Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama Speaks with Berlusconi

Real Clear Politics has the entire conversation between Obama and Berlusconi the other day. What made the most news in Italy was Premier Berlusconi's calling President Obama, "my friend." Some people felt it was yet another of the frequent gaffes he's often accused of. They couldn't resist revisiting the big faux pas of a few months ago in which Berlusconi said that Obama's got a good tan.

Part of the president's comments about the recent unrest in Iran caught my attention.

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they're, rightfully, troubled.

I wondered if he'd left something out. Why did Obama fail to mention the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms? After reading the comments and blogs of several pro-gun enthusiasts, I understood the 2nd Amendment rights to be on par with the rest, or according to some, even superior. How often have we heard it's the 2nd amendment that guards the 1st.

To me the reason for this omission is obvious. Only in the United States do these misconceptions about guns exist. When addressing the head of state of an ally country, when making comments that are directed at an international audience, it would be laughable to include the right to bear arms in a list of rights that constitute the democratic process. Laughable, I say.

What's your opinion? Do you think it could have been omitted for some other reason? If the Bill of Rights were written today, would the 2nd Amendment be included?

Please leave a comment.


  1. Interesting the fixation you have on the 2nd amendment even when a news event is centered on international relations. With Don Berlusconi in the White House, maybe Obama did not discuss the 2nd amendment in the presence of Silvio Berlusconi because he knew he would be labeled a hypocrite by Italians because of the CIA plan during the cold war that gave thousands of small arms to Italy. You know the plan I am talking about, OPERATION GLADIO. The militarism in American foreign policy is evident in American culture.
    In addition to Operation Gladio, the US (CIA) also helped anti democratic forces in Italy by instigating the kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro and aligning themselves with the P2 masonic lodge members, which Don Berlusconi was and still is a member of.
    Obama failed to discuss the anti free speech legislation Berlusconi and his allies are pushing in the Italian parliament which could fine your blog in the near future. If you write information that is wrong and you can be fined each day the information is posted. As I said on my blog posting about Don Berlusconi visiting Obama, the devil is in the details and the press only reports what it is allowed or not afraid to report on. The new wire tap legislation by Berlusconi and the Caste System in Italy is also aimed at protecting their political power and a threat to free speech and democracy.

  2. I wondered if he'd left something out. Why did Obama fail to mention the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms?

    Please tell me you're kidding--that you don't really find it surprising that Obama does not accord the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms nearly as much respect as he does most of the rest of the Bill of Rights.

    Fortunately, he is not the final arbiter on that issue.

  3. Why did Obama fail to mention the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms?

    Because like most authoritarian statists he does not consider the
    2A an actual right.

    I'd have been more surprised if he had mentioned it in his list.

  4. James Madison made a much longer list of personal “important rights” without including a right to “keep and bear arms.” He defended a House select committee’s proposed set of amendments to the Constitution, including both individual rights and “other alterations,” to be debated in 1789. These words are from that defense:

    “Have not the people been told that the rights of conscience, the freedom of speech, the liberty of the press, and trial by jury, were in jeopardy? That they ought not to adopt the constitution until those important rights were secured to them?” (Annals of Congress, August 15, 1789, House of Representatives, p 775)

    And so there was no individual right to arms for personal purposes in Madison’s list of what he had earlier called “those great and essential rights.”

    In a list of amendments that Thomas Jefferson made in 1802 – amendments to the Constitution he thought he had been influential in getting Madison to propose and pass – he referred to the Second Amendment not as an individual right but as “the substitution of militia for a standing army.” (Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Joseph Priestley, June 19, 1802)

  5. And yet it was Madison who penned both the original version of the
    2nd Amendment as well as the one we see today in the Constituion.

    I'm sure he really didn't believe in an individual right to keep & bear arms...... That's why he wrote it and stuck it in our most important founding document, right along with a list of other inherent, inalienable individual rights.

    You are good for a laugh Leif.

  6. Federal Farmer, an early American commentor on the new Constitution, is another who listed U.S. fundamental rights without including an individual right to arms for private purposes.

    On December 25, 1787, Federal Farmer (who was maybe Richard Henry Lee, maybe Melancton Smith) listed 14 “unalienable or fundamental rights in the United States.” Below is a list of a few Federal Farmer rights that, in some form, made their way into the Bill of Rights -- one of them as the Second Amendment militia right:

    The freedom of the press ought not to be restrained.

    The people have a right to assemble in an orderly manner, and petition the government for a redress of wrongs.

    The militia ought always to be armed and disciplined, and the usual defence of the country.

    No man is held to answer a crime charged upon him till it be substantially described to him; and he is subject to no unreasonable searches or seizures of his person, papers or effects.

    Federal Farmer includes more fundament rights and says that perhaps others might be added, but he lists no personal gun right.

  7. with all these people talking about rights, should remember that the government gives the people privlideges. Too bad these people feel so strongly about the right to posses a firearm and do not demand the right to health care, food and shelter. The two party system in America who get re-elected at a 93 percent rate are laughing at the lower and middel class and how this issue has fractured their political power.

  8. Il Principe thinks I have a "fixation" on the 2nd amendment. Anyone else think that?

    Leif, Thanks so much for doing the research that I'm often admonished for not doing. Those quotes you provided indicate that the question as to the collective or individual intent of the 2nd Amendment goes back all the way to the sanctified Founders themselves. Fascinating.

  9. The militia ought always to be armed and disciplined, and the usual defence of the country.

    Ahh--but who are the militia?

    "I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
    — George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
    Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

    "Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the People."
    — Tench Coxe, 1788.

    Thank you for playing, Leif.

    Too bad these people feel so strongly about the right to posses a firearm and do not demand the right to health care, food and shelter.

    Got some great news for you, il: I'm not aware of anyone trying to make health care, food, and shelter illegal, so two party system notwithstanding, our rights to those things are not endangered.

  10. A point of clarification on my earlier response to il principe's comment about a "right" to food, health care, and shelter. If he believes that Americans are being denied that right, I submit that he is confusing one's right to have something, with some mythical "right" to obligate the government to provide it. There is a very large difference. I think you would be hard pressed to find, even among the most vociferous of Second Amendment advocates (among whose ranks I proudly count myself), anyone who thinks the government has an obligation to provide us with guns--we simply demand that the government stay the hell out of the way of our own acquisition of them.

  11. kurt - Some people just cannot wrap their heads around the distinction between negative rights and positive rights.

    We are a nation founded on negative rights. Positive rights are not rights.

  12. Oh my god, now we've got negative rights and positive rights. Is there no end to the double-talk and obfuscation?

  13. Mr. B302000, talk all you want about "double-talk and obfuscation," (coming from you, it's amusing as hell), but the concept of negative rights is well established.

    If you don't know something, and can't be bothered to do so much as a Google-search to find out, you might look a little less foolish if you simply ask, rather than accuse someone of making well-known concepts up.

  14. Wow Mike, you should refrain from opening your mouth till you know what you're talking about.

    That last comment was a doozy!

  15. To Superman 45:

    The George Mason quote you posted is as misleading as they come:

    “I ask, Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”

    Sounds like Mason is saying that the militia is made up of "the whole people" as individuals, doesn't it? But if you read the next few lines you see that he is really talking about the militia being made up of all CLASSES of the people:

    "But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper [the Constitution] on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor; but they may be confined to the lower and middle classes of the people, granting exclusion to the higher classes of the people…Under the present government, all ranks of people are subject to militia duty.”

    The true size of the Virginia militia at the time Mason made his remarks is given at the same convention where Mason spoke -- by Virginia's Governor Edmond Randolph:

    "Our militia amounts to 50,000: even stretching it to the improbable amount (urged by some) of 60,000, -- in case of an attack, what defence can we make?"
    (Elliot's Debates, vol 3, p 76)

    The 1790 Census showed Virginia's total population in 1790 at 747,550. It is quite obvious, therefore that the Virginia militia of 50 or 60 thousand in 1788 could not have constituted "the whole people" as individuals.