a Comparison in Quotations of the Policies and Politics
of the Founding Fathers and George W. Bush


    Pre-emptive war and dictatorial diplomacy; secret prisons and unusual punishment; infringements on habeas corpus and right to public trial; invasions of privacy and arbitrary powers of search and seizure; secret departments of government and Orwellian campaigns of disinformation; intimidating limits on freedom of speech, press; gargantuan public debt used to subsidize corporate sponsors and cut taxes for the wealthy few---all portrayed as within the original scope and intent of our Republic’s Founding Fathers.

    Could this possibly be true?

    The Founding Fathers could hardly have imagined 21st Century America with or without George W. Bush. But there is no need to guess on what they thought about war and peace, sources and limits of governmental power, checks and balances, crony politics, public corruption, individual rights of conscience and dissent. The Founders examined these subjects from every angle, and spoke and wrote on them voluminously, with passion and reason, with unmistakable bluntness and unforgettable eloquence.

    Surely, to a man, the Founders would have been appalled at the flaunted anti-intellectuality of George W. Bush. “I’m not a textbook player. I’m a gut player,” Bush bragged to Bob Woodward in justification of his leadup to the Iraq War in August 2002. While on occasion, the Founders acted out of passion as well as forethought, it is impossible to imagine any of them ever asserting ignorance, intellectual laziness or blind faith as the basis for any vital national policy---let alone as the rationale for a bloody pre-emptive war and occupation of a beleaguered foreign nation.

    In a 2001 Yale commencement speech, the President joked: “And to the C students I say, you, too, can be President of the United States.As I often remind Dick Cheney---who studied here, but left a little early . . . if you graduate from Yale, you become President.If you drop out, you get to be Vice President.”Clearly the president was, in part, joking on himself here, but the smug sub-message undercuts the jocularity.

    The Founders took issues of education and entitlement somewhat more seriously.

    Benjamin Franklin

    Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.

    ---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758

    George Washington

    Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.

    ---First Annual Address, January 8, 1790

    John Adams Liberty can not be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.

    ---A Dissertation On The Canon And Feudal Law, 1765

    I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. . . . There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents. . . . The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society.

    ---Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 1813

    “No error is more certain than the one proceeding from a hasty and superficial view of the subject.”

    ---James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, 1822

    It is not the aim of this book to suggest that the Founders’ words were in any way intended to address modern issues. Nevertheless, as ethics, values, self-evident truths and inalienable rights are slow to change, much of what the Founders thought and wrote still resonates in our times; not only on a philosophical level, but---inasmuch as we still regard the framing and founding of our country as the basis for our Constitution and Laws---also on a practical level. As “the Intents of the Founders” is used in our culture as if it were scientific evidence or scriptural revelation, it befits us to pay attention to what the Founders actually said and meant.

    Founders v. Bush intends to show the vast gap between the way that the Founders saw the nation’s relationship to their world and the way that the Bush Administration sees our nation in our world, and, beyond that, the gap in eloquence and depth of thought that is equally wide. While the words of the Founders still offer us the pleasure of observed truth, reasoned argument and poetic style, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld offer us cynical sarcasm and simplistic solecisms, cave grunt condescension and broken-record PR repetitions.

    I know nothing of George W. Bush beyond his public image and pronouncements. I don’t know if he truly eschews open-minded discussion, ignores undesirable evidence and reasoning or if he is a master actor who has created a convincing persona of the “artificial aristocrat” that Jefferson warned us of; I don’t know if he is ignorant and uncurious or merely master poseur---but that he is a smug demagogue and prodigious liar is beyond all doubt.

    This book juxtaposes the words of George W. Bush and his advisors and defenders with relevant words from the Founding Fathers. While it is not a book of Bush gaffes and malapropisms, it is hardly possible to juxtapose Bush’s simplistic pre-chewed garble to the elegance, wit and erudition of our defining spokesmen without wincing in dismay. However, the purpose here is not to portray Bush as a clown prince. “Bushisms” tend to deflect us from the issues, and, in fact, many of the dopey statements and malapropisms most often attributed to Bush are fakes, or were actually said by Dan Quayle, or were spoutings of some late-night comedian or splenetic Anon.

    Beware of unsourced quotes! In this book all of the quotes have been sourced, sources provided, and, as far as feasible, provided in ample context. As to the founders’ quotes, for the most part they have been arranged chronologically in each section and according to their authors’ seniority: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton. A number of other founders could legitimately be added to this list, but no expert on our nation’s founding would reasonably argue with these essential six.

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    Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

    Often referred to as “The First American,” Franklin was a genius of incomparable breadth. Printer. Writer. Satirist. Scientist. Inventor. Freemason. Statesman. Community planner. The fifteenth among seventeen children of a working class Boston family (his father was a soap and candle maker), Franklin was forced to quit school at ten and was almost entirely self-educated. A voracious reader and life long bibliophile, he later formed a series of “Junto” study groups, founded the first public lending library, the American Philosophical Society and the University of Pennsylvania.

    More pertinent to his credentials as a founder: Franklin organized the Albany Convention in 1754 where his “Albany Plan of Union” put forth the first plan of confederation for the American Colonies. As Ambassador to England, he became the patron of Tom Paine and sponsored Paine’s emigration to Philadelphia, where they both became prime movers of the Revolution. As a key member of the Continental Congress, he was on the committee that produced the Declaration of Independence. Later, from 1776-1785, he served as Ambassador to France where (in addition to being a resident scientist, philosopher and socialite) he secured vital French support for the Revolution, as well as providing a letter of introduction for the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington.

    In his “dotage,” Franklin was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention.

    George Washington (1732 - 1799)

    Among Washington’s many facets, he was: farmer, soldier, surveyor, land-speculator, plantation owner, Freemason, politician, patriot, general, mediator, and, without opposition, First President of the United States. Washington’s greatness was less for his words than for his leadership, courage and steadfast loyalty to liberty and union.

    John Adams (1735 -1826)

    John Adams came from old Puritan stock and grew up in rural Braintree, Massachusetts. Largely self-taught, Adams was a great reader. He balked against being trained for the clergy and, instead, entered the law and sought out an urban cosmopolitan life. His marriage to Abigail Smith was arguably the most successful of all the founders. Abigail Adams, in her own right, was an intelligent, forward-thinking woman, an early feminist who refused to be excluded from the affairs of the nation.

    During the Continental Congress, Adams was easily its most indefatigable member: he served on ninety committees and chaired twenty-four! He was also one of the committee of five (with Jefferson, Franklin, Philip Livingstone and Roger Sherman) that produced the Declaration of Independence. Following the war, he served as ambassador to England, France and the Netherlands, became leader of the Massachusetts Whigs and main author of Massachusetts Constitution, was Vice-President under George Washington, then second President of the United States.

    Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

    Jefferson was born of plantation wealth in rural Virginia. While he never lost his reverence for agrarian life, his brilliance also led him to excellence in science, mathematics, language, architecture, history, philosophy, writing and, intermittently, political leadership. Author of the Declaration of Independence, ambassador to France, member of the House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he became the leader of the Republican (later Democratic-Republican) party, and served two terms as third President of the United States.

    For his tomb, Jefferson chose this epitaph: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”

    James Madison (1751 - 1836)

    Madison was the runt of the Founders, barely over five feet tall and a hundred pounds, always in delicate health. Born to a wealthy plantation owner, Madison had neither a disposition for business or clergy. Shy with both women and men, he became a bookworm, his prodigious intellect turning him into a formidable scholar and legal historian.

    The twin catalysts of intensive college study and the rising campus tumult of the incipient Revolution brought Madison out of his shell and into public life, where, mentored by George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, his keen mind and writing style quickly brought him to the fore as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he later became principle author of Virginia’s Constitution (from which the U.S. Constitution was largely taken).

    Teaming with (later rival) Alexander Hamilton, Madison co-organized the Constitutional Convention and co-authored (with a few additions by John Jay) the greatly influential Federalist Papers. Madison also served as meticulous scribe of the Convention, as well as one of its most active voices for combining republican principles with a strong federal union.

    Later (with Jefferson), Madison co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party and served two terms as Fourth President of the United States.

    Despite Madison’s size and frailty, he lived to be the last surviving signer of the U.S. Constitution.

    Alexander Hamilton (1755- 1804)

    Born out of wedlock in 1755 on the Caribbean island Nevis, his mother was a “fallen woman,” his father a ne’re-do-well drifter of an aristocratic Scottish family. Hamilton was a prodigy in every respect: socially adept, born to battle, a brilliant thinker and writer, Washington’s aide-de-camp in battle when he was only 21, and soon one of Washington’s most trusted advisors.

    Always a strong believer in a strong federal government, Hamilton organized the Constitutional Convention and co-authored the Federalist Papers. His biographer Ron Chernow calls Hamilton “a quintessentially urban man, who preferred to commune with books, not running brooks . . . a city dweller, harnessed to his work.” Hamilton’s genius, fortitude and self-confidence was often mixed with his distrust of altruism and democracy, his deep belief in the motivating power of self-interest and ambition. After stomping out of the Constitution Convention (because his draft version had been rejected), he returned to assist in the writing final draft, then went on to become the First Secretary of the Treasury, architect of national banking system, leader and voice of the Federalist Party.

    There are legitimate reasons for calling him the “Father of American Capitalism,” as well as the “Father of the American Party System.”

    Hamilton was tempest-tossed by great forces his entire life, from his Dickensian childhood, through his Horatio Alger youth to his boom-to bust tragic end when he was killed in a duel at the hand of former Vice-President Aaron Burr.

    Other Founders quoted in this book: John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, John Marshall, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Paine, William Paterson, Benjamin Rush, James Wilson.

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Author: Steve Coffman

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: One World Studios

Language: English

ISBN: 978-0979727207

FvB Recognized

"Founders v. Bush brings the wisdom and eloquence of the Founding Fathers back to the people, while unmasking the fraudulent PR machine that is corrupting their words and stealing our legacy."

— Jim Hightower
Best selling author, radio commentator
and editor of The Hightower Lowdown

"As Thomas Jefferson prophetically said, 'The only sure guarantees of our liberties are the people.'   Especially now, that requires the people knowing why they are Americans.  And this book Founders v. Bush is an illuminating beginning of that essential knowledge." 

— Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice

"A brilliantly put together book."

— David Swanson

"This book should required reading for everybody."

— John Keeble
author of
Noctournal America


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