The Second Amendment Explained

Recently, I had a rather long Twitter debate with some liberal friends about the Second Amendment. As much as I like Twitter, a few dozen characters (at one time) is not enough space to fully explain the right to keep and bear arms. Thankfully, I have a blog (as members of Congress might say) “to revise and extend my remarks.” So here goes.

The Second Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The text of the Amendment has two distinct parts: a prefatory clause (or, as it is sometimes called, the justification clause) and an operative clause. For clarity I will identify each clause separately.

The prefatory clause:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State …

And now the operative clause:

… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The big argument between conservatives and liberals stems around how the prefatory clause interacts with the operative clause.

Essentially, which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Does the existence of a well-regulated militia flow from the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms?  Or does the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms flow from the existence of a well-regulated militia?

If conservatives are correct, then the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed; this right is not dependent upon the existence of well-regulated militia.  But if liberals are right, then the right to keep and bear arms is confined to the construct of a well-regulated militia; therefore, if a citizen is not a member of the military or the police, his right to weapons may be infringed by the State because, in point of fact, only the military has the constitutional right to bear arms.

Since this is a question of constitutional interpretation, it is customary to use well-established canons of statutory construction to reach the correct answer.

One such canon, noscitur a sociis, “counsels that a word is given more precise content by the neighboring words with which it is associated.” United States v. Williams, 553 U. S. 285, 294, 128 S. Ct. 1830, 170 L. Ed. 2d 650 (2008).  This canon is probably the most important canon for examining the Bill of Rights.

Some quick background: An amendment to the Constitution is enacted by way of a two-step process. First, both houses of Congress pass the proposed amendment by 2/3 votes. Then, the amendment is sent to the States for ratification; if 3/4 of the state legislatures ratify the amendment, it becomes a part of our Constitution.

When the Bill of Rights was enacted by Congress, the twelve proposed Amendments were all on one document. (I say, “twelve proposed amendments,” because two of them failed to gain immediate ratification; one was never ratified, while the other proposed amendment took 203 years to be ratified.) This single document was sent to the States for ratification. The States, in turn, ratified ten of these proposed changes, making them the first ten Amendments to our Constitution.

When you think of the Bill of Rights as one document, and not ten separate Amendments, you will see just how important noscitur a sociis is to the proper interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  Being part of the same document, ambiguities found in one Amendment can be explained by unambiguous language found in another Amendment.

So with a view toward a proper interpretation of the Second Amendment, one should examine the Third Amendment, which reads:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

While the Third Amendment does not talk about weapons, it does talk about the quartering of soldiers.  There is no ambiguity here… If we are at peace, the government cannot commandeer a person’s home to house soldiers without the owner’s consent.

Before we go any further, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression here. I have a great deal of respect for the military. If an Army captain were to ask to stay in my house, I would be quite hospitable. But that was not the view of the quartering soldiers in the 18th Century. Before the Revolution, it was common for British soldiers to use force to take a colonist’s home – even during peacetime. The Third Amendment restricts this practice. As such, it is unconstitutional for soldiers to force citizens to give them room and board during peacetime.

Clearly, the Third Amendment demonstrates that the framers of the Bill of Rights had a greater respect for the people’s rights than they did the military’s rights.  So with this in mind, if liberals are correct, why would the framers have used the Second Amendment to subordinate “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” to military regulation?

I don’t think they did.

Back in 1791, there was no telephone. There was no internet. There was no instant communication. Short of running for help, there was no way that a citizen could get assistance in an emergency, such as if, let’s say, a few soldiers wanted to commandeer his home in violation of the Third Amendment. Therefore, since running for help would have necessitated an abandonment of the premises, thereby playing into the hands of the soldiers seeking quarter, the only practical means a citizen had to protect his Third Amendment right was to use reciprocal force.

So let’s imagine what would have happened if an Army captain had tried to commandeer a citizen’s home in 1791, during peacetime.

“Sir,” says the officer, “My men need your house.”

“Captain,” says the homeowner, “the Third Amendment says you can’t take my home. If you don’t leave, I will have to shoot you.”

Now if we adopt the liberal view of the Second Amendment, the conversation might have continued like this:

“Sir,” says the officer, “are you part of a well-regulated Militia?”

“No, Captain, I am not.”

“Well, sir, the Second Amendment says you are not supposed to have a gun unless you are part of a Militia. We are part of a Militia.  We have the right to your gun.  Give us your gun or we will place you under arrest.”

“Drat! You got me.  Here it is.”

In the above hypothetical scenarios, as long as the citizen has a gun, he has a chance of protecting his Third Amendment right.  But once he forfeits his gun, he also forfeits his Third Amendment right.

In view of noscitur a sociis, the liberal explanation for the Second Amendment becomes absurd. The people’s right to keep and bear arms does NOT depend upon military regulation.  Rather, military regulation depends upon the people’s right to keep and bear arms.

Yes, the security of a free state necessitates a well-regulated militia. But in order for the militia to be well-regulated, the people’s right to keep and bear arms must not be infringed.   Otherwise, the militia will have no accountability.  And if left to their own devices, an unregulated and unaccountable militia will treat constitutional provisions, such as the Third Amendment, like toilet paper.

Now liberals will take this to its extreme and ask, “Well, if the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed, then I guess you are saying that citizens should have the right to keep and bear rocket launchers, tanks, or weapons of mass destruction, right?”

That’s a fair question, which I will now answer — using another canon of statutory construction – the so-called, “Mischief Rule.”

In Heydon’s Case, 76 Eng. Rep. 637 (Ex. 1584), the English Court of the Exchequer directs courts to look at the “mischief and defect” that the statute intended to cure.   For over 400 years, courts have followed this directive.  See Elliot Coal Mining Co. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, 17 F.3d 616, 631 (3d Cir. 1994).

In our discussion, the “statute” is the Second Amendment.  The question before us is, “What ‘mischief and defect’ was the Second Amendment trying to cure?”

Given that the purpose for the Second Amendment was to promote “well regulated” militias, it stands to reason that the “mischief and defect” to be cured is the insecurity that comes from having an unregulated and out-of-control military.

Fortunately, we do not have an out-of-control military today. Our forces are the bravest, and perhaps, the most honorable forces in the whole world. And as best as I can predict, I don’t see this changing in my lifetime. But if the military ever were to step out of line, the purpose for “the right to keep and bear arms” would be to restore order to the military, to keep it in check. As such, the Second Amendment must protect a citizen’s right to keep and bear those arms which are necessary to bring regulation to a rogue military force.

To this end, weapons of mass destruction would be unnecessary because their use — under any circumstance — would certainly kill innocent civilians.  Therefore, weapons of mass destruction — be they nuclear, biological, or conventional — would not be protected by the Second Amendment.  On the other hand, tactical weapons that could be used without causing collateral damage to innocent civilians would be protected by the Second Amendment as these weapons could be used to regulate an out-of-control military force without creating the very insecurity that the Second Amendment attempts to prevent.

With that being said, the pooling of armaments together by citizens — such as by so-called, “citizens militias” — does invite some measure of regulation by state and local governments.  If you want to have a militia, according to the Second Amendment, it has to be well-regulated.  So while any citizen has the right to keep and bear those arms which are necessary to hold the military in check, this does not imply that citizens may create militias that are so isolated from proper regulation that insecurity is created.

So if you want to form a militia and pool your money together to buy a rocket launcher or two, or maybe an armored personnel carrier, go right ahead.  But understand this….  You are now subject to regulation just like the military itself is, meaning, the commander-in-chief of your group is now the Governor of your state, and in some instances, the President of the United States.

In short, by viewing the Second Amendment in light of the Third Amendment, we find that its purpose is to provide security by keeping honest soldiers honest. To this end, the Second Amendment protects the individual citizen’s right to keep and bear only those types of weapons which are necessary to hold the military accountable — if and when the military ever runs afoul.  However, as individual citizens pool their resources together to form small armies of their own, they become subject to the regulations of the state and federal governments just as would the official army or national guard would.

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Cochran v. McDaniel and the Legacy of John C. Stennis

In one week, Mississippi Republicans will select their nominee for the U.S. Senate.  This primary is essentially between two candidates: U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (the incumbent) and State Sen. Chris McDaniel.  As you may be aware, this has been one of the nastiest campaigns in recent Mississippi history.

Even though this is a Republican primary, the candidates would have served the electorate better by following the example of a well-respected Democrat, namely,  he late John C. Stennis.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1947 (during a special election), John Stennis represented Mississippi for 42 years.  He wrote the first code of ethics for the U.S. Senate, serving as the first chair of the Senate Ethics Committee. Stennis was such a respected senator that President Nixon suggested that he be allowed to listen to the now-infamous Watergate tapes to see if there was, in fact, anything incriminating in them.

At different times during his tenure, Sen. Stennis chaired both the Appropriations Committee and the Armed Services Committee.  Although he was a Democrat, he was quite conservative … so conservative that he and President Reagan worked closely to expand the U.S. Navy to 600 ships.  As a result, Sen. Stennis was sometimes called “the father of our modern navy.”  In fact, a few years after he left office, an aircraft carrier was commissioned in his honor.

In 1973, he was mugged and shot outside of his Washington home.  It nearly killed him.  Then, in 1984, he suffered the amputation of his leg.  (A few years after he had retired, I was told by my then-government teacher that Sen. Stennis didn’t want to run for reelection in 1988 because he believed that senators needed to stand up to vote, something he could no longer do with only one leg.)

Sen. Stennis was a tough guy who believed in the ideals of our country.  A man of integrity, his honor was more important than any accolade that Washington could bestow.  His principles gave him enough security that he felt zero need for cheap shots or negative attack ads.

So what does this have to do with his former colleague, Thad Cochran, or the latter’s opponent, Chris McDaniel?

In 1982, Sen. Stennis ran for reelection a final time.  He was up against a rising star in the Republican party.  (I am sure that you have heard of him, Haley Barbour, the future chairman of the Republican National Committee and future governor of the Magnolia State.)  The Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership describes that final campaign as follows:

In his final United States Senate re-election campaign in 1982, John Stennis was faced with the most challenging race since his first Senate election in 1947. At an early campaign strategy meeting, he was bombarded with advice from campaign consultants on what to expect from the opponent and what would be required to win the race. He listened politely to the authoritative statements from the campaign experts who prefaced each imperative with: “To win, we will have to do this.” When the consultants paused to catch their breath, Senator Stennis seized the opportunity to inform them of a point he considered very important. “There is one thing you really need to understand before we go any further,” he told them as he looked each one in the eye around the table. “We don’t have to win.”

It was his way of letting them know that his principles and values were much more important than winning an election. Despite the fact that none of the suggested tactics were in any way unethical or illegal, his personal character and integrity would not be compromised, even slightly. He would not engage in anything he considered in the least bit deceptive, no matter the consequences.

I still haven’t made my mind up as to who I will vote for next Tuesday.  Yes, I am leaning toward one of these candidates, but I may change my mind between now and then.  Nevertheless, I would have less trouble picking a candidate if I could see some resemblance to John Stennis in either of these men.  Unfortunately I do not.

Both men are conservative.  Both men would likely vote the way I would vote if I, myself, were commissioned to serve in that hollowed chamber.  So from a policy standpoint I have no beef about how each man thinks or would vote.

Still, any person could go to the Senate and vote the right way, but that doesn’t make him a statesman.  What makes him a statesman–a true leader–is how he values each and every one of his future constituents … including his opponent.

For most of Chris McDaniel’s life, Thad Cochran has represented his interests in the Senate.  Likewise, if McDaniel wins (next week and then again in November), he will represent Thad Cochran’s interests in the Senate.  Either way, if a Republican wins in November, next week’s winner will be working for the loser.

One who endeavors to become a statesman must be able to say, in good faith, that he is representing the best interests of ALL of his constituents.  But how can one say this if there are some constituents that he hates with a passion (such as his opponent and/or his supporters)?  I don’t think he can.

On a personal note, I ran for office last year.  It was a small, county race.  In a jurisdiction with about 30,000 people, less than 3,000 people voted.  I got beat… pretty handily, I must admit.  But after the campaign, on election night, I conceded to my opponent and hugged her neck in congratulation.  I could do that in clean conscience because I had not spent the previous months running her name into the ground.  I had learned from Sen. Stennis that I “didn’t have to win.”

Thad Cochran doesn’t have to win.  His legacy is secure.  Heck, his name is plastered on so many buildings that people will remember him for decades to come.  Likewise, Chris McDaniel doesn’t have to win.  Before his name was bandied about as a potential candidate, few people outside of Jones County knew who he was.  If he loses, Mississippi will survive just as it has for almost 200 years.

Charles DeGaulle observed that the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.  Sen. John Stennis understood this, hence the reason he didn’t feel compelled to resort to slime-ball tactics.  As a result of his classy behavior, this Republican Blogger sings his praises almost twenty years after his passing.

If Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel had demonstrated this same statesmanship, we would not be watching two honorable men slandering each other and destroying their own effectiveness to serve as public leaders in the process.  It is truly sad.

For what it is worth, I intend to vote for the winner during the November general election.  Although the presumed Democratic candidate is a nice guy, national politics are not as bipartisan as they once were, certainly not in the age of Obama.  Parties do matter, but to this end, so does party unity.  Unfortunately, party unity has been thrown under the bus as two grown men have adopted the “win-at-any-cost” philosophy when Stennis-esqe statesmanship was required.

Lessons from the Santa Barbara Shootings

Last night (May 23, 2014), a 22-year-old man killed at least six people and injured at least seven during a killing spree in Santa Barbara, California.  A video made by the assailant explaining his motivation is posted on the website of Glenn Beck’s news organization, The Blaze, with attribution to LiveLeak.  (Here is the link.)

In the video, the killer (who has since died) laments that he is a 22-year-old virgin.  He also says that he is lonely and isolated, and that the world needs to pay for his suffering.  (Speaking of “suffering,” The Blaze has photographs from his Facebook page that depict his rather decadent lifestyle.)

Watch his video and you will come away with the distinct impression that this kid felt like he deserved to be worshiped.  And no wonder: Here is a guy who had wealth like few other twenty-somethings have.  As the photographs show, he traveled the world in first class.  He drove expensive cars.  (In fact, his crime was committed from the confines of a BMW.)  He went to movie premieres.  He attended private concerts.  Everything that he wanted he got.

Yet, he was miserable.

We know very little else about this kid, except that his father is a movie director and his step-mother is an attractive French actress.  However, we may infer that he had not yet obtained his degree because he talks in his video of having spent only a few years in college.  If so, it seems reasonable to conclude that he didn’t have a high-paying job–certainly not the kind that would have subsidized his elaborate tastes in clothes, cars, travel, and entertainment.   Thus, the money he spent likely came from his father and not from his own labors.

In point of fact, this kid believed the world revolved around him.  He had the money.  He had access to celebrity.   (I’ll have to ask my wife or my secretary if he had the looks; in the meantime, let’s just concede that point.)  For these reasons, he believed he was better than the “lesser brutes” who got to have sex with the sorority girls.  So why was he still a virgin?  It’s so unfair, he exclaimed.

This doesn’t add up.  As we all know, California is adjacent to Nevada, where prostitution is legal.  If this super wealthy kid had REALLY wanted to have sex, all he had to do was to catch a flight to Vegas.  Or if he didn’t care about legalities, he could have telephoned a local “escort service” and hired an “escort” for an evening.

Now please don’t misunderstand my point.  I do not condone prostitution.  It’s wrong.  But clearly this kid had no comprehension of right and wrong.  (Otherwise, he wouldn’t have shot a dozen people for no reason.)  So if he had truly wanted to say goodbye to his virginity, it was well within his power to do so.  Therefore, in view of his proximity to both legal and illegal forms of prostitution, his lack of sex was not the real issue.

No, the real issue was his lack of control.  This kid could control any THING, but he could not control any BODY–not even himself.

He wanted the sorority girls to worship him because he was, as he put it, “the perfect gentleman.”  But since they refused to honor him, he would destroy them.  As a result, about a dozen families have been torn apart, all because some kid couldn’t have his way.

This guy was a sociopath.  As such, there probably was no way that this could have been prevented. But even if it could have been prevented, he would have needed some serious intervention while he was still a child.  Hence the reason that parents, in particular, should learn some very important lessons from this tragedy:

1.  Children should not be given everything that they want.   I have a friend who comes from a wealthy family.  Yet despite his family’s wealth, he makes peanuts working at his day job.  Why?  Because he has a dream that he wants to accomplish on his own; as such, he doesn’t want his parents to bankroll him.  (Besides, he remembers the days when his parents had to work three jobs to keep the lights on.  He appreciates their efforts, and now he wants his parents to enjoy the fruits of their labors without the added burden of unnecessary demands from him.)

I consider my friend to be a class act.  He understands appreciation.  The same cannot be said for the kid who went target practicing from his BMW.   He had no appreciation for the wealth that he enjoyed.  Instead of being thankful for what he had, he was miserable for what he didn’t have.  He took and took and took, but it was not enough to satisfy his cravings.  Eventually, his sense of entitlement became supreme, fueling his dissatisfaction until he finally had to act.  He was mad as hell and was not going to take it anymore.

A child with a sense of entitlement is as dangerous as gasoline stored near a flame.  The Bible talks of God chastening those whom He loves (Prov. 3:12).  Sometimes the best expression of love is discipline.  As best as I can tell, entitlement and discipline mix like oil with water.

Parents should be advised to nip in the bud any sense of entitlement that their children might have before it blooms into a monstrosity that cannot be controlled.

2. Money magnifies what is already present in a person’s character.   Look, I understand just how important money is. Nobody works for free. We all need money to survive.  However, money in and of itself adds no real value to a person’s life.  It merely accentuates what’s already there.

A person who is loving and compassionate without money will be even more gracious with money. Conversely, the reverse holds for one who is hateful or selfish; give him money and he will be even more hateful.

The guy who killed these innocent bystanders was a narcissist to say the least. His decadent lifestyle compounded his already vaulted sense of superiority, validating his decision to render judgment upon the rest of humanity.  As such, his prodigious wealth magnified his depravity.

Although the following observation has little to do with violent crimes, it is still an important lesson for parents:  If you want to see the true nature of your child’s character, give him a few hundred dollars and watch what he does with it. How your child handles the money will identify which areas of his character need strengthening and which need correcting. By using this experiment as a barometer, you can follow King Solomon’s advice:  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

3. Parents, your children are talking. Are you listening?  The kid who caused this pain may have been raised by some decent parents. Maybe they did their absolute best with what they had to work with. We may never know.

What we do know, however, is that this kid had the whole world on his plate, but even that was not enough. He was missing something, and he wanted to tell the world what was on his mind.  Clearly, he thought that no one was listening.

As parents we must do a better job of listening to our children. If we don’t listen to them, we won’t be able to identify their pain–much less walk with them through it.  As this situation demonstrates, untreated pain will spread like the worst cancer, metastasizing over broad segments of our society.

Without casting aspersions or laying any blame upon this guy’s parents–as they, too, are going though a terrible loss–I encourage all parents (myself included) to make a special effort to listen to our children.  Because one day they may stop talking to us and start talking on YouTube for the rest of the world to hear.

***

In the final analysis, the killings in Santa Barbara were senseless.  There is no justification for such a horrific event. Ultimately, the shooter is solely responsible for this action (unless, of course, he was part of a broader conspiracy, which seems doubtful).  May God bless and keep the victims, their families, and all others who were involved.

Cochran and McDaniel — Controversy Revisited

Tonight I submit my updated analysis on the Cochran – McDaniel race for the United States Senate.

As you are probably aware, a blogger named Clayton Kelly allegedly entered Mrs. Rose Cochran’s nursing home bedroom a few weeks ago and snapped some pictures of her. Then, Mr. Kelly allegedly published the same onto his anti-Thad Cochran blog. The ensuing controversy has engulfed what had already become a highly contentious campaign, turning it into the nastiest campaign in America.

The issue of Rose Cochran, however, predates the controversy surrounding Clayton Kelly. Several weeks ago, media organizations like Breitbart.com began running anti-Cochran hit pieces, insinuating that he had been cheating on his bedridden wife by living with (and traveling the world with) his executive assistant.   From a general reading of the news reports surrounding Mr. Kelly, it would appear that his motivation to photograph Mrs. Cochran may have been, at least in part, the result of the rumors surrounding Senator Cochran and his executive assistant.

Although Senator Cochran’s alleged infidelity may very well be relevant to his fitness to serve in Congress, I will pass on any such discussion since I have no credible information to confirm or to discredit these charges.  My opinions are based upon the assumption that Senator Cochran is honorable and that he has remained true to his wife.   Until clear and convincing evidence is presented to the contrary, I will not assume otherwise.

Nevertheless, Cochran’s opponents have used these rumors of infidelity to paint an unflattering picture of Mississippi’s senior senator.  His detractors would have us believe that he is cold and callous toward his wife, abandoning her to the care of a nursing home while he gallivants the world with another woman.  And while Chris McDaniel has not publicly engaged in such gossip, he certainly stands to benefit if these rumors are believed.

Perhaps this explains why Senator Cochran is attempting to connect Chris McDaniel to Clayton Kelly’s alleged actions. On May 20, the Senator’s Facebook page proclaims, “Chris McDaniel names liaison to Clayton Kelly … his campaign manager.” That same day, Senator Cochran’s children declared, “…We are shocked by someone trying to use our mother’s illness for political purposes.”   Then today, Senator Cochran posted a link to Marshall Ramsey’s cartoon blasting the “filming of a candidate’s wife illegally.”

Senator Cochran and his family have every right to be enraged by what happened to Mrs. Cochran.  Nevertheless, their reaction, when viewed through a broader lens, accentuates the irony that now forms the backdrop of this primary battle.

On the one hand, Senator Cochran has been accused – be it subtly or overtly – of betraying Mrs. Cochran.  Conversely, Chris McDaniel has been accused – be it directly or indirectly – of exploiting Mrs. Cochran.

Essentially, the Cochran – McDaniel race may now be distilled to a simple question:  Which candidate respects the dignity of Rose Cochran more – her husband, or her husband’s opponent?

In a state with almost three million citizens, it seems odd that we would select a candidate based upon his behavior toward one bedridden, septuagenarian woman. Yet, ours is a compassionate state where we have learned from our parents — and I hope that we continue to teach to our children — the importance of respecting “the least of these.”

How a politician is willing to treat one person may be a reflection of how he intends to treat all persons, especially if he is elected to office.

Cochran v. McDaniel — My Prediction

On June 3, Mississippi Republicans will decide who will be their nominee for the United States Senate seat. The choices are Thad Cochran (the 35-year-incumbent), Chris McDaniel (a state senator), and Thomas Carey (who I have never heard of).

Although I intend to vote in the primary, I must admit that I am still undecided — which, for those who know me will attest, is quite an anomaly.  I see strong plusses and minuses for both candidates. (Sorry, Mr. Carey, you are not included in this discussion.)

Senator Cochran was the first Mississippi Republican to be elected to statewide office since Reconstruction. Let that sink in for just a minute.

It’s easy for us to take for granted that Mississippi is a “red-state.”  After all, Mississippi has had two Republican senators for more than twenty years.  Except for a brief period from 1999-2003, Republicans have held the Governor’s Office since 1991. Only one member of Congress is presently a Democrat, and during the last statewide election cycle, the Democratic Party fielded no candidate for three statewide offices.  That is just how strong the Republican party is.

But not too long ago, Mississippi was a “blue state,” particularly at the state and local levels. Believe it or not, folks, there was a time when virtually EVERYBODY who ran for sheriff or tax assessor or county supervisor ran as a Democrat. Thus, if a citizen actually wanted to have a say in who became sheriff or tax assessor or county supervisor, the citizen had to vote in the Democrat primary because the election would be decided then and there.

Fast forward to 2014. Today, tens of millions of dollars are being spent by the candidates and the super-PACs alike to persuade Mississippi Republicans as to how to vote. Whereas only a few decades ago a typical, Mississippi Republican primary comprised of two or three persons arguing about the proverbial seating chart on the Titanic, now a Mississippi Republican primary is a really big deal. The very fact that Republicans are in a position to have a competitive primary — for any office, especially for a race as important as the U.S. Senate — is a credit to the pioneering efforts of one William Thad Cochran.

In point and fact, if it weren’t for the efforts of Thad Cochran in the 1970’s, a certain state senator from Jones County would likely not be in the legislature today. Certainly he wouldn’t be calling himself a Republican. Though he would likely disagree, Senator McDaniel owes a measure of his success to Senator Cochran. Thus when McDaniel and/or his supporters brand Cochran as being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) or as not being conservative, that demonstrates a level of disrespect and (dare I say, ingratitude) that is unbecoming of any Mississippi Republican.

Still, I am bothered by the fact that I can hardly go anywhere without seeing Senator Cochran’s name on a government building.

For example, the next time you visit the town of Aberdeen, take a good look at the Thad Cochran Bankruptcy Courthouse.  I call it “the Taj Mahal.”  Considering that the building is dedicated just to bankruptcy – and not civil or criminal matters – it is the most ornate courthouse that you will ever visit.  Likewise, if you ever visit Starkville, take a look at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology, and Economic Development Park.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. The Research Park and the Bankruptcy Courthouse do a lot of good, and to be honest, I don’t remember what life was like before they were built. So I cannot be a fair judge of whether the money spent was a good investment or not. But that is not the point.  What bothers me is the concept of naming projects after sitting politicians.

Everybody wants to leave a legacy, to be remembered. I get that. Businessmen will donate tens of millions of dollars to a college in order to get their names on a building or a stadium. But they are spending their money.  They are not spending our money.  Thad Cochran did an excellent job getting this money to fund these projects, but at the end of the day, it was not his money; it was our money.  He works for us.

Give a politician the opportunity to have a bridge built in his honor or a building named for him, and he will move heaven and earth to get that money for his constituents. In a day where our government has a 16 trillion-dollar national debt, that mindset is no longer good for leaders in Washington. Politicians should be figuring ways to save money, not spend it.  And these buildings bearing Cochran’s name demonstrate that he is not too inclined to save money.

In sharp contrast, Senator McDaniel seems to be the penny-pinching, Tea Party type who doesn’t want to spend money unless absolutely necessary.  Moreover, he seems especially outraged at the attempts by the current administration to expand executive power.   (Perhaps Senator Cochran is  as well, but he doesn’t seem as vocal, at least from what I can tell).  But sometimes our biggest strengths can be our biggest weaknesses.  One can be penny-wise but still be pound-foolish.  Sometimes the government needs to spend money for projects in the Magnolia State.  Will Chris McDaniel know when to write the checks and when not to?  And when he does see the need for checks to be written, will he have enough clout to pull the strings to get the job done?  Likewise, will he be able to say no to his base — the Tea Party — when the checks must be written?

Which brings me to my ultimate conundrum. Thad Cochran is experienced and effective at getting money to Mississippi projects, and he makes no apology for it. But in order to get money to fund projects in Mississippi, he had to go along with projects in other states of similar scope and size. Basically, Senator Cochran is the archetypical good-ole-boy who can play the system to serve the needs of his constituency.   However, it is this good-ole-boy system that has created the very economic mess we are in. Eventually, somebody has to stand up and say, enough! I think McDaniel gets that.

Essentially Thad Cochran is for keeping the status quo, while McDaniel is keen for changing the culture in Washington. McDaniel wants Washington to return to a constitutional orthodoxy — that may or may not happen if he is elected.  But if he is elected, Mississippi will throw away a lot of its clout in the meantime.  Is Mississippi ready to pay this price?

Given the polar opposition of each side, we have seen some vicious campaigning between the two camps. It’s gotten so bad that a supporter of McDaniel has been charged with taking a photograph of Cochran’s invalid wife (in her nursing home, at her bedside, no less). Although McDaniel denies any involvement (and for what it’s worth, I believe him), the fact remains that the mud being slung from both camps has so inflamed the devotees of each candidate that people are beginning to do some crazy things.

When elections become this heated, the electorate suffers. For one thing, each side is pointing the finger at the other, saying that the other is a bigger liar. Implicitly, when you call a politician a liar, you are calling his supporters fools. It’s never a good idea for politicians to insult potential voters.

Would an extreme McDaniel supporter – who has just spent the last year calling Cochran a liar and a RINO – even consider campaigning or voting for Cochran in the general election? Likewise, an extreme Cochran supporter – who has just spent the last year calling McDaniel a liar – even consider campaigning or voting for McDaniel?

The fact is, feelings have now been hurt, and lines have been crossed. Forgiveness is not possible (absent a miracle from God). Thus, I can say with some measure of certainty who will be the big winner in the 2014 Republican primary for United States Senate.

Travis Childers (the presumptive Democratic nominee).