrying note pads and portable TV cameras and lights. This is my first exposure to Michael Peroutka as a stump speaker in front of crowds and cameras. He does not disappoint. His poise and speaking ability betray years of toil as an attorney, lecturer, and political activist on the Right. The crowd is with him and he knows it.
After the speech, Peroutka, like all political candidates and aspirants to the highest office in the land, must answer the media while pressing the flesh of the gathered. The same aura and presence I encountered in the privacy of his law office endures here as well. I cannot decide whether his obvious passion for—and commitment to—his ideas is more admirable than the presence of a quiet compassion for people and spiritual faith which seems to be sensed in the hearts and minds of the well-wishers and searchers found every four years in halls and hotel ballrooms all over America when another presidential election cycle commences. The Peroutka brand of charisma is not the enchanting power of a John Kennedy, but a unique combination of cerebral gifts and quiet, contemplative spirituality which serves to calm and reassure the troubled and the fearful. After answering every press-media question posed, including some from a representative of PBS, the candidate spends the remainder of his time listening to the concerns and travails of people unknown prior to the afternoon’s event. This is followed by individual encounters with old friends and former students from his Institute on the Constitution. I suspect his parents, wife, and children feel the scene and scenario are surreal. Youngsters with Peroutka for President barrels are wading through the crowd looking for initial financial donations. Everything from literal nickels and dimes, $5 and $10 dollar bills, and Federal Election Commission-approved envelopes containing checks and pledges go into the containers from an amazingly diverse group of donors. One suspects that the evangelical doctrine of tithing may be assisting Michael Anthony Peroutka and his vision in this appointed hour.
My final memory of the day is the setting of the sun in the west, accompanied by a beautiful hue of reds, purples, and blues in what remains of an earlier aqua blue dome with billowy white clouds interspersed throughout its wide confines. As dusk approaches, the candidate encounters one more young questioner before calling Campaign 2004’s first day to a halt—a young boy. “Mr. Peroutka!,” the blond-haired, starry-blue eyed junior-high schooler calls out. “My parents love you. They want to vote for you, but they say you haven’t got a chance. Tell them they’re wrong.”
The blond-haired Christian scholar and attorney’s eyes become slightly misted, even as his smile betrays good humor, a fatherly instinct for the young, and a keen sense of the historically ironic. “I don’t believe in chance, young man. I believe in a purposeful Lord who sent His Son and orders every phase and event in our lives. And George Washington told us to raise up the standard–leaving the outcome in the hands of a good and great Creator God.”
February 25, 2004
Mark Dankof is the editor of Mark Dankof’s America at http://www.MarkDankof.com.
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