[Flashback interview] Retired Senator Malcolm Wallop: “The Great American Experiment”

“What the world has not come to grips with is that the Great American Experiment is still going on. It’s the quintessential revolution of the world. . . .”

by Peter and Helen Evans

Helen: . . . What we’d really like to talk about are the foundations of America. Once someone is aware of those they can make more informed decisions about current events. Also, once someone gets to know America, they will probably learn to love her. When we love something, we cherish and protect it from harm.

It seems that everyone is aware of the terrorist threat, but not many want to think about the internal erosion of the values which America stands for. . . . Sure, we may have to fight . . . to protect the country we love, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Senator Wallop: For starters, I think you have to get rid of the hyphenated-American. Abraham Lincoln said it best. “When you become an American you become flesh of the flesh and blood of the blood of the Founding Fathers.” If you are still a Mexican-American, a German-American or a Polish-American, you can’t be flesh of the flesh and blood of the blood with the Founding Fathers. You’ll only be that if you’re an American-American. In recent decades we have spent so much time and money protecting the culture, from whence they emigrated, over the values of the America to which they came. However, there are some immigrants who are more dedicated to America than the Americans who were born here.

Helen: . . . We [met] a group of people who had immigrated from Sierra Leone . . . . They amazed us by speaking about freedom, choice and the accumulation of wealth as knowledgeably as any college professor. We wish all the rest of Americans would think as much about their lives, and recognize that some things must be built and learned, rather than looking for an instant quick fix; usually, someone else doing the quick fix for them.

Senator Wallop: Yes, many immigrants cherish the value of choice and opportunity and the value of education more than 7th or 8th generation Americans. For instance, listen to Mr. Kerry talk. His whole purpose in life is to make government provide for the people, rather than what our Founding Fathers stressed, that government should provide the opportunity for people to provide for themselves

Helen: Isn’t that one of the big misconceptions about government? What it should and should not do for the people?

Senator Wallop: Well, if you go back to de Tocqueville, he warned us against what would happen when people learned that, by their vote, they could spend other people’s money on themselves. By and large that’s what we’ve done. If you look at the liberal tendency in this country and the tenets of modern liberalism, you’ll see that it’s to create constituencies that are dependants. The more you spend on people from other people’s resources, the more they demand that those expenditures increase, and the more is the expectancy that the government ‘owes’ them. Thus “entitlements” were born.

One of the more fascinating things is that, if you look at charity these days – and Americans are extremely charitable people – the government is still involved in a big way. For example, if you look at the Catholic Church, which is very dependent on the government for Catholic Charities, you see what happened, in San Francisco and other places, where it had to agree to things that are totally against the tenets of Catholic faith, in order to get money from the government. For instance they are obliged now to provide medical insurance for abortions, even though that’s totally against Church doctrine. Government created a major dependency. They are not unique in that.

Peter: Right now we’re reading a book by Marvin Olasky, “the Tragedy of American Compassion.” Public discussions were going on, even back in the late 19th century, about the risks of creating a dependency on “the dole,” and even during the Depression most people would try anything and everything before taking money from the government directly. They would much rather take a job from the government, rather than take money directly as welfare.

Senator Wallop: Yes, the Hoover Dam was built that way through a government job-creation program. These were people who took pride in working for themselves. In fact, that pride hasn’t been lost on most Americans, but it’s been lost on those who provide it. Look at the Welfare Reform program and the success stories that came out of that new process. There are stories of people who were on welfare and were welfare-dependent but had no place to go because the welfare system was structured so as to keep them dependent. The political power became support for dependent people. But that began to disappear when the welfare program was restructured so those dependent on it could go to jobs without losing too much, and then, gradually, as they could earn more were freed from welfare. There are lots and lots of stories of people who discovered the dignity of being freed from their dependency. That was the whole essence of welfare reform and why Clinton and others were so adamantly opposed to it.

Peter: How did it manage to struggle through, then? The legislation was changed in 1996, wasn’t it?

Senator Wallop: You may recall that it was three separate times that welfare reform passed Congress before his veto was overridden. And of course, now Clinton takes credit for welfare reform.

The fact is that there are unbelievable stories of renewed and found dignity that came out of that reform. People who have emerged from the shackles of welfare to become productive citizens of this country.

Helen: Let’s consider Iraq for a moment. People are saying, in effect, “How come it isn’t a democracy already?” We need to remember America, The Great Experiment, where we’re still learning how to be free; be it of welfare or of terrorists.

Senator Wallop: There’s a wonderful quote by Jefferson, that I just used recently in a speech at Heritage. “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.” In other words, it’s not going to take place overnight. There aren’t traditions of freedom in a place like Iraq. They’re going to have to come to grips with a concept that they hadn’t been allowed to conceive before. Then there are the other problems; you don’t have the rule of law, you don’t have the mechanisms of liberty in place. Therefore, people are unwilling to trust. You still have the same problem in Russia. For instance, they are allowed to have private property and those rights are guaranteed, but as soon as you declare your property as your own the government comes in and taxes you about 110%!

I have a friend who is a micro-surgeon in Moscow; one of the world’s best. He lives in a building that looks pretty shabby from the outside, but once you go inside, it’s very nice. They rent from the state I asked him why he doesn’t own the property. My friend replied that, if it was just the cost of the property, he could certainly afford that, but he couldn’t afford the government recognition of his owning property, as a so-called “wealthy” person. The taxes were what he couldn’t afford.

What the world has not come to grips with is that the Great American Experiment is still going on. It’s the quintessential revolution of the world, and as with any experiment part of it is going in the right direction and part of it is not.

Helen: Isn’t that like life? We take a few steps forward, sometimes a few back, sometimes a detour. It’s not always a forward progression. Life has its ups and downs.

Senator Wallop: Oh we make mistakes, but by and large the country bounces back from them. Still, I think we’re troublingly headed in a liberal direction.

Peter: Could you encapsulate what you think are the ‘right’ direction and the ‘wrong’ direction that are pulling in opposition to each other?

Senator Wallop: Michael Barone has just written a new book describing soft America and hard America. What he says is that, by and large America is heading in the hard direction, but the education system is not. If you take a look at people from let’s say high school to the graduate school level, it’s all soft America. But then if you look at people like Michael Dell and Bill Gates, that’s the hard America. They’re examples of the people whose genius has been freed up by being in this country. Mostly you find that hard America is from 30 years old and up. That’s not to say that some never emerged from soft America, and that’s not to say that some never were part of soft America. However, by and large it’s the old Churchill statement that “if you’re not liberal while you’re young there’s something the matter with you, and if you’re not a conservative later you haven’t lived yet.” That’s not an exact quote, but a paraphrase.

Peter: Something about the heart and the mind I think. “If you haven’t been a socialist in your twenties you have no heart, but if you’re still a socialist in your forties, you have no mind.”

Senator Wallop: Our educational system is appallingly poor right now. Yet, somehow we’re turning out some of the most intellectual and powerful sophisticated minds in the world. I think that’s because we still have the opportunity here. Take look at Europe, now. Except for Britain and Ireland, Europe is not creating a new jobs. They haven’t for decades.

Peter: They import their service sector workers.

Senator Wallop: It’s because the population is too dependent on the state, even at the most minute levels of existence; be it health or energy or what have you. The government taxes the socks off them for gas and then subsidizes every other level of transportation.

Helen: So where did this idea of ‘entitlement’ come from?

Senator Wallop: Well, it started in this country with social security, which was originally designed to make sure people didn’t just disappear into black holes when they retired. But, if you look at the original social security, most people weren’t expected to live long enough to qualify for it. But then along came Wilbur Mills and put pension indexing into place. He did that for his Presidential needs. It didn’t do much for his Presidential needs, but it did a great deal for the concept that we were owed this comfortable retirement, and that social security, which had been designed as a ‘supplement’ for retirement, now was seen as a ‘level’ of retirement. You have many of the same tactics by the labor unions pushing for minimum wage. It isn’t because the unions are particularly devoted to workers at the bottom of the labor market. It’s because, every time the minimum wage is raised, it raises the index on which their wages are based.

Helen: I didn’t realize that. Quite a reverse tactic.

Senator Wallop: Sure. Well, look. The concept of minimum wage is crazy, if you really stop to think about it. If $8 an hour seems right, why not $20 an hour? If it’s coming by order of the government, why stop at any level? Why not just say everyone should get what Gates gets?

Peter: You can see the inflationary impact of that! One of the most cogent rebuttals of the concept I’ve heard is by Thomas Sowell who said that if you impose a minimum wage you automatically create a whole class of unemployable people. For example, if the minimum wage is established at $8, then people who had previously been barely employable at $5 an hour would be let go by employers who are smart enough to realize that they’ll go out of business employing someone at a wage higher than what they’re worth. Employers resort to illegals, paying them cash to keep them off the books, etc.

Senator Wallop: Yes, there’s a wonderful phrase that, “in the welfare state, there’s many a middle class liberal who has grown wealthy providing for the dependency of those on welfare.” The dependants never emerge from the state or class to which they’ve been assigned. Really, that whole concept of creating dependent constituencies, by assigning people to a class of existence out of which they are not expected to emerge, is only there because, as dependants, they are a powerful political presence.

Peter: A predictable, dependable voting bloc.

Senator Wallop: The liberals are telling these people, “you can’t depend on Republicans or Independents to take care of you. I’m the one who will guarantee you your indexed margin of existence.” It’s an unbelievable sort of plantation complex. In other words, “I’ll see to it that you have just enough to eat, I’ll see to you that you have just enough to stay alive, but you haven’t got a chance of getting out of here, because I need you dependent on me.”

Helen: Isn’t that one of the misconceptions? The poor are the poor, the rich are the rich and they will never leave their station in life. There is no upward or downward movement based on merit.

Senator Wallop: If you look at the statistics in this country, the economic classes are constantly changing. Which is why, even in a country which is hard America and soft America, there are people who find their way out of dire or poor circumstances. They find their way out of their dependencies. Also, let’s take some other issues people talk about. When you take a look at the average “poor” family, you’ll find they have it much better than “poor” families in other countries. They have televisions, they have microwaves, one or two cars, cells phone, etc. This American poverty level would be a pretty classy existence in other countries.

Peter: Dinesh D’Souza’s cousin said he wants to come to America, “where even the poor people are fat!”

Helen: So, we don’t have a class system in the usual sense. People can move out of their circumstances or class. We don’t need entitlements for them to move.

Senator Wallop: No we don’t. We, instead have a constituency system or a plantation system. It isn’t the class system. The problem is they don’t want you to emerge from it, they want you to remain where you’ve been assigned.

Peter: “They” being… ?

Senator Wallop: The elite, the liberals. At least they consider themselves the elite. They are the ones who determine what your benefits are going to be and which of your needs are going to be satisfied. They promise to get those benefits so long as you promise not to emerge from dependence.

Peter: As long as you promise not to get those benefits for yourself.

Senator Wallop: I’ll mention that Sowell quote again, “there is many a middle class liberal who has become wealthy providing for those he seeks to keep in a state of dependency.”

Helen: Some think of the “elite” as those in the upper media, those in academia, of course the Left in government, but also some of the “helpers” in non-profits are the elite.

Senator Wallop: That’s another funny dependency. They are dependent on the tax codes to maintain their status as non-profits. Their revenues aren’t taxable and the money they spend isn’t taxable until it becomes, one way or another, private income. If you take a look at the 1986 tax act, which I was instrumental in drafting in the Senate, when it was a real tax reform. However, by the time it got through the committee, and by the time the Senate worked its will on it, and by the time the conference committee got done with it and it came back to the floor as a conference report, I was trying to filibuster my own bill! Because it had been so destroyed.

One of the things we sought to do when we set out was to get rid of all the tax deductions, in exchange for a vastly lowered tax rate with only one or two levels of taxation. I, being a Yale graduate, got a letter from the President of Yale, saying, “Dear Senator Wallop: If this bill goes through and you get rid of all charitable deductions, then Yale will cease to exist as the great private institution you’ve know it to be.” And I wrote him back saying that you have just told me that Yale is, by definition, not “a great private institution” but a dependency of the government! In fact, if you are dependent on the tax structure for charity, then you are dependent upon the increased taxation of the people of Wyoming, who will never benefit from the tax structure that benefits Yale.

What we were trying to say was that state taxes were not to be deductible, but of course high tax places like New York and California went berserk. They said they would never be able to fund their states if that happened. I was at pains to try to point out that the people of Wyoming didn’t need to subsidize the people of New York State for the deductions of the taxes that their state saw fit to impose upon them, where none of our people would ever have a chance of benefiting from them. It comes down to “someone’s tax deduction is someone else’s tax increase.”

Peter: So non-profits are not private, they are outgrowths of the tax structure.

Senator Wallop: Well, that’s how it’s come to pass that medicine in this country is so essentially out of control. Largely because there is no market for medicine. Companies were essentially able to deduct their contributions to employee medical benefits as a cost of doing business. For instance, if I’m your employer, and I give you both Blue Cross and Blue Shield, that cost to me is deductible from my taxes as a cost of doing business. So basically it doesn’t cost either of us anything if you come to me and ask for dental insurance to be added to the benefit package. That’s what unions did. They added benefits more often then they added to the wages, because, under the tax code, the benefits were all deductible and, essentially, cost free to the company.

So when you go to the surgeon or the dentist and you’re all covered, there is no constraint on your actions. You can just say, “Give it to me.”

Helen: You can get three more “second opinions,” or get treatment for aches and pains that you would just live with if you had to pay for them yourself.

Senator Wallop: Yes, when it doesn’t cost anything and is readily available, we use it sometimes unwisely. And there was no cost to the doctors to treat your minor complaints. They were well paid by the insurance. It has come down to the fact that it’s a bizarrely un-tethered piece of the economy. And the tax structure is what un-tethered it.

Peter: What you’re saying is that a whole class of transactions, those relating to medical expenses, are exempted from market forces because of the tax structure. The invisible hand has been shackled.

Senator Wallop: Some of them are coming back into the market, because finally it’s getting to the point where no one can afford what’s going on. If you look at the history of labor union contracts, it’s the benefits, retirement or medical, that are, by and large, where “compensation” has been most likely to be increased. Because it wasn’t an out-of-pocket expense to the companies, but an “out-of-taxes” benefit.

Peter: Well, wages would fall into that category as well, wouldn’t they? Wages are pre-tax expenses for any business.

Senator Wallop: Yes, but wages get taxed, benefits do not. That’s what keeps the benefits out the market feed-back loop.

Helen: You’ve been right there in the pits of the Senate. You just spoke of having to filibuster your own bill after it had gone through committee changes. Now, let’s go back to before your time in the Senate. When did you realize what America was all about? Was there a special time or instant?

Senator Wallop: I began to realize it when I was at Yale. When I had arguments with liberal classmates about what being an American was all about. Yale, at that time, was not anything as like as liberal as Yale is today. We talked about the privilege of Americana. One of the great things about being at university is that you could stay up all night and talk about things like that. Some of us wouldn’t believe things we once said. I went to the Army after that.

Helen: Did you volunteer?

Senator Wallop: I was in ROTC when Yale still believed in it. Out of my high school graduating class of 13, 2 were killed in Korea. So we began to know the price of trying to defend things. We wanted to know about why the world was as it was. After all, WW II was just over, the Iron Curtain had rung down, communism was a threat to some and a right to others, the McCarthy era was upon us; there were lots of issues in the world. It became obvious to some of us that communism was a threat to the American way of life. Some of us realized that if we fell into the same pattern of governance as communism we realized that most of the things we knew as the rights and privileges of a free society would be gone. I remember talking to people about that and finding levels of skepticism because some people didn’t think there was anything “so” wrong with the Soviets.

Helen: What did you say to them?

Senator Wallop: I told them what was wrong with the Soviets was that since they had no market at all, you would always be dependent on someone else for whatever it is you do or have. You don’t have the choice to say “I’d don’t want to be a steel worker, I’d rather be a coal miner.” They sent you off to where they sent you off to. Then I began to listen to the ultra-liberal class of the 1960′s who were of the opinion that the “command economies,” as they called them, (they didn’t like to call it communism) were the most benign and most efficient use of labor, or of a society’s skills, and someday we would all learn that. And… by the way, when we learned that, they would be happy to be the ones to command our economy!

Incidentally, the ultra liberals from those days have turned into what we now know as environmentalists. When they lost the command economy argument (no one is rash enough to suggest there is any validity to it now), they are now saying that the environment has to be globally managed… and, by the way, they’d be happy to manage it for us. By controlling the environment they could tell us what we could or could not eat, what we could or could not use.

Peter: And where to not walk on the grass.

Senator Wallop: One of the interesting things to me is that, when I came to Senate, so many people were talking about how Americans were such profligate users of energy. We were having an energy crisis in the 1970′s, and that we just didn’t understand. But of course, Europe understood perfectly well. After all, they were paying three times more for a gallon of gas than we were! And we should do it too. That would have been just the beginning. But the reason they were paying three times as much for gas was because most of the cost was taxes! The oil market is fungible; it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Those very same people who were moaning that Americans didn’t pay enough for gas are now the very same ones who are screaming the loudest because gas prices are going up!

Helen: I’m of the personal opinion that they are trying to destroy the foundations of America. What do you think?

Senator Wallop: I don’t think they’re trying to destroy them. I don’t think they appreciate them enough to care about them.

Helen: What happens if they get what they want? Wouldn’t we become socialists?

Senator Wallop: What would happen is that we and the rest of the world would sink slowly into a slough of poverty. You can’t create wealth out of demand. It just won’t happen. Europe is trying to come to grips with that now. Just look at France, whenever they try to do anything reasonable about curbing benefits – such as the totally free education system which now has “students” in their 40′s in there because as long as you’re educating yourself you get a subsidy, a subsistence – they have people drive tractors into the middle of streets and stop the economy entirely. The public there has learned a way to demand their needs be satisfied before anything reasonable takes place.

Peter: There seems to be a fairly predictable half life to that kind of behavior which is based on a illusion that the government can just print more money and not have it result in inflation.

Senator Wallop: What you have is countries whose economies are just not creating wealth. For instance, I think it’s in Sweden, you have to work until September until the money you earn is yours. We’re upset by having to work until May.

Helen: Would you say that another misconception is that there is a finite amount of money in the world? Also, that the rich only get rich by taking it away from the poor.

Senator Wallop: Yes. That’s all nonsense thinking. How much money was there in the world for the caveman? Maybe someone came to one of them and asked for 110 stone wheels. Well, there weren’t 110 stones wheels in the world, so he had to make them. He had to invent a better way to make wheels, or come up with a new way to use wheels that had never been thought of before. Wealth is somewhat like military concepts. When I was on the Armed Services Committee, they used to talk about the “ultimate weapon.” There isn’t one. There is always this problem of people who can’t sleep at night. They keep figuring out ways to do things better. Looking back, people were afraid of the longbow, then the crossbow made it obsolete. If you go down to Fort Jefferson in the Florida Keys. It’s the place where Lincoln’s doctor was confined. On top of this fort is a huge cannon which was obsolete the day they placed it on top. Rifled cannons had just been invented and could penetrate the walls of the fort. It was of no value a second after it was of ultimate value.

Helen: So we’re constantly changing. Our best becomes obsolete and that idea drives us forward to new adventures and achievements.

Senator Wallop: Mankind has a troublesome habit of inventing things and creating money and power. Our biggest chore is to make certain that ingenuity it not locked up.

Helen: You were on the Armed Services Committee, and we’d like your response to the people who rhetorically ask, “What’s the big deal? Why do we have to defend ourselves?”

Senator Wallop: No nation has ever existed without that fundamental obligation. The defense of the homeland is the principle obligation of government. If you can’t defend it you’ll no longer have a homeland, someone will be sure to come along and remove it from you.

Helen: Recently we read an article where someone said that the 3,000 who died on Sept. 11th is such a small number compared to the entire population of America. 3,000 people is not enough of a reason to go to war, especially since many more die every year from disease or traffic accidents. The writer suggested 3,000 wasn’t a big deal in the larger scheme of things. What do you say to that?

Senator Wallop: It’s a threat to the very existence of the concept of liberty and freedom that we have. If you can get by with losing 3,000 people, what’s to stop them from killing 10,000 people? And if you can get by with that, what’s to stop them from creating a Holocaust or with killing 15 million people, the way Stalin did? The fundamental duty of government, first and foremost, is the defense of the homeland. Without that there is no raison d’etre for government. That doesn’t mean that we can possibly devise a way to keep the homeland entirely safe from danger, but that’s still basic to the whole concept of government; even bad governments have that mandate. It may be that their concept is just to find a way to maintain their own existence, but, even then, they still have to defend their homeland.

Peter: They at least have to maintain their dependent constituencies, if nothing else.

Helen: I’m thinking of our problems with the UN. There are voices that say we should “get along” with everyone, and most times that means agreeing with them. How can we defend ourselves if we also have to agree with everyone?

Senator Wallop: You won’t be able to. It’s as simple as that. And let’s remember, the UN doesn’t have such a great reputation for doing good things for people in need. It likes to think it does, but the record shows otherwise. I can remember back in the Reagan era, some Republicans wanted to force President Reagan to embargo South Africa because of apartheid. I remember Senator Lugar and Congressman Gingrich and a few others saying, “this will win us Black votes.” I said, “No. That will just give them the idea that they’ve been right all along, and you’ve just come over to their side. You haven’t invited them home.” Instead, I put an amendment on the floor that said, “If South Africa is the measure by which we find governance intolerable, then we should impose the same embargo on all the governments in the world that are this bad, or worse.” For example, I mentioned Rwanda’s then-current problems with the Hutus and the Tutsis. Someone said, “that’s their internal problem.” I replied, “There you go with the typical middle class racist concept that, if a white does it to a black, that’s “evil,” but if a black does it to a black, then “what else can you expect?” That’s the ultimate plantation mentality again; arrogant middle class racism. That was not popularly received on the floor of the Senate, of course.

This is a country that forces you to think. That doesn’t mean you’ll succeed in your life, but it does force you to think about how things could be and how to try to put things in balance. So when someone says 3,000 people is tragic but let’s move on, then they have just licensed the events that took place. They have just licensed the events that take place in Ethiopia, or what’s going on now in Nigeria. Absent a government that is capable of defending its people, eventually, it will not be able to defend it from any crackpot idea that anyone has. I just can’t imagine how it’s possible for someone to think that we don’t have an obligation to be as strong as we possibly can be and, as long as we’re the strongest in the world, to stay that way.

Helen: As we drove over here today we said, “what a beautiful day, and to think we’re at war.” Our theory is that a lot of people just don’t believe there is an actual threat, and that an actual war is happening. They haven’t felt threatened in their private lives.

Senator Wallop: That’s one of the hardest jobs in governing. You have two obligations: one is to secure the homeland and the other is to make sure that people have enough confidence in that security, so that they can carry on with the rest of their lives. So you have two contrary sets of actions taking place. And somehow, within that, you have to make it clear that what you’re doing is securing the future, so that you can have the sort of day you’re having today.

Helen: Have we sanitized life so much that people might think the war is just another movie on TV?

Senator Wallop: There’s a problem with TV and that’s a part of it, but another part of it is that people see one and a half minutes of newscast from the Middle East and they think they “know the Middle East” and even feel like they’ve been there. And the “Middle East” becomes simply whatever they have just been shown.

The big problem we’ve got today is the educators don’t know much about the Constitution of the United States, and even less about the history of how we got that Constitution, or what a privilege it has bestowed upon us as a people. Let’s go back to the Founding Fathers. I believe it was Adams who thought that not every country in the world could be democratic, because democracy requires a couple of things that not every country has. One is morality, which we may be losing a little bit. Two, is a sense of community that allows you, in the process of thinking of yourself, not to forget your neighbor. However, the basic trait was morality, and we used to believe that that could be taught in schools.

Peter: It’s now unconstitutional to teach morality in school.

Senator Wallop: Now, it’s the idea of, “Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Who are you to tell me what I’m doing is the wrong thing to do?”

Helen: So what do you think about this moral relativism?

Senator Wallop: It’s a crisis. Sooner or later there has to be something called right and something called wrong. If there isn’t… Well, let’s go back to the defense of the homeland; there would be no reason for defense. If there is not someone, at some level, to say this is right or this is wrong, all you have is anarchy and chaos.

This even goes down to the classroom, where teachers who don’t want to, or aren’t allowed to, punish a student for disrupting the class, are just giving them license to steal opportunity from another in the class who does want to learn.

Helen: Didn’t the Americans with Disabilities Act have something to do with that? We read an article by someone who teaches teachers how to shake their arm in a certain way to release it when students sink their teeth into it, because the students have to be treated as ‘disabled,’ or ‘disturbed,’ and needing ‘help’ rather than being reprimanded or punished.

Senator Wallop: I’ve heard stories like that also. The President of Boston University, a terrific guy, was telling me about a professor they had up there. The professor was just… disreputable; feeling women’s bodies in elevators, stroking bosoms, etc. The university documented all these things and fired him. He sued them under the Americans with Disabilities Act because he claimed he suffered from “dis-inhibition.” Just add “dis” onto anything and it fits under the Act. Believe it or not, the first court agreed with it and forced the university to take him back.

Peter: “Dis-inhibition!” That’s just pathologizing a plain old lack of self-control.

Senator Wallop: The problem that arises from these concepts becomes clear when you observe what happens in classrooms today and see the lack of functional authority. You then have these crazy circumstances where there’s no rational process that attaches to any rule. Some schools have “zero tolerance,” so somebody gets kicked out of school because they had a little nail clipper in the shape of a gun. Clearly not a gun; just the shape of a gun. There is an endless enforcing of rules that don’t make sense. And the problem with that approach is that, the more rules you have that don’t make sense, the less credibility attaches to the rules that do make sense.

Peter: They are rules without underlying principles.

Senator Wallop: There’s no common sense attached to them. Let’s look at the grading system. Some schools are suggesting that they should be done away with because some students don’t get as good grades as others and it may create ‘humiliation.’ They’re not playing dodge-ball because one student is better than another.

Peter: It’s “too competitive.”

Senator Wallop: What has been wonderful about America is that we’ve grown up being competitive. It made a difference to us and, yes, some people won and some people lost. Some people weren’t with me because I was better at it, but they were competitive at other things I wasn’t so good at. That’s the way we discover diverse talents.

Helen: It seems to me, the same people who say we have to defend the victims or the people who have these aberrant behaviors, are the ones who don’t want to defend the homeland. It’s almost as though they think we’re defending the wrong things.

Senator Wallop: It’s interesting, it’s those very people, who cause the most commotion about not defending the homeland, who don’t realize that the very freedom for them to make a commotion is why we’re fighting. We give them the privilege of what is otherwise nonsensical and wouldn’t be accepted in other countries.

Peter: We were discussing the sad condition of American education these days and the question came up, “well, what’s the solution?” My thought was that there is not specifically a “solution,” but people will do something about it when it becomes painfully enough obvious that something needs to be done. It seems we haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.

Senator Wallop: Getting rid of the National Education Association would be a start; and short of that, hoping they might become education oriented.

One of the things that happen is that they are at pains to confront any suggestion of accountability. If a teacher isn’t performing, as long as that teacher is showing up for class, it doesn’t much matter; they still have a job. They have instilled that into the colleges of education around the country. By and large, the people attending these education colleges are not learning the subject-matter to teach, but rather processes and mechanisms. They should learn that part, of course, but if they don’t know the subject they’re supposed to be teaching, it doesn’t matter what process they employ.

When I first came here, I was told that the Washington area Unified School District had not qualified even one child for the National Merit Scholarship competition. Let alone for a Scholarship! So, I didn’t want my children going to school here. Then I got to thinking about it, and that situation was the obvious argument for school choice. Say you’re a poor African American woman living in Southeast with two or three children and no husband; the one thing you want for your children is an education, so they won’t end up with the same life you had. If you can’t get it anywhere in the whole unified school district then school choice ought to be an obvious right. Most of those who opposed this in the Senate didn’t send their children to the public schools here.

Helen: How did you teach your own children about the foundational principles of America?

Senator Wallop: We just talked about it. We were all interested in history. In some instances they were better at it than I was. They also went to schools that did teach it. I used to get a little cross with some current events classes where they talked about things in the papers, but would never relate them to the processes of liberty and freedom that we have in this country. History isn’t being taught. I wasn’t taught history well, but I just happened to love it and found other ways to learn it. The thing that occurred to me a lot in the Senate was the little sense of history many Senators have, including that history that they themselves had legislated. There was no sense of repetitive relevance. You know, “We’ve been here before with certain legislation and it worked, or it didn’t work before.”

Helen: Was it only because they wanted something in their name?

Senator Wallop: It’s because they took the politically expedient way in each instance, and that could be quite contradictory from time to time.

Peter: Do you suppose that explains why Kerry seems to be all over the map in terms of consistency?

Senator Wallop: That’s one of the reasons. He’s a totally political animal and always has been. He doesn’t seem to be one of those people who has any guiding light.

Peter: I’ve likened the two candidates – Bush and Kerry – as one man having a compass and the other man having a wind vane. What do you think ordinary, concerned Americans can do to maintain the strength of the Union? We know you founded The Frontiers of Freedom, but most aren’t in a position to be able to do that.

Senator Wallop: Other such entities exist and, just because you can’t found them doesn’t mean you can’t support them. Those entities need the support of ordinary people. Sometimes it’s hard for people to grasp why they should give money to Malcolm Wallop’s Foundation, until we tell them why. But that’s one way. Another is to get engaged in the processes of schools and local government. Defending your neighbor’s property rights, for example.

Helen: Do you have problems with that in Wyoming?

Senator Wallop: It’s a problem everywhere. I just came back from the Northern Neck of Virginia. It’s fabulous country down there and I smiled all the way back thinking about it. It’s so different from Northern Virginia. Here in Northern Virginia you have huge houses and tiny lots, there you have tiny houses and huge lots. But watching the logic of local government and confronting it is a good way to be engaged.

Recently Frontiers of Freedom confronted a local school teacher. His teaching method, of getting students to write “f—-” 10,000 times a day to “de-sensitize” them, was the problem. The kid complained to his parents, who agreed with him and called the school. Sadly, the school agreed with the teacher. However, the parents of the student finally asked us to stop, because their child was being harassed and mocked at school by the teacher.

Helen: So sometimes it works when we confront and sometimes it doesn’t. What do you say to those who can’t stand up to the heat?

Senator Wallop: Well next time, we’d ask the neighbors to join us in the confrontation. Then the student wouldn’t have to stand alone. A lot of people just don’t know how to confront, but they can learn.

Helen: That’s part of the reason we’re writing this book. It’s easy to say, “I don’t know how to do that; someone else should take care of it for me.” But if someone else takes care of it for you, it may not be done the way you want. So how can we get people involved in their civic lives?

Senator Wallop: You can’t force people to do anything, but you can encourage them; show them the way. There are some elemental successes that are creeping into the public domain now, and that should encourage people.

Helen: A lot of people seem to be more concerned about what their neighbors think than what’s in their own hearts.

Senator Wallop: I have had one guiding principle in politics. That is, to come to a conclusion and then live by that conclusion. For instance, if you are on the side of life in the abortion argument, then you never equivocate about it. What I have found was, once you made it clear what your stand was, everyone moved on. I didn’t have any problem being pro life in a state that had some ambivalence about it. Unfortunately, by being straightforward, I couldn’t get things like bridges built and get other funds for pet projects, because everyone knew how I was going to vote anyway. I seldom had much to trade.

Peter: One of the political drawbacks of not being ambiguous.

Senator Wallop: However, people would ask me how I dealt with the pressure, and I never had any. I don’t really recall any real political pressure at any time in my political career. Sure, people would call and say, “That’s nuts. I wish you wouldn’t do that.” I’d reply that, “I’m sure there’s more than one side to this issue, but this is my side.” It made for a very comfortable career, but it didn’t get the state of Wyoming very many bridges or hospitals.

Helen: This reminds me of the ideal that’s creeping into society that “we’re all supposed to get along.” You even see it in TV sitcoms, where someone says, “we’re all adults so we can get along and work this out.” What that implies is that we should all compromise. I give up some of my values, you give up some of yours for the sake of “getting along.” When we compromise our principles just for the sake of getting along, it seems to be, little by little, eroding those principles.

Senator Wallop: There is a missed presumption in that reasoning, though. You don’t have to be nasty to disagree. You can just disagree. The reason some people feel the need to compromise is that they think they’ll be viewed as nasty if they don’t, and it doesn’t have to mean that. You also don’t have to argue about your principles. If someone doesn’t agree, you go your way and let them go theirs.

I lecture at Heritage and Frontiers on certain things. I make my position clear and let life hang on to you, or cast you aside, as it chooses.

Helen: Yet, when we meet at the UN, it doesn’t work that way. It’s “agreement” or “consensus” they want. A few months ago we were talking to someone whose field is religion and diplomacy. He said even in dealing with the most fundamentalist of any religion it’s been of tremendous value to state what he believes firmly. Then he gets much more respect, rather than giving up some of his beliefs for “peace”.

Senator Wallop: What it comes down to is that you really don’t have any choice, if you want to live in a world where you can hold your head up. You’ve got to stick to your principles. You can’t exist with your head up, if you’re always sticking your head in a hole.

Peter: Another way of saying that would be, that you should be damned for who you really are, instead of being damned for some mistaken impression you’ve created by equivocating or being ambiguous about what you believe.

Senator Wallop: I’ve often said in my speeches that, “It’s no good playing ostrich, because once your head is in the sand there is only one part out, and that part will be kicked.” Not saying what you believe is sort of like lying. Once you’ve told so many lies, it’s hard to remember what you’ve said. Once you’ve compromised so many times, it’s hard to remember which one is closest to your principle. For me, it’s a matter of comfort.

Peter: Comfort with your own conscience in a way? It’s easier to get along if someone is not nagging at you to change your mind. They know you’re not going to change it. Also, for my own purposes – when going forward in life, as I still plan to do – being comfortable with your own conscience frees up a lot of energy to focus on what your real problems are, instead of creating these nagging doubts that linger behind you and drag you back.

Senator Wallop: One of the great tenets of Christianity is that God gave us free will. It’d be a hell of a sin to abandon that gift.

Helen: So how long will this Great Experiment last?

Senator Wallop: It think it will go on and on. It’s incredibly powerful, when you think about it. We plagiarized all the old democracies, including the British, and we continue to add things to it. I don’t, for the life of me, have any idea where the grace of the Founding Fathers came from. Their wisdom was graced and they had to have been totally comfortable with that idea, because they never stopped talking about it all during the Constitutional Convention. There are so many pieces of wisdom in our founding documents. Just the idea that Wyoming should have the same number of Senators as California became the obvious answer to why we weren’t a colony. If we had to have Senators based on our population we’d have shared one with North and South Dakota and California would have had six or eight of them.

There are all kinds of little pieces of genius like that in it that have been mischaracterized. The Bill of Rights is just such an amazing document, but even the Supreme Court has misinterpreted it. And it’s written in relatively simple language. How someone, who reads the whole Constitution, can find a “right to privacy” in there is amazing. You might be interested in looking back at some of Clarence Thomas’s hearings. When he stated talking about the “natural law,” no one on the Senate Judiciary Committee knew what he meant! Really, look at the questions asked of him; one of them is, “What do you mean, natural law?”

Peter: Did he have a 25-words-or-less response or did he just roll his eyes?

Senator Wallop: He basically said that we are, by our nature, guaranteed certain rights. That’s what the natural law is. That’s the whole fundamental nature of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Helen: In another interview someone suggested that the Founding Fathers were really attempting to do God’s will.

Senator Wallop: That’s why I think this Experiment will go on. We toy around with abandoning it, but we don’t ever quite get there. If we do ever abandon the concept that our nation is based on natural law, then I do think the Experiment will die within decades.

Helen: That’s one thing we’d like people to realize. That, if you don’t love it, you might get what you’re asking for.

Senator Wallop: We have this incredible concept that we’re created equal, but that didn’t mean to say that everybody ended up with the same share of the pie without having to do something for that pie.

Helen: It’s hard for people to believe in natural rights when they don’t believe in God.

Senator Wallop: Well… and that’s all right, if they want to go off and putter in the garden, without rights.

Helen: Then it becomes a laundry list of demands: I demand a house, an education, medical care, a job, to not have my feelings hurt, and on and on. Just look at the so-called ‘rights’ the European Union is coming up with in their Constitution.

Senator Wallop: That’s an absurd document. In the end, it won’t stand. They’ll keep adding rights to it until it looks like a McDonald’s menu.

Peter: We’re happy to hear that you don’t think the Great Experiment will die because the urge for freedom and individual liberty is innate and will always try to surface somehow. Would it be right to characterize your opinion of the state of the union as being “optimistic”?

Senator Wallop: Oh yes, but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s not doing some things I wish it wouldn’t. But that’s part of the natural law too, you know. If you look at America and any other nation in the world – including our friends the Brits – we’re the only one fundamentally guided by our Constitution. The others may have Constitutions, but their rights are granted by government. In our instance, they’re inherent in our nature. Our rights are not granted by government and can’t be taken away by government. They can be toyed with, but never taken away. That’s a fundamentally unique concept.

Peter: That sovereignty is inherent in the individual, not the state. Whatever rights, or powers, that are not delineated in the Constitution… whatever is left over devolves, naturally, to the individual states or to individuals.

Senator Wallop: When you go out into the country, in this country – just as when we were wandering around the Northern Neck of Virginia or wandering around Wyoming – you’ll find a very fundamental decency in Americans. Sure, there are some transgressions, from time to time, and bad things occasionally happen, but there’s a fundamental decency. There is far less racism, far less “class struggle” in America than there is in the elite rooms of major metropolitan areas of this country. Just incredibly decent people in this country. If you just get out of the elite press rooms and university rooms, you’ll find in the American people an enormous sense of pride and self assurance that only comes from people living free. It’s unbelievably invigorating, and very reassuring, to know the Great Experiment is in the hands of people who don’t even know it and isn’t in the hands of the people who think they hold it.

Peter: That’s a great ending. Thank you, Senator Wallop. This interview took place shortly after 9-11-2001.

~

Biography of Malcolm Wallop

Malcolm Wallop is a descendant of a pioneer family from Big Horn, Wyoming and is the proud father of four children.

Both in and out of public office, Senator Wallop has been an outspoken conservative commentator and activist, working on such issues as tax reform, federal deregulation, energy policy, private property rights, and national defense. In 1978, Senator Wallop was the first elected official to propose a space based missile defense system, a program that later became part of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Elected to the Senate in 1976, Senator Wallop held his seat for eighteen years, retiring in 1994. During his tenure, Senator Wallop served on numerous committees, including Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, Small Business, Armed Services and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He was also the first non-lawyer in U.S. Senate history to serve on the Judiciary Committee. As the ranking Republican member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1990 to 1994, Senator Wallop was an outspoken advocate of the multiple economic uses of federal lands and development of domestic energy supplies of coal, oil and natural gas.

Senator Wallop has a long and distinguished record of legislative achievements to mark his three terms in Congress. In 1981, Congress enacted his legislation to cut inheritance and gift taxes, an effort hailed as one of the major legislative achievements of the decade in tax reform. He has long been regarded as one of the foremost authorities on Western water law, and demonstrated his early commitment to halting federal encroachment into state affairs by successfully pushing for adoption of the so-called “Wallop amendment” to the 1980 Clean Water Act, barring federal usurpation of state control of water. He authored the Sunset of the Carter Era Windfall Profits Tax, the first sunsetted tax in history. He recognized early on the need to prevent Federal ‘taking’ of private property by sponsoring the 1977 Wallop Amendment to the Surface Mining Control Act. This directed the Federal Government to compensate, through purchase or exchange, owners of mineral rights whose right to mine had been denied by federal regulation of Alluvial Valley Floors.

For 16 of his 18 years in the Senate, Senator Wallop served on the Senate Finance Committee. There his major work was in energy taxes and incentives and international trade. He made several trips to Geneva for the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) talks. He also traveled to Britain, France, Belgium and Germany on trade related missions. In the Pacific Rim, he had sessions of both a private and public nature to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He represented the American trona industry in both Europe and the Pacific. Known as a staunch free trade proponent, his trips were generally structured to meet industrial, financial, and government interests on issues of tariff barrier reductions.

One of the most important achievements of the Senator’s career was passage of his Energy Policy Act of 1992. This sweeping legislative initiative set forth an energy conservation and production strategy that not only furthers our national security interests, but has helped create jobs and lessened our dependence on foreign energy markets.

Throughout the eighties Senator Wallop served on both the Senate Arms Control Observer group and the Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe — also known as the Helsinki Commission. His extensive travel for these responsibilities took him to Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe. The issues of arms control in SALT II, INF, START I and START II were among the most complex international relations issues of the era. The human rights issues and western pressure surrounding them led ultimately to the liberation of the Baltics and Eastern Europe and finally to the CSCE treaty.

More recently, Senator Wallop led the congressional charge against the “War on the West”, the Clinton Administration’s effort to “colonize” western states through increased federal regulations and encroachment on states’ rights. Wallop was successful in beating back the Administration’s assault on Western mining, grazing, and water rights, viewing the attack as a harbinger of broader efforts by the federal government to limit economic development and the rights of states and individuals.

Senator Wallop has long been a vehement opponent of unfunded mandates and established his own “Red Tape Award” in 1993, a less than coveted honor which exposed abusive federal regulators.

The Senator is the author of the 1984 Wallop-Breaux Sport Fishing Restoration Act, a program that raises revenue for boating safety and fish habitat conservation through user fees collected on motor boat fuel and fishing tackle. Wallop-Breaux is unique not only because it is a user fee which directly benefits those who pay for it, but also because the role of the federal government in the program is minimal. In 1994 Wallop-Breaux generated over $170 million to state fish and game agencies.

An early supporter of volunteerism, Senator Wallop’s legislation establishing the Congressional Award program was approved by Congress in 1979. The Congressional Award honors the nation’s youth for community service and personal achievements. It is privately funded and is the only award given in the name of Congress.

A staunch advocate of a strong defense, Senator Wallop is considered one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on defense policy. He and Dr. Angelo Codevilla co-authored The Arms Control Delusion, a provocative critique of the arms control process which argues that arms agreements with the former Soviet Union only served to undermine America’s military strength while reinforcing Soviet Strategic capacity. Senator Wallop has written numerous articles on defense and foreign policy. In addition to addressing the Oxford Union, he has lectured extensively at a number of America’s most distinguished defense universities and academic institutions as well as in England, Belgium and France. He is currently a Senior Fellow with the Heritage Foundation where he writes and speaks on issues of foreign policy and national defense.

The Senator has also written for a number of distinguished publications, including the Strategic Review, National Review, the Notre Dame Law School Journal, the Detroit College Law Review, Policy Review, Orbis, National Interest, the American Spectator and Insight along with editorials for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Washington Post, USA Today and New York Times, among others. He has appeared on such TV programs as FoxNEWS’ The O’Reilly Factor, Nightline, the Today Show, CBS Morning News, and McNeil-Lehrer. His radio appearances include G. Gordon Liddy, Armstrong Williams, Larry King and Jim Bohanan.

He has also made major addresses to such groups as the American Petroleum Institute, Burlington Resources, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, Edison Electric Institute, Interstate National Gas Association, The Hans Seidel Stiftung in Munich, Center for Strategic and International Studies, MIT and Hillsdale College.

He is the recipient of a legion of honors, among them the American Conservative Union’s John Ashbrook Award and Ronald Reagan Award, the National Energy Resources Organization’s National Leadership Award, the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame Award,” the Congressional Award’s Leadership Award, and the Fund for American Studies’ Congressional Scholarship Award, and Citizens for a Sound Economy’s Jefferson Award, along with consistently being honored throughout his congressional career with such annual honors as NFIB’s Guardian of Small Business, the National Taxpayer Union’s Taxpayers’ Friend Award and Watchdog of the Treasury, Inc.’s Golden Bulldog Award. He has also received the highest award of the American League of Anglers and Boaters for his work establishing the Wallop-Breaux Sport Fishing fund and the National Cattlemen’s Association and Public Lands Council for his work to protect the West from federal intrusion.

The Senator, who has built a reputation as a tireless promoter of individual freedom and small government, now chairs Frontiers of Freedom, a non-profit organization he established in January of 1995 immediately after retiring from the Senate. In its first year, Frontiers of Freedom established itself as a public policy organization with an edge. Its agenda includes preservation of property rights and reform of the Endangered Species Act, the privatization of Social Security, protection of civil liberties and the defeat of such big government initiatives as the antiterrorism bill and the national ID card legislation, and reform of the Food and Drug Administration. In February, he established the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a 501 (c)(3), designed to study and research issues pertaining to limited government and Constitutional freedoms.

Wallop sits on the boards of Hubbell, Inc., El Paso Energy Company, and Sheridan State Bank.

In February of 1996, Steve Forbes asked Senator Wallop to be the General Chairman and Executive Director of his presidential bid. The immediate effect of his arrival led to specific changes in strategy and tactics which, in turn, led to primary victories in both Delaware and Arizona.

Graduating from Yale University in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Senator Wallop served in the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957 and was a member of the Wyoming Legislature from 1969 to 1976. His extensive business career includes management of the Wyoming ranch holdings he owns and establishment of a feedlot. He jointly ventured oil and gas development projects in Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming. Senator Wallop was an active real estate developer and investor. He continues to be a Wyoming rancher, businessman, and international consultant.