This interview was conducted last month as an episode of “Take AIM,” AIM’s weekly BlogTalkRadio show. I saw Ken speak this week at an Accuracy in Academia event, and felt that it was still timely and important to post this interview. You can either listen to it here, or read the transcript below.
In May, Blackwell and his co-author Ken Klukowski released their new book, The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. They both spoke this week at the AIA event.
The book is a critical and timely look at what the Obama administration is doing, often just below the radar, in many areas including the courts, the media, the census, and the environment.
A few highlights from the interview:
“But if you look at what they’re doing with Czar [Carol] Browner, they are using executive regulation to get around the legislative process, and they are imposing hard taxes and threats to trade and threats to job creation, and that’s a problem.”
“So there is a tug-of-war, there is a real flurry of activity around election time, between those of us who believe in the more balanced approach, protecting the integrity of the ballot box, and those who don’t care about the integrity of the ballot box, they just want to influence the result.”
“The Obama administration is operating from a European-like collectivist model, or a European socialist model, which puts the collective good above individual liberty.”
“Well, the first thing they tried to do was to concentrate the power of conducting the Census in the White House.”
“This is a President that has attempted to take over major sectors of our economy, from the financial sector to the automobile sector to energy, and as a consequence, his use of czars, his use of executive regulations that are measurable, is extraordinarily problematic for our democracy and our market economy.”
“This is about—not Black America, White America, Brown America, Yellow America, this is about the Constitution, the supreme law of the country…”
Transcript Take AIM
May 13, 2010
ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s weekly talk show on BlogTalkRadio. Ken Blackwell is a leading voice in the conservative movement, with a wide-ranging biography that I could spend twenty minutes talking about. He’s a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council; a visiting professor at the Liberty University School of Law; he has served as mayor of Cincinnati, as Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. In 1994 he became the first African-American elected to a state-wide executive office in Ohio when he was elected Treasurer, and subsequently was elected to two terms as Secretary of State. He is co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s Redistricting Committee, and is on the Board of Directors of Club for Growth, the National Taxpayers’ Union, and the National Rifle Association. He also was a founding partner of Blue Chip Broadcasting, which became the second largest African-American-owned radio company in the nation, and he’s a contributing editor for townhall.com. He’s a prolific writer of columns and books, including his most recent, which was just published last month, called The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, with co-author Ken Klukowski. Ken Blackwell, welcome to Take AIM!
BLACKWELL: It’s good to be with you, Roger.
ARONOFF: Great to have you, sir. One thing a lot of people may not know about you—I’m sure many do—is that you played college football and were invited to the Dallas Cowboys’ football camp. What happened in your life that you turned away from football and turned towards politics and public service?
BLACKWELL: Well, there was a fellow by the name of Deacon Jones who gave me a head-slap that spun my helmet around, and I thought I would protect what little brains God had given me. [Laughs.]
ARONOFF: [Laughs.] He was bad, he was awesome—that would do it for me, too, I think! And so, you decided football wasn’t the way you wanted to make your living, huh?
BLACKWELL: And I would go back home and teach for a year, and go to grad school, and get a master’s degree, and then I went back to Xavier as a junior member of the faculty, and associate director of the Center for Urban Studies, and later became director of the Center for Urban Studies, went on to become a vice president at Xavier University, and I think, got involved in politics, and was lucky enough to become the mayor of my hometown. And that was quite an experience. I’ve served twelve years in local government, and it was just a fascinating experience to be close up and personal as a council member, as a vice mayor, and as a mayor. And one of the funniest things was that I was the vice mayor of Cincinnati with Jerry Springer. And I was mayor of Cincinnati after Jerry Springer, which only goes to show that sometimes the sublime does follow the ridiculous.
ARONOFF: Were you included in the opera about Jerry Springer?
BLACKWELL: Absolutely not! [Laughs.]
ARONOFF: [Laughs.] Okay.
BLACKWELL: Our political paths went entirely different directions.
ARONOFF: I understand. So I want to congratulate you on this gutsy, hard-hitting book. Again, the title: The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. You say in the book that Obama is, quote, “waging a war against the U.S. Constitution.” And in the book you cite many areas in which he is doing this. What is the basic thesis of the book?
BLACKWELL: Well, President Obama wants to transform our market economy into a government-controlled economy; he wants to transform our family-centered society into a government-centered society; and the President wants to transform our national philosophy, founded upon the primacy of the individual and the supremacy of God, to one founded on the primacy of the collective good and the supremacy of the central government. Mr. Obama’s problem is that the Constitution of the United States stands in his way. The Framers of the Constitution founded our nation with the understanding that rights are not grants from government, they are gifts from God. And the Founders erected the Constitution as a wall designed to stop any President from fundamentally transforming our country. And so the President has to wage an all-out war on the Constitution as it is written.
Now I happen to be an originalist. I believe in the enduring principles that provide the underpinning of the Constitution. And our Constitution, as it was designed by the Framers, has only been amended 27 times. And that’s because they made it very difficult to change. President Obama wants to change the Constitution by packing our federal courts with judges and jurists that believe in what they call a ‘21st century Constitution,’ which is malleable and changeable at a whim, and that’s a problem. And so I think we find ourselves in a very, very important part of American history. And that’s why we wrote the book. We wanted to say that there isn’t anything clandestine about what the President is doing—it’s a pretty well-designed plan—and that they are executing it in the light of day, but they’re trying to divert our attention from the challenge to the Constitution that their programs advance. So we have sort of drawn the line in the sand and said, “Enough is enough.” And we and other Americans have rededicated ourselves to preserving American liberty.
ARONOFF: You say that—it sounds a bit contradictory, you say it is not clandestine, yet they—he is trying to divert our attention from what he’s doing.
BLACKWELL: For instance, one—he basically is executing this with collaboration from Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, but he—what they’re doing is right there in the public arena. I mean, he’s nominating, you know, Ms. Kagan right through the normal process, so there’s nothing clandestine about that. What we need to do is make sure that she is properly vetted, so we can fully see and understand what the President is trying to do with the courts. Look: he’s going to have an unprecedented opportunity to pack the courts, particularly at the appellate court level. Right now there’s contemplation about expanding the number of appellate court judges at the—on the federal bench to—by twelve. He will, as long as he has a rubber-stamp Congress, he will probably have a full-throated opportunity to do that. And to pack it with guys like Goodwin Liu, for instance, the Ninth Circuit nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Goodwin Liu says anybody who believes in the original intent of the Constitution should be stopped from serving on the federal bench or the Supreme Court. And that’s because Goodwin Liu believes that those principles upon which our Constitution was based are outdated and no longer useful, and so he says, ‘Let’s junk ’em, and move on with something else. Let us, you know, sort of legislate from the bench.’ So this is an open battle—we just can’t be asleep at the switch.
ARONOFF: So do you see this as just your standard hardball politics—helping his buddies and staying in office—or is it something more sinister and radical? And you call it a “Blueprint”—that’s the title of your book—how so? How is it a blueprint?
BLACKWELL: Well, it’s a plan.
BLACKWELL: And I think that what they’re trying to do is to rearrange the relationship between the executive branch, the legislature, and the courts. They are concentrating more power in the legislature. An example of that would be the use of Carol Browner as the Energy Czar, and where she and the President are using more executive regulations to execute tax-and-trade, for example, than having to go through the Congress. And therefore, sort of, not only circumventing the Congress, but, remember, they represent us, a sovereign people. We are the ultimate power—“We the People.” But if you look at what they’re doing with Czar Browner, they are using executive regulation to get around the legislative process, and they are imposing hard taxes and threats to trade and threats to job creation, and that’s a problem. The President is looking to pack the courts with a more activist—more activist jurists, and they will legislate from the bench. And so this is a full, an all-out assault on the Constitution as it was originally drafted.
ARONOFF: I want to get into the czars in a few minutes, but one thing—let’s talk about a few of these tactics and areas in which the Obama administration is attempting to centralize power and create a permanent liberal majority. How about voting? That’s certainly something you know quite a bit about: You were on the front lines of the 2004 election, where Ohio became the swing state, much like Florida in 2000, and you had led the fight to force people to actually prove that they were eligible to vote, and today a lot of people are questioning the integrity of our elections. Between not requiring picture IDs, not prosecuting the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation, the use of ACORN, trying to gain the rights of convicted felons to vote . . . . Remind people briefly what happened in Ohio, and how does it apply to what’s going on today?
BLACKWELL: Well, look: There is a real tension between how groups of us view the whole election process. I believe that there is a delicate balance between the ease by which a people can vote, and the integrity of the ballot box. Every time you let a fraudulent vote count, you actually negate the true and eligible voter’s speech through the ballot box. And so—in Ohio, this last election, Secretary Brunner believed that the integrity of the ballot box was not that big a deal, so she put full force effort to make sure that people could vote. And so she took away some of the safeguards, and as a consequence of the activities of ACORN and other left-leaning groups, there was a real concern by the citizens across the state, particularly with the revelations about ACORN’s activities across the country, that the count, the vote count, was not a true count, because there were fraudulent votes that had been incorporated into that count.
So they are attempting to look at a couple of things. Universal same-day registration—now, a couple years ago, Senator Feingold, from Wisconsin, was a leading advocate of same-day voter registration, which meant that a voter could register and vote in an election on the same day. That, I think, is problematic, because we don’t—we move away from voting being both a duty and a right. And the duty aspect of it requires us to make sure that we take the steps to make sure that everybody that’s voting is an eligible voter. And that protects the integrity of the ballot box. So there is a tug-of-war, there is a real flurry of activity around election time, between those of us who believe in the more balanced approach, protecting the integrity of the ballot box, and those who don’t care about the integrity of the ballot box, they just want to influence the result. And if you influence the results with fraudulent numbers, or you make it very difficult for those who are responsible for the administration of elections to help guarantee that everybody who is voting is supposed—and is eligible to vote, that is a problem.
ARONOFF: Something that happened this past week made your book—made you seem like a bit of a prophet, and that was this area of “Card Check.” Looks like the Democrats are having a hard time getting it through Congress, so just this week they changed the rules through the National Labor Relations Board. Just something—you predicted that exactly in your book.
BLACKWELL: Well, absolutely. And that’s—Roger, that’s exactly what I’m concerned about, and what Ken Klukowski, a young, bright Constitutional lawyer, and I researched, and tried to delineate in our book. This is a power grab. And so if you’re—if you look at the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” you look at cap-and-trade, you look at “Card Check,” you look at packing the ballot box—these are not just isolated incidents and initiatives, these are part of a well-thought-out plan to effect a power grab first by the central government, and within the central government, by the chief executive officer, the President. And that destroys the delicate balance of power achieved through the separation of power with each branch of government having a unique set of responsibilities that provide a check-and-balance system of—to make sure that we have limited government, and that government ultimately is responsible to us.
Look: in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, this is framed up for us. It says “We hold these Truths to be self-evident,” which means that any knucklehead should be able to get it. This is about enduring principles and universal truths, and that we’re endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. In that paragraph they talked about—they were trying to make the point that our human rights are not grants from government, they’re gifts from God, and that there is not a government on the face of the Earth that can give you your human rights. They can only protect and promote your human rights. Implicit in that is a check on governmental power. The Obama administration is operating from a European-like collectivist model, or a European socialist model, which puts the collective good above individual liberty. What we’ve learned in 233 years is that we’re the freest, the most generous population and representative government in all of human history. And why we want to change that, why we want to put our country on a path that we can already see, throughout history, is a path of failure, just befuddles me.
ARONOFF: In your role on the Republican National Committee Redistricting Committee, you were confronted by another issue you talk about in the book, and that is the politicization of the Census. How is that occurring? What are the implications? What can be done about it?
BLACKWELL: Well, the first thing they tried to do was to concentrate the power of conducting the Census in the White House. This got around all of the requirements for disclosure and openness, and a number of us started to—familiar with the process started to yell and scream, and wave our hands, stomp our feet, and we got them to back off of that. But let’s talk about what is and what is not. What was in 2000 was an agreement, a consensus, that we needed a bipartisan oversight board, even a number of Democrats and Republicans, to make sure that the process had citizen input, that it was fully transparent, and we were able to get that. Initially it was negotiated between Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, and then Denny Hastert took over for Newt, and Trent Lott took over for Bob Dole, and we were able to get that sort of bipartisan approach. I was co-chairman, and I had a Democratic counterpart—I was co-chairman of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, and from Day One and Initiative One to the conclusion we provided that citizen input, that citizen oversight, and it was of a bipartisan nature. There is nothing, in terms of the oversight, that’s bipartisan about this. This is so heavily weighted towards the administration that the only victory we had was that they didn’t—they couldn’t get around the Administrative Procedures Act that would require that a lot of the questions be raised and vetted, and issues be debated, in the full of—the full light of day.
BLACKWELL: So this is a big deal, because the Census will determine not only reapportionment, in terms of the number of Congressional seats throughout the country, and how they are apportioned in our states, it really will impact on how districts are drawn within the states, and so it is important that those numbers be solid and they not be statistically—through statistical sampling—be assigned, but that they actually are assigned to real people being counted. And my concern is that with billions of dollars being put into this process and into community-based groups, reconfigured ACORN operations, that they’ll start making up people where people don’t exist.
ARONOFF: Okay. Let’s touch on a few other things kind of quickly, because we’re unfortunately starting to run out of time—we’ve got a little time left. But you recently had a high-profile moment when you were on The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart, to talk about this book, and he cited the website FactCheck to attempt to dispute some assertions that you make in your book. And let’s—we’ll talk about a couple of those briefly. One is the issue of the czars, that you were bringing up, and the question, who had more, Bush or Obama, and the bigger question is what Obama’s doing with these Czars who don’t go through a confirmation process. The other was about judges. So you went back, after you were on there, and you did a piece that I saw, I guess it was on the Huffington Post—
ARONOFF: —and kind of fact checked FactCheck—
BLACKWELL: [Laughs.] Right. Right!
ARONOFF: —and found them wanting. So just give me a brief overview of that.
BLACKWELL: Just briefly, FactCheck didn’t compare apples to apples. What they said was, if anybody claimed that Bush—a Bush person was a czar, then they got the czar box checked. Well, I’ll use an example: Somebody called Karl Rove a czar, and therefore he was counted by FactCheck as being a czar. Well, if he was a czar, then David Axelrod, who holds the exact same position, should have been listed as a czar. And even using their criteria, Obama would have had 51 czars to Bush’s 32 czars. But the fact is, in terms of czars with power, like Carol Browner—or like Van Jones, the avowed Communist, would have had, or had until he was chased out of the White House—by public concern—Bush had in the neighborhood of eight, and the President has 25 that we run through in the book. The issue is, if Jon Stewart, or anyone else from the left, wants to do their criticism, they ought to do the criticism, and we did the criticism because we saw this as an extraordinary acceleration in the use of czars, and in combination with all the other initiatives that the President is taking and putting forth, we saw it as being extremely problematic. This is a President that has attempted to take over major sectors of our economy, from the financial sector to the automobile sector to energy, and as a consequence, his use of czars, his use of executive regulations that are measurable, is extraordinarily problematic for our democracy and our market economy.
ARONOFF: Yes, and I’ll just quickly point out that you also went into the issue of judges, and talked about how none of Obama’s judges have been filibustered, and a number of Bush’s were, and Obama was even involved in trying to filibuster—was it Alito or Roberts?
ARONOFF: But you also talk about the media, and what Obama’s trying to do there. You mention, briefly, the Fairness Doctrine, and how they’ve attacked people like Limbaugh, and Fox News, and all that. But I want to know how well the media have covered the issues you cover in your book, and how have the media generally reacted to your book?
BLACKWELL: Well, one: Our book is a number-one bestseller in a couple categories—on Amazon, the Washington Post “Book World,” and elsewhere—and so we—the public has been really eager to see what we’re saying and why we’re saying it, and the media has been generally responsive. Some have had me on to attack the premise, but when you engage in this sort of public debate, discussion, you have to be ready for attacks and challenges. We will go anywhere to debate the book. We’re going to win some debates, we’re going to lose some debates, some debates are going to be a draw, but what we learn every time we go into the arena and debate, we see the strengths of our argument, we see where we have to bone up and get tougher and provide more facts and perspective, and that adds to our, I think, our advantage as we go forwards for the 2010 elections. We—
ARONOFF: We just have a couple of minutes left here. What kind of heat or flak have you gotten for writing this book? And as an African-American, is there more scrutiny, and is this treated as a betrayal of your race? Or is it—any of that come up?
BLACKWELL: Well, we—there have been some marginal players that have raised that issue, using it from a—looking at it from a race perspective. But their number has been low, and I really don’t care about their opinions. This is about—not Black America, White America, Brown America, Yellow America, this is about the Constitution, the supreme law of the country, that has provided us, even with its 27 amendments, which is, you know, not a whole lot of amendments, since 1787, this is about a battle for the document that has made us the most—the freest, the most productive democracy and economy in world history, and why we would want to abandon it—you know, Lincoln once said that our country is not perfect, but it is perfectible. And it really is—he had a real keen appreciation for—the buck didn’t stop with the President of the United States. We are a sovereign people—“We the People” have the right to speak to our government and to put the brakes on any nonsense in which it is engaged, and that’s what we’re doing now. So any sideline critics, any race-baiting, is ignored by me and my co-author.
ARONOFF: Our guest has been Ken Blackwell, author of the new book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. If you want to keep up with the book, go to http://www.theblueprintbook.net/