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The structure of government designed by the Founding Fathers is the truly unique and powerful feature of the American Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told members of The Heritage Foundation's President's Club on Monday.

Justice Scalia at the November PresidentThe Bill of Rights, often held up as the highest expression of American freedom, would have no meaning without the forms of government defined by the rest of the Constitution, he told the nearly 1,000 conservatives packed into Washington D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Building for the fall President's Club meeting.

The Constitution's limits on government power, for example the division of legislative power between the House and Senate and the different manner of election for the two bodies, ensure the Bill of Rights is more than just words. Even the Soviet Union had a robust bill of rights, he argued, but this was a mere parchment barrier since the rest of the country's constitution placed no limits on the exercise of dictatorial powers.

Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Justice Scalia is considered one of the court's most vocal conservatives. He applies the meaning and definition of the document's words at the time they were written, a method he calls "originalism." This interpretation often places him at odds with those who view the Constitution as a "living document" whose meaning should be reinterpreted as time goes on.

More President's Club highlights

America's first principles and the need to restore them in political discourse were a dominant theme of this year's President's Club meeting.

  • In his opening remarks Heritage President Ed Feulner told President's Club members that the widespread abandonment of conservative ideas is a direct result of an "unprecedented attack on the founding principles of our nation." And although there has been a noticeable outcry from conservatives to restore these principles, he warned that "our mission to rescue America is far from over."

    » Watch the video of Dr. Feulner's President's Club address and read a full transcript of his remarks.

    Feulner tasked all conservatives and freedom-loving Americans with "waging a successful counter-revolution against the Left's attack on our nation's first principles." But this, he explained, will "require the promotion of stronger ideas and the right means to convey them. That's where we come in! Your Heritage Foundation."
  • In a luncheon address to The Heritage Foundation's Young President's Club, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told a group of almost 200 young conservatives that he decided to run for office when he realized that both political parties had "abandoned core conservative principles: fiscal responsibility; limited government; accountability; and a strong national defense."

    » Watch the video of Rep. Chaffetz' remarks.
  • A panel of experts including Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Heritage's Stuart Butler and Bob Moffit explored the challenges of health care reform and strategies conservatives can use to halt the progressive agenda and enact principled reforms.

Not a President's Club member? Join today for your invitation to the May meeting.

20 years after the Berlin Wall fell

Twenty years ago Monday, on November 9, 1989, the wall dividing East and West Germany crumbled into history. Today, many attribute the collapse of the Berlin Wall to communism's inherent and structural weaknesses -- and they are not wrong in doing so -- but they are leaving out a significant piece of the puzzle.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the vision of "heroes of freedom like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, John Paul II, Vytautas Landsbergis and Pastor Tureck," writes Heritage Foundation scholar Lee Edwards, an expert on communism.

And it was the direct outcome of Ronald Reagan's and Margaret Thatcher's unwavering commitment to "properly understand not just the weaknesses of the communist system, but also how they could be exploited to hasten the demise of the Soviet Union and bring freedom to millions," explains Heritage fellow Edwin Meese, who served as President Reagan's attorney general.

Just two years before the wall came down, President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and, speaking to directly to the Soviet leadership, said, "If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan's speech on June 12, 1987 was that of a true statesman who "viewed the world in terms of good versus evil, as a world divided between the forces of freedom on one side and totalitarianism on the other," explains Heritage's Nile Gardiner.  Two years later, freedom won and communism, which claimed the lives of 100 million people, began its rapid collapse.

Ronald Reagan and his fellow "heroes of freedom" signaled that the United States and the rest of the free world will not tolerate communism's tyranny anywhere. It is important that today's leaders preserve their legacy by demonstrating the same steadfast commitment to freedom and its universal nature and, as Lee Edwards explains, to ensure "that never again will people and nations allow so evil a tyranny to terrorize the world."

Other Heritage work of note

  • In an attempt to set himself apart from his predecessor, President Obama has embraced "soft diplomacy" in an effort to garner support from the rest of the world. "The idea is appealing," admits Heritage Vice President Kim Holmes in an article for The Washington Times. But it doesn't work. Holmes likens Obama's idealistic approach to that of young President Kennedy. "Kennedy wrongly believed that 'reaching out' would make Khrushchev more conciliatory, while Khrushchev read Kennedy's friendliness as weakness." President Obama may be repeating these mistakes by attempting to make nice with enemies like Iran and North Korea. "Bottom line? Mr. President, be careful about what you think you know about these folks sitting across the diplomatic table."
  • "Is the Fort Hood massacre a deadly example of political correctness run amok?" Heritage senior fellow Peter Brookes answers that question on National Review Online. It's possibly "a lot worse," he writes, as increasing evidence hints that Fort Hood was a sort of terrorist attack. "The U.S. government had better, especially with the Patriot Act set to expire, immediately take a serious look at our policies, practices, and procedures for dealing with terrorist threats."
  • As the 2010 midterm elections approach, lawmakers, candidates, the media and the public will need to quickly identify the key issues of the day and present clear, fact-based policy recommendations to address them. Heritage's Issues 2010: The Candidate's Briefing Book is designed to provide these topics, facts, and solutions in ways every American can understand. This extensive body of timely and researched information can give any candidate--as well as ordinary citizens--an advantage when examining today's most important questions.
  • This December, members of The United Nations will gather in Copenhagen for the Convention on Climate Change. Proponents of the Kyoto Protocol--which is set to expire in 2012--will likely push toward a new international agreement to restrict carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to address global warming in the decades ahead. But these agreements typically only offer financially burdensome regulations that would have little or no effect on the environment. This is precisely the rationale behind the Senate's decision a decade ago not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and why policymakers today should be equally if not more cautious to agree to more restrictive proposals going forward.

    » Check out Heritage's resource page on the Copenhagen climate change conference

In other news

  • The federal government spent a record $176 billion (that's $176,000,000,000) more than it received in October. "The deficit for the 2009 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, set an all-time record in dollar terms of $1.42 trillion," the AP reports. "That was $958 billion above the 2008 deficit, the previous record holder."
  • A grieving mother of a fallen soldier has demanded that President Obama make a decision to either send additional troops to Afghanistan or bring all remaining troops home. General McChrystal has requested an additional 40,000 troops in order to win the war but the President has delayed any action.
  • Recently uncovered evidence reveals that Iran's secret uranium enrichment program began seven years ago. The facility was a year away from completion and has reinforced suspicions that it could have been planned as part of a secret military nuclear program.
  • Capitol Hill insiders are debating whether to remove President Ronald Reagan's name from Reagan National Airport, which serves Washington, D.C. One Washington Times columnist writes that "erasing all trace of his memory from an airport that's already been named in his honor is about as petty as you can get."
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