“The people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was a bad thing.”
South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2011, disgracing himself and betraying the trust of the a group of students who trusted him to tell them the truth. Instead, he made them ignorant while encouraging disrespect and distrust of the Founders, an especially sinister component of the Democratic effort to undermine the Constitution and to “remake” America.
I reluctantly concluded that Buttigieg was, to be indelicate, an asshole almost exactly a month ago, after he returned the contributions of two lawyers who represented Justice Kavanaugh when Buttigieg’s party was attempting to destroy him using an unsubstantiated and conveniently recalled alleged episode when he was in high school. With Buttigieg, unlike, say, Joe Biden, I assume he is educated and intelligent, and thus I knew that this was dishonest grandstanding. Mayor Pete knows that lawyers do not personally endorse those they represent, even if much of the public does not. Worse, in justifying his actions, Buttigeig’s campaign declared that Justice Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual assault. I wrote,
Buttigieg rejects fairness, due process, logic and decency to declare a Supreme Court Justice with a history of impeccable professional and personal conduct guilty of a crime without evidence, and further impugns the lawyers who helped protect him from a vicious political attack, all to suck up to the worst elements of the Democratic base. This is signature significance. Pete Buttigieg is an asshole. Good to know.
It’s also good to know that my assessment in November was accurate, as this re-surfaced episode confirms, and that the mayor didn’t just recently become an asshole as he pursued the Presidency (an occupational hazard) but has been one all along.
Good to know.
Buttigieg’s statement about the authors of the Constitution isn’t just a dumb opinion or a mistake. It’s a lie. Again, Buttigieg is, as we are constantly reminded, well educated and intelligent. Thus, unlike the typical college graduate today, he knows that slavery was debated extensively at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He knows that Gouvernor Morris, who gave a series of speeches there condemning slavery, was a major force in composing the final draft. He knows that James Madison acknowledged the moral strength of the anti-slavery position in correspondence where referred to slavery as a “dreadful calamity” in a letter to Frances Wright in 1825, saying,
“The magnitude of this evil among us is so deeply felt, and so universally acknowledged, that no merit could be greater than that of devising a satisfactory remedy for it.”
But he didn’t know slavery was a “bad thing.”
Buttigieg knew, and knows, that many signatories of the Constitution were participants in the debates over the text of the Declaration, in which Jefferson originally marked slavery as an abomination. One of them was Ben Franklin, who was one of the first abolitionists. Thus Buttigieg also knows that many of the delegates in the 1787 convention were expressly anti-slavery. He knows that Alexander Hamilton, who had a major hand in writing the Constitution, was a vocal public foe of slavery, and worked to abolish the international slave trade. He knows that the infamous 3/5 a citizen provision in the Constitution was injected to weaken the power of the slaveholding states, because the Founders knew well that the evil of slavery was going to be a continuing dispute.
Knowing all of this—and if he didn’t, Pete should have kept his mouth shut about what he didn’t know—Buttigieg engaged in gratuitous Founder-bashing while misinforming children and promoting disrespect of the men who all American owe gratitude and reverence.
29 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Pete Buttigieg”
At the risk of having his secret service detail, now everpresent in the neighborhood, come and visit me…you seem to have a clear idea of his motives. He is not stupid. He knows and has known what he is doing. Disgraceful.
Founder-bashing is another in-thing now. I said two years ago it wouldn’t stop with the toppling of a few Confederate statues, and it hasn’t. Multiple states and many municipalities have thrown Columbus Day under the bus for instead a celebration of national guilt toward the Indians, and now that’s the in-thing. Now the Founding Fathers are being attacked because they didn’t abolish slavery from the get-go, therefore they are tainted and need to be yanked down out of the firmament. At this rate, elementary school desks are going to have to be equipped with spitoons for all the historical figures they now spit on.
Interestingly, the Founders worried leaving slavery for later would be a mistake, but chose to get the Constitution passed rather than having slavery hold up the entire thing. Their major failure was not taking abolishing slavery up as an amendment shortly after the passage of the Constitution.
If Pete meant the Founders didn’t see slavery as bad enough to impede the passage of the Constitution or to pursue its abolition vigorously after passage, then he would be right. That, however, is not what he said.
As stated before, he knows what he is doing.
Pete’s pathetic apologists on my Facebook page are arguing that he was just “simplifying for kids.” Right. Saying the opposite of what’s true is “simplifying.”
In the most Alinsky way possible. Exactly why I avoid personally using social media as if it carries the plague, because it does.
Why is he talking to kids while campaigning? They’re not voters. I thought he was running for President. He wants to talk to kids, there are plenty of places he can work where he can simplify all he wants.
It’s ridiculous. Every Presidential candidate should have read at least one book on the Constitutional Convention and any book on the Convention will include the debates over slavery. The idea that our Founding Fathers didn’t understand that slavery was wrong is either ignorant or political gibberish designed to keep him from being criticized too much for criticizing the founders.
It seems that most history books today (and history teachers) are teaching the kids that the 3/5 compromise was racist to blacks because it only counted them as 3/5 a person. So, they are teaching the students to side with the Southern slaveholders over Northern anti-slavery forces. This seems in line with an educational system that creates a teenage population that is 35% pro-communist (not just pro-socialist, but pro-communist specifically). Public teachers today deserve nothing but our disdain.
I am not sure I follow your point.
The teachers are telling kids that the 3/5 idea was a southern plantation owner strategy to limit black representation in the House and at the state level. They will not state that the North was afraid that the south would overwhelm them in the federal House of Representatives.
I need to add that the 3/5 compromise is couched in such a way the student gets the impression that the 3/5’s was fought for by abolitionists because the south did not see the slaves as people but as property, thus they should not be counted at all. They compromised on 3/5. That is how the student gets indoctrinated into believing the 3/5’s was the best they could get given the south’s political power. Nothing has changed blame the other side for your behaviors.
Michael R.: Perhaps to put it another way, the North did not want slaves counted AT ALL; after all chattel can’t vote. The South wanted to keep count them as full persons, while still treating them as chattel. The compromise was just that: a compromise.
And, that is what makes Pete’s argument so stupid. The very same argument that they did not think slavery was bad could be made to support the statement that slavery was horrible. The 3/5th compromise PROVES that all of the founders believed that slaves were fully human.
Or, take a different example. The Constitution provided that the importation of slaves could not be prohibited until 1808. By agreeing to this provision, one could argue that the North did not think the importation of slaves was okay. By the same token, the same provision could be used to argue that the South believed that the prohibition of the importation of slaves was a good thing. Or, to be realistic, both sides agreed to something that they did not particularly like, but could tolerate.
That is what a compromise is. I would ask someone to explain this to Pete, as it is something any President should know, but I am not convinced he will need to know that any time soon.
Since the slaves couldn’t vote, they shouldn’t have been counted for representation. By counting them, but not letting them vote, the slaveholders were essentially getting extra votes (in the House of Representatives). So, the vote by a Southerner counted more than a vote by a Northerner. The South knew that if they couldn’t get those House seats, they would be doomed to political irrelevance in the House and in the Electoral College and then slavery was doomed. If you want to look at it, the vote for 0 was an abolitionists vote, the vote for full representation was a vote for the slave system. The compromise was punting the issue down the road in order to get the country going.
It is interesting that we just had a similar argument about the census and illegal aliens and the Supreme Court said they count as full representation. The vote by a citizen in a state with lots of illegal aliens counts more than the vote of a citizen in a state with fewer illegal aliens (if you look at citizens/representative or citizen/electoral college votes).
Women could not vote. Were they excluded from the census? I did not think so, but am willing to be wrong.
Early on, only male landowners could vote. Did they not count men who did not own land? Again, just more sauce for the goose.
And Pistol Pete is a Rhodes Scholar, no? So much for that honor.
Rhodes Scholar? I quit believing that was worth anything when Slick Willy was president.
I tried just now to post this comment about mayor Pete on Facebook and it would not let me because you violate their community standards. I guess that goes to show you that they have no standards at all.
Yes BUT you can post the twitter link, which will get them here in one extra click!
My recent researches indicate that many of the Founders were not Christians in the *normal* sense of the word but Radical American Deists of an Enlightenment variety. OTOH, and as a point of comparison, those who defended slavery did so from a position rooted in the OT and the NT. So, it is interesting to note that the strongest faction here, and the reigning philosophy of America as it turned out, is semi-Christian or Neo-Christian and quite likely Masonic. The South seemed to represent the *old metaphysical order* in many senses. The Norths the motion of revolution. And the latter went on the attack against the former . . . and destroyed it.
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible:
…is one of two religious works constructed by Thomas Jefferson. The first, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1804, but no copies exist today. The second, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, was completed in 1820 by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition excludes all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine. [from Wiki page].
Thus what they did was to *select* the parts they appreciated while negating what did not seem right or which did not fit with their *enlightened* ideals. Just saying . . .
From an Artistotelian perspective there are some men that are incapable of ‘self-rule’ and this sort of man invites and requires an ‘over-lord’. Therefore, there is such a thing as ‘a natural slave’. Despite what anyone says, and any romantic inter-positioning, such relations are still existent and viable. In one way or another societies tend to organize themselves into hierarchies of relationship. The whole question here hinges on the notion of ‘justice’.
From a Thomist perspective — a sort of ur-Christian perspective — a man who has given himself over to his vices is no longer a free man. A man relinquishes his freedom when he cannot control his *passions*. If this is so then we must face the fact that something on the order of 35% of America is no longer capable of self-rule. I might even suggest a larger percentage. In fact ‘freedom’ has become a term devoid of real meaning, or the sort of meaning that once informed it.
What I find interesting — a meta-political and meta-social perspective of course — is just to note that the *Masonic-ish* and *Enlightened-ish* notions that informed America and became part of its ‘civil religion’ did not lead to true liberty or freedom in the classical senses of these terms but to their degradation. Why do I say this? It is an ipso facto observation and argument. Simply open the window, stick out your head, and note what one sees.
The origins of ‘virulent American progressivism’, as I am beginning to understand, have their roots in certain of the Founders themselves: the ideas they entertained and the ways they severed themselves from traditionalism. What I also find interesting — but have not yet got it all worked out yet — is how the rabid & furious attack on the South, even when there might have been some ‘justifications’ for anger and dissatisfaction, led to a breach and a rift that has not healed and cannot heal. It is a (northern) American imperative to *hate* on the South. And even if the hate is directed to something that has hatable elements, the hatred jumps out of all bounds and becomes uncontrolled and indeed a little psychotic.
The Horrid Fruits now enter their ripeness. The distortions are now ever-present and visible to all. There is no *exterior enemy* that is the cause of this and everything stems from within its own self.
Perhaps what I say here will be taken — perhaps it can only be taken — to mean that I am advocating for slavery or for acute hierarchy. But that is not quite right. What I am noticing is that when the *foundations* that support hierarchy and *order* (in the Richard Weaver sense) are attacked, that the whole structure is weakened. And then an ever-continual motion toward revolution becomes the structural norm. It is hard to conceive how this might be countered. In any case, to *diagnose* the present one at least — doesn’t one? — have to see and understand how these revolutionary currents were put in motion and then to understand that we have come to see them as *normal*.
Had the north the warmer climes of the south, the fertiity of soil originating from eons of the Mississippi floods and other physical attributes which would lead to low cost agribusiness they too might have felt slavery was a necessary evil. Had the southern states had the hydropower resulting from naturally falling water to run mills or had the resources to run foundries they too may have chosen a different path.
The confluence of belief and the (lack of ) availability of resources necessary to generate wealth play a role in the choices generations long dead made.
I just wonder if Joe Biden was alive then would he just tell the people of the south to ” learn to program”.
At the risk of being misunderstood as defending Buttigieg (I’m not), I think Jack dismisses the “oversimplifying for children” point a bit too quickly. Something like 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration owned or had owned slaves. While some of them clearly understood slavery to be a moral evil, it is quite likely that at least some of them might have held what have been termed “proslavery” beliefs.
Larry Tise’s _Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701–1840_ documents the presence of such beliefs/arguments in the 1770s. Tise argues that the Revolutionary spirit post-1776 drove such defenses of slavery underground, only to re-emerge after the war. It is reasonable to assume that at least some of the founders likely held similar proslavery views.
Thus it is possible to read Buttigieg’s statement (which was to children on a public television children’s show AND which I am not necessarily defending) as simply an empirical statement of historical fact. I cannot read Buttigieg’s mind to assess what he is inferring about reading the Founders’ minds, and I believe the whole incident is a rather unfortunate example of picking an isolated sound bite from an earlier interview to make political points now.
Could Buttigieg’s response have been better? Yes, clearly. But I think Jack may be just a bit too quick and too harsh in his overall condemnation here.
How? The statement is false. As I noted, the most vocal of the prominent anti-slavery voices was on the drafting committee. We know that among the Virginia planters, Jefferson, Washington and Madison, among others, were conflicted about slavery betweenthe moral, ethical and financial issues. We know the issue was debated both before the Declaration was signed and at the Constitutional Convention. We know Franklin’s beliefs. We know that among the Founders that students are most likely to know, the problem of slavery was something that troubled them deeply. We know that this has been the subject of literature, drama, such productions as “John Adams,” and even a successful musical that has been part of the culture for half a century.
We also know that the Founders, with the exception of those from South Carolina and Georgia, made clear their majority awareness of the wrongfulness of slavery during the era of the Articles of Confederation (1781–89) preceding the Constitutional Convention voting to prohibit the importation of foreign slaves to individual states and lending considerable supporting to a proposal by Jefferson to ban slavery in the Northwest Territory.
I’m reading similar rationalizations on my Facebook page, and it amazes me, frankly. He said the Founders didn’t know slavery was wrong. They weren’t morons, you know, and I’m pretty sure Pete knows. An idiot could see that the language in both Founding documents about “all men” and basic rights without exception clashed beyond question with the practice of slavery, in addition to then fact that some of their most eloquent and prominent members explained it for them. One can legitimately condemn a man like Jefferson who continued to hold slaves while arguing against the practice, but the fact that he owned slaves proves he was a hypocrite. There is still no question that he knew slavery was wrong.
As for the age of PB’s statement 1) it’s not that long ago 2) we know he knew what he said was false and that he knew it was false when he said it(or his Rhodes Scholar honor is a joke) 3) This isn’t a matter of condemning what he believed once (as with, for example, Obama’s various reservations about gay rights) but what he DID, which calls into question his trustworthiness. 4) Democrats, and BUTTIGIEG himself, saw nothing inappropriate or unfair about declaring Bret Kavanaugh unfit to be on SCOTUS because of a single, uncorroborated account of a single incident that took place while he was a minor, at school, while intoxicated, having no relevance or resemblance to his subsequent conduct as an adult. Now THOSE are relevant context, NO context, in contrast, mitigates what Buttigeig said, and such wilful misrepresentation of fact has characterized his current statements. Sane guy.
It’s not a “sound bite.” The context doesn’t matter. What if he said “Men know that women are an inferior gender.” What context changes the conclusions we can fairly draw from that? How about “Historians agree that JFK was killed by a conspiracy and that there were two shooters.” Context? Who cares?
One of the apologists for this said that Buttifieg was trying to “simplify” a complex issue—by saying what was the opposite of the truth? To people he was supposed to enlighten.
What I am hearing and reading are pretty desperate efforts to spin what cannot be spun. I honestly don’t understand how you conclude that my analysis is harsh. He’s running for President. It wasn’t harsh enough. At no point in my life, from about 12 on, would I say what Buttigeig said to anyone. You?
So should we hold him accountable for NOT having said all this in the 2014 public television interview with children? should we condemn him for what he said in that 2014 context?
Ethicists have borrowed the Davidsonian principle of charity at times to recommend giving someone the benefit of the doubt when evaluating statements and/or apparent misstatements. All I am suggesting is that your own judgment might benefit from a bit more charity. None of what you are saying is wrong or incorrect. Your vehemence seems disproportionate to the offense.
o: “Ethicists have borrowed the Davidsonian principle of charity at times to recommend giving someone the benefit of the doubt when evaluating statements and/or apparent misstatements.”
This is kind of ironic because Pete exactly DID NOT DO THAT. He boiled down a complex issue to say that the Founders did not understand that slavery was a bad thing. The charitable thing to say would be that the Founders struggled to deal with existence of the institution of slavery in a new Republic founded upon principles of freedom. HIS characterization of THEIR thoughts was horribly condescending.
As I said, I don’t understand that argument. No, I hold no charity toward the fortunate intelligent, honored, educated and elected who abuse their authority to deliberately make those who trust them stupid. Indeed, making people stupid is an offense I write about often. It is the duty of people like Buttigeig—a duty—to make people better, smarter, better informed. Buttigieg is a serial offender, as I noted by referring to his grandstandong over Kavanaugh. I might be inclined to be charitable IF 1) he had not subsequently shown a proclivity to misrepresent matters for short-term gain and 2) I had not watched effort to tear down monuments and honors to men crucial to American history arising the ignorance Buttigeig was deliberately seeding. How many of those students he lied to, I wonder, are agitating today to strip Washington, Jefferson and Madison of their memorials and recognition? (And yes, I may be a bit influenced by the fact that I was declared persona non grata at NPR after trying to explain to listeners how someone like President Trump can be accused of sexual harassment by women in his past who did not feel his conduct was “unwelcome” when it first occurred. The host didn’t want facts. She wanted support for a narrative. I hold Pete to the standard I hold for myself—and I hardly have his influence.) The mayor deliberately sided with the presentist position that we are better than the Founders, though our generation had two centuries to learn lessons that they had not.
Here’s Stephen Ambrose on those slaveholding Founders…
“But he was a slaveholder,” students sometimes say to me.
“Listen, he was our leader in the Revolution, to which he pledged his life, his fortune, and his honor. Those were not idle pledges. What do you think would have happened to him had he been captured by the British Army?
“I’ll tell you. He would have been brought to London, tried, found guilty of treason, ordered executed, and then drawn and quartered. Do you know what that means? He would have had one arm tied to one horse, the other arm to another horse, one leg to yet another, and the other leg to a fourth. Then the four horses would have been simultaneously whipped and started off at a gallop, one going north, another south, another east and the fourth to the west.
“That is what Washington risked to establish your freedom and mine.” The WashingtonMonument and the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials remind us that greatness comes in different forms and at a price. Jefferson, by his words, gave us aspirations. Washington, through his actions, showed us what was possible. Lincoln’s courage turned both into reality.
Slavery and discrimination cloud our minds in the most extraordinary ways, including a blanket judgment today against American slave owners in the 18th and 19th centuries. That the masters should be judged as lacking in the scope of their minds and hearts is fair, indeed must be insisted upon, but that doesn’t mean we should judge the whole of them only by this part.
In his last message to America, on June 24, 1826, ten days before he died on July 4 (the same day that John Adams died), Jefferson declined an invitation to be in Washington for the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote, “All eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them.”
He died with hope that the future would bring to fruition the promise of equality. For Jefferson, that was the logic of his words, the essence of the American spirit. He may not have been a great man in his actions, or in his leadership. But in his political thought, he justified that hope.
Well, as I stated at the outset (“At the risk of being misunderstood as defending Buttigieg (I’m not)), I fear I am being misunderstood as defending Buttigieg.
I think that’s fair, o.
I agree with Jack. It is rarely a bad thing to be the Devil’s Advocate (especially to oneself). This is just a really hard case. It is funny, but if he wanted to “simplify” this, the most simplistic thing to say would be, “it’s complicated.”
Because that response would expose him to criticism from his base, which is why his statement looks like he is pandering.
I have been reviewing a book titled “Pro-Slavery Thought In The Old South” (1935, University of North Carolina Press). The reason I am reading such a book is:
1) In our present history is being *revised* in a similar sense, though perhaps for different reasons, that WW2 revisionists desire to revise and restate historical conclusions. In order to understand this peculiar revisionism of our present (avoiding for the time-being the revisionism of WW2 history) one has to be able to look at it squarely. To *see* it as I say.
I will suggest that we can best *see* it (that is, understand its purpose and intentionality) if we cite a singular modern revisionist effort: Twelve Years A Slave. This is not a historical film. It is not a *historical study*. Its purpose is not *accuracy* or *fairness*. What then is its *purpose*? To describe its purpose means to *see* it. That is, to see through what they say its purpose is and to intuit — if this is the best word — that it has another purpose distinct from its stated purpose. I use the term ‘superficial reading’ and contrast it with ‘depth reading’. I notice that there are superficial and surface readings of the present and there are depth reading of the present.
What is the purpose of the film Twelve Years a Slave? The purpose is to focus and channel aggressive and righteous hatred against ‘whiteness’. The film is a novelization of the past and the purpose of the novel is to communicate sentiment and ideology.
Excuse me for resorting to a rhetorical form I often use, but *if what I suggest is true*, then it is imperative to note and resist this peculiar intentionality. How? I suggest here that this is a Herculean task. I am uncertain if a full *resistance* is even possible. Why? Because the *current* of which it is a part is the current in which we are all moved. Here I suggest that to get out of the current means to gain, or develop, ideas and an ideological structure that could function as a counter-current to it. One either a) directs a current by diverting it, slightly, from its course to some other course, or b) opposes the current.
What is the purpose of the present current? Here is Stephen Ambrose (which Jack quotes above):
This is the *ideological current* — these are metaphysical notions that underpin consciousness — that show us *the current in which we are moved*. These ideas move forward, or put in another way they are parts-and-parcels of an established and constructed mechanism which *operate*. I personally feel that Jefferson’s ideology is a false-ideology. This does not mean that I think it is entirely false or absolutely false — no — but it is false in certain substantial ways. But I only wish to here suggest, because I think it true, that Jefferson is clearly an American Progressive, and his *children* as it were are people like Steve McQueen (the Black author of Twelve Years a Slave). If ‘Progressives’ eventually ‘turn against themselves and devour themselves (tear each other to shreds) Jefferson explains, or demonstrates, why this occurs. He embodies it.
In order to *see* Jefferson one has to *see* the inner logic of the Enlightenment. He alludes to this when he says:
First, I wish to have it noted that no one can see against this, or the force and power that underpins the ideology expressed here seems incontrovertible. So, when he speaks of *opened eyes* what he actually means is “eyes opened to see as I (we) see”. And here, I suggest, we can describe the beginning of the American Civil Religion.
There has not even been an instance that I am aware of where America or Americans have contributed to or led a weak or impoverished people to ‘freedom’. Almost immediately after the War Between the States the business class of America subjugated, to its own mercantile purposes, many of the polities of the Caribbean and of Central America. So, while the America’s rhetoric is beautiful and exalted, it is a false and misleading — a deceptive — rhetoric. I have cited both the Philippine invasion and occupation and also the Cuban invasion (the Spanish American War) as crystal-clear examples of this.
I am even of the opinion that the US intervention in Europe in the first half of the 20th century was not to ‘liberate’ Europe as a primary objective, but to take advantage of circumstances that led to 1) the destruction of Europe and Europe’s weakening, 2) the weakening and collapse of the British Empire, 3) as part of the planned and rational project of American domination.
I must conclude here rather abruptly. We live now in the shadow, but really within the fully on-rush current, of Americanism and The Americanopolis. The Americanopolis, in and of itself, has become and is becoming an ideological position that must do away with an aspect of itself! It must ‘turn and devour itself’. Just as Jefferson turned on and devoured himself (set the current in its present direction). Buttigieg simply expresses the *will* that is operative here, whether it is consciously understood or not. Think of: metaphysical current: that which carries us along.
Here I quote from Fighting for the Essence by Pierre Krebs who has coined the term Americanopolis:
To sum up: to combat the current of our present involves a determined and radical *counter-seeing*. If there is no counter-seeing there can be no successful opposition to the direction of the present. To *counter-see* is to engage with strange, contrary and even dangerous ideas that inevitably get one branded as heretical. The Alt-Right and the Dissident Right fights a battle to insert contrary ideas into the ideological mix.