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Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2001 / 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Doing what it's supposed to do -- IN these extraordinary times, we are witnessing one more extraordinary thing: Our federal government is actually doing just what we hired it to do. It is expending its great resources on defending us from aggressors foreign and domestic.

The preamble of our Constitution says in part that our federal government was created to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare. . ."

While the document declares that the government is responsible for justice, domestic tranquility and the common defense, and for these things uses words like "establish" "insure" and "provide," it is only called upon to "promote" the general welfare, not guarantee it.

(Imagine how different the federal mandate would be if our fed government were only called upon to "promote" justice or a common defense.)

Clearly, the Founders understood that when government meets its obligations of securing our national defenses and insuring justice and domestic tranquility, the general welfare is by definition promoted. In any event, we are now seeing a government that is pursuing its legitimate purpose, the very reason for which it was created, instead of what is too typically its course of social engineering, economic regulation and wealth redistribution.

It should be no surprise, then, that the government is right now held in extraordinarily high esteem. The president has an approval rating that hovers around 90 percent. By all accounts he has performed extraordinarily well, and the approval is well deserved. Yes, such high ratings are typically true of the man sitting in the Oval Office at any time of war, but that just proves the point: When our government is seen by the citizenry to be pursuing its legitimate mandate of protecting its people from aggressors foreign and domestic, when it is performing its duties of conducting just wars as necessary, providing the highest levels of law enforcement and rallying the people's morale, Americans almost wholly support it.

By contrast, when the federal government is mucking around where it has no business it succeeds only in pitting one group of Americans against another, causing unending battles and strife.

But, it should also be no surprise that just because government is now pursuing its rightful mission, it is by no means doing everything right. So, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson's declaration almost immediately following the first case of inhalation anthrax in Florida that it was an isolated case, and the lack of testing for Washington, D.C. postal employees exposed to anthrax, leading to the death of two of them, can't help but cause some concerns about the federal government's actions in those instances.

In addition there may as yet not be the understanding in Washington circles that we are truly at war and that taking certain steps, like putting a moratorium on issuing any new visas to people from the Middle East, isn't discriminatory; it's prudent. Secretary of State Colin Powell has made too many weak-kneed statements that contradict Defense Department policy. We also have to ask about the mistakes made by the previous Bush and the Clinton Administrations that may have put us in a position vulnerable to terrorists. And finally, how on earth did we ever let Sept. 11th happen anyway?

Not exactly a short list of questions and concerns, and there are others, as well. But it illustrates another important truth: If our government can make missteps, mistakes and outright blunders when it's doing what it is supposed to do, and when overall it is doing it very well, how much more prone is it to mistakes when it steps into areas in which it should never be involved? The answer: a lot.

That lesson may take a while to sink in, and no our federal government has by no means given up its domestic policy mischief - but it does seem to have other priorities right now. And what has become immediately apparent with that change in priorities is that while hardly flawless, our government functions best and has the greatest support of the people in those rare instances when it largely confines itself to doing what it was in fact created to do.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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