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Dunking on the Tea Party

Wednesday, July 7, 2010; A14

Tea Party activist Rick Buchanan got his constitutional history exactly wrong when he stated that "the founding fathers were very afraid of a central government ["On the Fourth, it's back to school," news story, July 5]. On the contrary, the impetus for the new Constitution was a growing recognition of the unworkable weakness of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation and the threat posed by the local and special interests that dominated the state legislatures. James Madison was so concerned about actions by state legislatures that undermined liberty and the common interests of the nation that he proposed a federal veto power over state laws. When the Constitutional Convention rejected that idea, Madison (as the historian Gordon S. Wood notes in his new book, "Empire of Liberty") feared that the entire Constitution was doomed to failure.

The convention did, however, adopt in Article I, Section 10, an extraordinary list of powers that the states were forbidden to exercise. To Madison and the other framers, the much-strengthened central government created by the Constitution was an urgently needed counterweight to the "local prejudices" and "schemes of injustice" all too manifest in the state legislatures.

Stephen Budiansky, Leesburg

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Impressive commentary on the Tea Partyers by Cadet Sam Goodgame in the On Leadership column of the July 4 Business section -- it's a great idea to ask West Pointers' opinions on these issues. Cadet Goodgame convincingly represents one aspect of big government that I, for one, am pleased to help pay for.

The Tea Partyers need to describe for us what our world would look like if they have their way. What will we have that we now don't? And what will we lose? The idea of smaller, cheaper government is appealing, but the reality needs a far more precise description than they have provided.

As Cadet Goodgame points out, part of leadership is the ability to describe the program.

Ralph Bennett, Silver Spring

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