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How John Adams Got His Unity

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RUSH: How many of you are taking the time to watch the series on HBO called John Adams? It started Sunday night. There are seven episodes in total. They ran the first two. It's about John Adams, the first vice president of the United States, about his life, his wife Abigail, and their children. The first two episodes were really about the steps leading up to American independence and the convention in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was written, primarily by Thomas Jefferson; where it was argued over, and hammered out. I hope you're watching it. If you're not, I hope that when they finish it and put it on DVD you get it, because this is the kind of stuff that is not being taught in schools today. I'm stunned at the number of people I have talked to who have watched this who didn't know any of this, and they're my age. What happened in that room, for all of those months, was a miracle. It was a miracle that it happened. Now, the reason I'm harping on this is because Norah O'Donnell is echoing one of the things that's part of the Obama campaign and is really something that the Democrats have been trying to bamboozle everybody with, and that is you can't solve problems unless you "unify."

Can I give you just a couple of examples of this? I know unification sounds great, and can't we all get along and have the same objectives. We do have the same objectives, most of us do. It's how you get there that we argue about, and those arguments are substantive because we all want prosperity. What is best way to do it: to earn it ourselves, or have the government hand it out to people? You won't have prosperity if the government is in charge of handing it out to people, but that's what liberals want. How can you achieve prosperity and independence and education when liberals who want to run the government, have contempt for the average person's ability to accomplish anything? So they want to be the ones to provide all these things for people, whereas we conservatives think it's much better if people provide these things for themselves for a whole host of reasons, not to mention their own psyche and their own self-esteem, since liberals are concerned about that. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan. Reagan had no Republicans to speak of in the House of Representatives. What was it, 130? I'll have to look this up; I keep guessing, but it was an insignificant number.

There was no way the Republicans were ever, ever going to be a majority in anything. I mean, they didn't have even half the number of seats in the House the Democrats had. Yet Reagan succeeded in reducing the top marginal tax rate from 90% to 28% over eight years. Now, do you think he did this unifying with the Democrats? Do you think he did this by virtue of unity with the Democrats in Congress? No! That is not how it happened. The Democrats didn't change their mind and all of a sudden think tax cuts were good, because if they had, we wouldn't be arguing about more tax cuts and we wouldn't be listening to Democrats continuing to talk about more tax increases. So they didn't change their mind about anything back in the eighties. They were just beaten, and the question is: how were they beaten? Well, they were beaten by virtue of the fact that Reagan won 49 states on the specific issue of tax cuts, rebuilding the military, and wiping out communism in the Soviet Union. He had the American people behind him, and the American people in this country get what they want.

Now, you might want to say that Reagan united the people, but he did it on the basis of policy. He did it on the basis of his personality. He did it on the basis of his patriotism. He changed people's minds, but he didn't change the minds of Democrats in Congress. They had no choice. They had to go along, and not on everything did they. You remember the Iran-Contra situation and the Boland amendment and everything they could do in the second term to undermine Ronald Reagan. They hated those tax cuts being passed, and they did everything they could to do to undermine him after that. Yet they got it done. It wasn't with "unity." It was by perseverance, the idea triumphing in the minds of as many people as possible, leading a movement, teaching and explaining. Leadership. It's what's absent today in both sides of this in the presidential race. We have no leadership from Hillary. Obama's not a leader. McCain's not a leader. These are politicians seeking a promotion, pure and simple. We don't have leadership. And that's why everybody's filled with angst. It's just sad, but it's the way it is. So we get all this talk about unity, and we can't get anything done without unity, and who is it that's saying this? Liberal Democrats.

Well, I'm sure they would love to us to unify with them, by giving up what we believe, by compromising on our principles. Sure! They love that kind of unity! John Adams. When things started out in 1770, the British were running this country, and there were a lot of people living in the 13 colonies who were all Englishmen. They had all emigrated; they were all Brits. It's why Margaret Thatcher loves them. I heard Margaret Thatcher one night at dinner speak so glowingly and so eloquently of our Founding Fathers. She loved 'em. She thought they were some of the most brilliant, marvelous individuals that have ever walked the earth. I thought, "No wonder she thinks that, they were Brits," and they were, and not all of them wanted independence. They were Englishmen. They didn't mind being under the crown of old King George. So the Brits had their army. The Redcoats were all over Boston and places, and to shorten the story -- they started shooting people. They basically started a war. It was fascinating to watch, and this was nonpolitical presentation. When we finally get to Philadelphia, to Convention Hall, and the representatives of the 13 colonies are there, John Adams was hell-bent on seeing to it that he had a unanimous vote for independence.

He wasn't going to settle for a 9-4 vote. He wasn't going to settle for just a simple majority. He needed it to be unanimous. But there were elements from Pennsylvania and New York and New Jersey who had no desire for independence. To listen to them speak, "No, this is the time for caution," while the Redcoats are firing and murdering innocent people. Essentially the war had already broken out in Boston, and these people from Pennsylvania -- not Ben Franklin, but Dickinson from Pennsylvania; a guy from New York, Howe -- they're all saying, "This is the time for caution. This is the time for restraint," and I'm watching the screen, and I'm just smiling. We've got those same kind of pansies today, and they wanted to send a proclamation to King George demanding that King George stop taxing their tea and stop taxing them exorbitantly on a number of things, to basically stop squishing them and squeezing them. So Adams says, "All right. If you want to do that, go ahead. I'm going to still try to convince you, but you do what you want to do. It's going to be months before we hear back, and I can tell you what we're going to hear back, but if it will make you feel better, go ahead and do it."

So they did it. All the while, Adams continues to try and arm-twist and persuade. Finally they get the answer from King George, and King George says, "How dare you ask me this! Now you guys are really in for it. We're going to kick your butts." So the moderates say, "Oh, further caution is required here," and then we got eloquent speeches about, "We don't need bloodshed and we don't need warfare, and this is not the way to go about this," because some of these people did not want independence. They were Englishmen. So Adams... This thing shows how difficult it was, how almost impossible it was. It's why it was a miracle, for John Adams to craft unanimity from 13 colonies who had 13 different special interests. These Founding Fathers as I said they were not all hell-bent for independence. They considered themselves Englishmen. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of persuasion. It took strategy. It took negotiation. It took compromise. It took manipulation to get the necessary unanimity. But how did he get it. His objective was independence, pure, 100% independence.

He got his unity not by watering down his version of independence, not by watering down his way of getting it, the timetable for getting it, the procedures. It was masterful to watch them portray this because it was amazingly historically accurate. It's based on David McCullough's book, by the way, on John Adams. One of the things that Adams did to get unanimity, the biggest opponent to this independence was Dickinson in Pennsylvania. He was the dove. He was the anti-war hawk. He couldn't abide any of this. But he was very persuasive, and these were very reasonable talks that they had, and Adams was very reasonable and understanding, too -- although they had knock-down, drag-outs about it. But they talked privately after a session one day. It was decided then Dickinson just wouldn't show up the next day for the vote and that New York would abstain rather than vote "no." This was done so that Dickinson would not have to compromise his principles of anti-war and so forth, but he knew the jig was up because he knew what the votes were.

They had finally persuaded Virginia and Maryland. Of course, the interesting thing here about Virginia -- the reason why it took a lot of time and persuasion and strategy, negotiation, compromise, manipulation, all of this to get unanimity -- is the wealthiest and most influential state or colony at the time was Virginia, and Virginia was a slave state. Virginia stood to lose a lot of wealth and a number of other things here, especially being a slave state. It's ironic, by the way, how this plays against the reality of Barack Obama. The point is, these 13 people got -- well, there were more than one per state, but these people got together. John Hancock was chairing the whole thing, and they got together, and Adams finally got his unanimity. But he achieved it with one abstention from New York and the Pennsylvania guy being out of the room so he wouldn't have to vote. But it took him months to persuade.

He never compromised what he wanted at all, and they ended up with unification, unanimity. You could call it unity, but he did it in a way that was not at all weakening of his desire and passion -- and, of course, George Washington is portrayed here, too. Colonel Washington becomes General Washington. Now, the next episodes of this are going to be bloody because that's what the fight for independence began. This is just the Declaration that they went through. But, gosh, it sent tingles up my spine to watch how this country actually came together. It's why I think what happened there is a miracle. In fact, Catherine Drinker Bowen has written a book called The Miracle at Philadelphia. It really, really was a miracle -- and we didn't take a little bit of the people that didn't want independence and shove it into the pro-independence side. The people that didn't want independence lost.

They were given something for it, but not at the expense of those who wanted independence. So be very, very careful when you hear Obama or any of these other liberals start talking unity and that we can't get anything done until we have unity. We got this country done without unity. It happened without unity. New York abstained, and, of course, Mr. Dickinson from Philadelphia was not even there on the day of the final vote. Now you might say, "But, Rush, it sounds like there was unanimity. You keep using the word." Yeah, there was, just like there was close to unanimity in Congress, as close as you can get on Reagan's tax cuts. But it's because one side maintained and fought for its principles and didn't cave. In this case, it was John Adams. You don't hear a whole lot about John Adams, the first vice president. You hear more about Hancock and Thomas Jefferson, which is why this book of McCullough's is great and why the HBO series, surprisingly, is a very active and accurate portrayal here.

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