A Great Speech from Dan Quayle! Applause!! Applause!!
Jude Wanniski
May 20, 1999


Memo To: Dan Quayle
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Challenging the Legal Aristocracy

Now I'm sorry I didn't get to see or hear you deliver your Commonwealth Club address in San Francisco yesterday, on the 7th anniversary of your Murphy Brown speech. You know I worried you would not get it right, that you would deliver a string of I-told-you-so pieties aimed at the American people for not behaving themselves. I was delighted to see you totally focused, aimed at what you describe as the "Legal Aristocracy" that has spent the last 30 years increasing the power of the state, at the expense of the family, the community, the church and the school. Instead of the holier-than-thou, finger-wagging lecture I feared, you delivered a perfect assessment of the moral and cultural rot in American society today. This was not Quayle the preacher, but Quayle the President, diagnosing a national sickness that only government can address. Where the Republican Party has correctly identified the need to devolve financial power from the federal to state and local government, you have for the first time clearly identified the parallel need to devolve cultural power from the state to the private sector through judicial reform. This is exactly the approach our political leaders must take -- not the promise of a series of Constitutional amendments that so easily can be defeated anyway by the Legal Aristocracy. Instead of yapping at movie producers to shape up, a process easily defeated with campaign contributions, the President of the United States has to ask the nation as a whole for a national mandate to use his Constitutional powers in a way that effectively can restore common sense over the controlling legal authority. Like cancer, the rot must be cut out surgically, not blasted out with big guns that replace one form of despotic malignancy with another.

Earlier this week, I sent you an audio tape of the best speech I'd heard in the last decade, a speech by a religious man, Minister Louis Farrakhan, who came at this same problem but from a preacher's standpoint, assessing the shortcomings of organized religion, including his own. [That speech can be read here in its entirety, the audiotape available through the NOI's Final Call.] I'm going to e-mail Min. Farrakhan a copy of your speech today and ask for his thoughts. I'm posting this on my website today, as my "Memo on the Margin," encouraging my website fans to read your speech in its entirety on your website, where I found it this morning. For those who want a taste, I'll offer your concluding thoughts:

The legal aristocracy calls it separation of church and state. But just as the old rule of "separate but equal" really meant separate and unequal, separation of church and state has come to mean all state, no church. This is an area where presidential leadership can make a real difference. Perhaps the most enduring legacy of any president is in his appointments to the federal courts. We can win debates, we can achieve legislative victories, and we can succeed in citizen initiatives -- but it will all be in vain if we have judges who continually step in and substitute their political agenda for the wisdom of the people. It is time to state clearly that the most important qualification for the federal bench is not where the nominees went to school, but whether they are well qualified, show respect for the Constitution, and appreciate the indispensable role of religion and morality in our society.

A president can also find ways to help parents and schools who try to do the right thing and end up with a lawsuit on their hands. Why not change the charter of the Legal Services Corporation? Instead of spending money to advance a left-wing agenda, let's help those who are doing the most for our children: parents defending their authority; parents defending their right to choose the best school; teachers trying to administer basic discipline; schools that are trying to instill both knowledge and character.

They must know that the President of the United States and his administration will be on their side. I will also put a watchdog in the Department of Justice to find good test cases to win back authority for parents and schools. I will not hesitate to do this, even though it does mean taking on some of the most powerful advocates of the status quo. In fulfilling its cultural agenda, the legal aristocracy has not worked alone. It was aided by a willing and compliant news media and an entertainment community that transmits counter-culture values.

It will take courage to challenge this self-anointed group. They are in the seat of power and influence. They believe the rest of us should just follow their lead and sit by as our culture continues to change in ways that most Americans don't find encouraging. They don't have to live with the cultural turmoil in the way the rest of America does. They live in gated communities and send their children to expensive private schools. This is their world. But it's not the real world.

And when we try to help inner-city parents obtain the means to rescue their children from rotten schools, who is there fighting against parental choice? Many times it's the same legal aristocracy whose theories have ruined urban schools in the first place. First they help create chaos through forced school busing and other misguided social experiments. Then they turn the schools into value-free zones. Then, in a reverse George Wallace, they stand in the schoolhouse door and prevent children from making an escape.

I ask anyone to look at our culture today and tell me the legal aristocracy has been right all these years. You can't do it. I intend to restore respect for the values of the ordinary Americans -- the ones who don't have a buffer zone when the culture collapses around them. The ones who pay the price when esoteric theories don't play out so well in real life. The ones who have the right to run their lives, raise their children, and operate their neighborhood schools without interference by a privileged few. Their dreams, their families, their future are worth fighting for.

I realize that changing the culture is a long-term proposition. But it's like turning around a huge ship. Even after you've made the steering adjustment, it takes a long time for the vessel to turn around. It's the same way when you're adjusting a nation's moral compass. The sooner we start, the sooner we'll get to where we want to go.

All state, no church: where has it taken us? It's time to reclaim the values of parental authority, school discipline, and a moral education for our children.