tv Former Solicitor General Ted Olson on Limited Government CSPAN November 17, 2021 5:37am-6:19am EST
>> good afternoon. good afternoon. i want to welcome you all to the 20th annual barbara olson memorial lecture. i am president of the society. this memorial lecture series started, as many of you know, shortly after 9/11. ted olson's inaugural lecture reminded us of what it means to be american and how our legal production is -- legal tradition
is part of our identity as americans. that reminder only gets more important every year. we want the lecture series to remind lawyers that they foster legal principles that advance individual freedom, personal responsibility and the rule of law. i want to give the other lecturers included, justice scalia, vice president cheney, judges ken starr, edith jones, doug ginsberg, and justice neil gorsuch, former attorney general s bill barr and michael mukasey, former white house counsel don mcgahn and senators tom cotton and ben sasse. quite a group. that brings us to today's lecture, which could not be more appropriate. the series has been remarkably successful for 20 years. years before that, ted and barbara held a barbecue for our student chapter presidents,
which drew hundreds of prominent attorneys in addition to the students and helped encouraged presidents to build our chapters and through that build a society and encourage many more to be involved. i am sure some of those chapter presidents are probably in the audience today. then there is also ted's strong and consistent defense of free speech, including explaining to reporters doing national stories on the federal society that the federal society, unlike the american bar association, never told ted what to think. i could give you a lot of ted's bio, but i think we want to hear from ted. i simply want to say you have done a great deal for us and having this lecture in barbara's honor has been a highlight. we are so honored to have you
well, it is a great privilege to be a part of the federalist society, and to be participating in the barbara olson traditional lecture. on a clear and sunny september 11 20 years ago, the world we had been living crumbled and time seemed to come to a stop. unlike december 7, 1941, when the full force of japan's air force launched a surprise attack on a faraway navy base, this time, a mere 19 individual zealots armed with hate and with little more than box cutters executed a massive, coordinated, and crippling attack on our people, our government, and our institutions.
they exploded hijacked commercial airliners packed with civilian passengers into america's commercial base in new york city, and the nerve center of our defense establishment at the pentagon, a few miles from here. had it not been for the towering heroics of a few brave passengers, one of the hijacked planes would have likely hit the capital and killed hundreds of members of congress. thousands of individuals on those flights and occupying those structures were murdered, maimed, and horribly burned that day. new york's commercial center and command center for our national defense were reduced in a single morning to smoking rubble. wrenched abruptly from our complacent, comfortable bubbles,
we came face-to-face today with a vulnerable and defenseless future -- not from an attack by a warring nation, but from a tiny collection of determined fanatics. the gut-punch reality it was hard to accept, but we had to. the world was populated by thousands more like them -- similarly motivated and equally capable of horrible devastation with nothing to lose. one of our own, federalist barbara brasher olson, was one of the victims that day as she headed for los angeles on united airlines flight 77. terrorists could not have selected a more quintessential american victim. she was a texan catholic who had put herself through a predominantly jewish law school in the heart of new york city. she declined a lucrative job in
-- job at a prominent new york law firm, to come to washington in order to fulfill her long-standing ambition to be at the center of the nation's political world. the federalist society was a dream come true for barbara. she loved the rough and tumble of robust debate bursting with ideas, energy, passion, and enthusiasm. she persuaded the dean of her persuasively liberal law school to allow her to form the first federalist society chapter at cardozo law school, and immediately after law school she , thrust herself into washington life, becoming in rapid succession a lawyer in private practice, an assistant united states attorney, a top investigator, deputy solicitor general of the house of representatives, general counsel
for the senate whip, author of two best-selling books about the clintons -- not favorable, i must say [laughter] and a regular and remarkably successful legal commentator on television. barbara saw in the federalist society a reflection of herself. she was a passionate believer in individual liberty, private enterprise, and limited government. she had an insatiable appetite for ideas, debate, and intellectual jousting. barbara enjoyed mixing it up on virtually any subject, and she was very, very good at it. she was outspoken, articulate, and it must be said, brash. she could and would take on anyone in any new on any issue
with little or no advanced she -- or no advance notice. she was quick, with a rapier-like wit. i told her once that some thought she was opinionated. [laughter] she thought that was a great complement. of course she had opinions. she had little time for people who didn't have opinions. but she debated with passion, not anger, never mean-spirited or unkind. she delivered her thrust with the flip of her long, blonde hair, and a contagious, radiant smile. her adversaries liked and respected her, but feared her at the same time. barbara was a fighter until the very moment when the terrorists extinguished her life. she somehow managed to reach out to me by phone from her doomed flight as it was being hijacked. knowing, because i told her, i
had to, that two other hijacked planes had been flown into the world trade center in new york, she sought in those last moments advise as to how she could save herself and her fellow passengers. has she been on that plane in pennsylvania, i believe with all my heart that s take the plane down rather than letting it continue to fly into the heart of washington. barbara loved being a part of the federal society. the debates, the people, your energy, your principles, and your convictions. you you populate and enliven the world of ideas and place your opinions, arguments and contentions on the line. as jean said, barbara cohosted with me summer gatherings of student federalist in our backyards every year.
indeed the concept was , originally her idea. we started in 1990 or 1991 with a few summer students, washington lawyers, and a few judges. she sought to create networks and mentorships for young federalists. i think our first event involved something like 30 people. by the time barbara was murdered , the crowds had come to exceed 500 in our backyard. [laughter] and it kept growing and growing until jean put a stop to that. [laughter] and moved the venue to a more commonplace, like the supreme court. [laughter] and in those backyard events for these young students, including lawyers and judges and people from washington, luminaries such as robert bork, clarence thomas, scalia, steve williams, doug ginsberg, sam alito, lieberman
otis, ray randolph, lillian devere, the list goes on and on. i have to stop. but i cannot forget the thrill in your young faces when you came face-to-face with bob bork or clarence thomas or nino scalia. to this day i encounter lawyers , all over the country including members of the cabinet, public -- cabinet secretary's, prominent lawyers and public officials, who attended those summer parties as young students. they cannot wait to tell me what an inspiration that afternoon was for them. many of you are here tonight. this is just a part of barbara's legacy. this speech is called the barbara k. olson memorial
lecture, although i never cared for the term lecture. it sounds too much like a colonoscopy [laughter] or any recent speech by president biden. [laughter] so, i prefer to think of this as a remembrance. so, in preparing for this evening i thought i might try to , channel barbara and what she , might think and say about the state of politics and society in america today had her life not been so brutally ended on september 11. i have no doubt she would have a lot to say to us, so i will try to limit these imaginary insights to just four subjects. first -- america's standing and stature in the world and in the hearts of its people. barbara, like her fellow texans, loved this country and was proud to be an american. she believed in an america that
stood tall, was respected by its citizens, allies, and other nations, feared by its enemies, abided by its commitments, and protected the lives and rights of its people. the america that gave birth to the individuals about who tom brokaw coined the term "the greatest generation." after 9/11, america came together. we prove to one another and to the world that we could not be defeated by terrorism. however horrific and devastating the attack might be. president bush and vice president cheney joined in inspiring the american people to rebuild our transportation industry, economy, our defenses and our united spirit. we mobilized our forces to attack al qaeda and the taliban. we vowed never to forget and
never to forgive the brutal savages that sheltered terrorists, spawned terrorism, and debased their own people, particularly women and took the , lives and futures of thousands of americans. barbara would have been proud for what we as a country accomplished, particularly in afghanistan, in isolating and punishing the taliban. she was a fierce advocate for the rights of the oppressed disadvantaged, helping to form among other things the independent women's forum to assist and advance the voices of conservative women in this country, so that in future controversies, there would be a conservative voice when liberal women came forward to claim to speak for all women in america. and even as a fledgling attorney when lawyers at the state department and justice department were reluctant to do
it, she volunteered to go to new york and by herself, serve papers on the palestinian liberation organization, expelling that terrorist organization from the united states. [applause] she was thrilled to do that. everybody said, are not you ok, is it going to be all right, aren't you afraid? she said no. so i can only imagine what , barbara would have thought if she had been here to witness the reckless and panicked withdrawal of our troops and personnel from afghanistan this summer -- abandoning its people, particularly its women to the , oppression of the taliban, deserting the people in that country that it helped us hold the taliban up a for 20 years. and skulking away from hundreds of american citizens and many thousands of american supporters and friends. she can't speak for herself
tonight, but i believe i know what she would've felt when america turned its back on its own citizens, our allies, and those who had fought side-by-side with us leaving , tens of thousands of people in the hands of the very murderous fanatics who had facilitated her murder. we have learned that our marines were given a mere 30 minutes to pluck a few people out of thousands of afghans who had been coming by bus, car, and foot for 10 straight days, assembling to the gates of that airport, standing knee-deep in sewage attempting to flee from the terror of the taliban, to we had abandoned control of their country. 12 minutes into that desperate half-hour, a suicide bomber detonated the device that killed 170 of them, and 13 of our own servicemen and women. thousands of helpless people
were deserted and for the most part, forgotten. what kind of nation does that? certainly not the america of douglas macarthur, george patton, dwight eisenhower, or ronald reagan, the america that took on nazi germany and imperial japan, an america that fought for its people and the bill of rights, that's kept its promises, sent its military after the terrorists, respected and educated men and women, stood up to murderers, bullies, thugs, hijackers and kidnappers. barbara would have been outraged, incredible, inconsolable that our nation had expended billions of dollars, sent hundreds of our soldiers to their deaths and 20 years to , defeat groups like al qaeda and the taliban and isis only to quit, lay down our arms, retreat in panic and turn afghanistan
over to those very same people who have consistently proclaimed their hatred for america and israel, and who have repeatedly vowed to destroy us. and she would have been astonished when we proclaim to the world that our forthcoming surrender would be completed in time for september 11, dishonoring the memory of the nation, of that national tragedy by capitulating to the same , people who had engineered it. what a cruel mockery of the people murdered and crippled on september 11. phrases like we will never forget meant something in barbara's america. she would have seized that hearing these words uttered in the same breath as speech is bragging about the amazing success of our evacuation, the
retrograde, they call it of our , troops, diplomats, and to those very few lucky enough not to be left behind. we were told when we announced that we would wash our hands of afghanistan that this would not be another saigon. the afghan government and its armies would hold off the taliban for months or more. and when the eminently predictable and sudden collapse did occur, putting the lie to these predictions we were told , that all americans would be safely evacuated, as well as our supporters. and then, of course, we stampeded out of our airbase in a panic and the dead of night without notice to our allies, leaving behind massive amounts of aircraft, vehicles weapons, , uniforms, and ammunition. and we were so rushed to escape from the only remaining barely functioning airport, that we
left thousands of humans standing in wastewater while issuing talking points about our great success in evacuating the people we did not forget. again, you heard we will never forget, we will never forgive. how much accountability has there been for that public, humiliating defeat? none that i have seen. how much are we doing to effect the removal of the abandoned americans and tens of thousands of terrified afghans? i haven't heard much about that either. how much longer before the reenergized, rearmed and diplomatically legitimized taliban, and the other jihadists grouping in afghanistan, attack america or israel or paris or madrid or churches, synagogues, restaurants, playgrounds, or nightclubs? we hear about our over the horizon capacity to stop such such -- to stop such terrorism. does anybody believe that?
second, barbara would be astonished by our government's unlawful, unilateral relinquishment of our southern border to armies of migrants from all over the world. a central tenet of a nation's sovereignty is the establishment, sanctity and protection of its borders and citizens. assuring domestic tranquility in providing for the common defense ra nation's obligations, -- are our nation's obligation so plain , that they are inserted into the preamble to the constitution. we seem to have rescinded that cornerstone of sovereignty. tens, indeed hundreds of thousands of individuals are pouring into the united states, completely and deterred by our national governments, in violation of our laws, overriding our ability to make reasoned decisions as to who can
come into this country, and threatening the safety and security of all americans. the invaders include decent, desperate, sympathetic people seeking asylum and freedom from poverty and corrupt regimes but also human traffickers, smugglers of addictive poisons such as heroin and fentanyl, fugitives, and unvaccinated carriers of covid-19 and other afflictions. we don't seem to be trying to distinguish among them. what other conclusion to draw that the federal government has intentionally abrogated the principles of territorial integrity without the consent of the people and our elected representatives? we are being forced to accept and absorb millions of persons of all ages, backgrounds and motivations, without any systematic effort to provide them with humane integration, education or opportunity.
our government is now said to be negotiating the size of the bounty we will pay to some of them. naturally they are met with , resentment in many parts of the country because they have flouted our immigration laws with the complicity of the executive. we cannot begin to handle the burdens this massive invasion creates for our local communities and neighborhoods, so our government either ignores or papers them over with public relations smokescreens and dishonest, evasive pretenses that this is not happening. if the united states cannot or will not control who enters this country, what does this do to our ability to enforce other laws? indeed, what does that mean for the rule of law in any traditional sense? how can american citizens be expected to respect and obey the law if our federal government
sanctions, embraces, even rewards noncitizens who have entered this country in violation of our laws of entry , and who acknowledge no responsibility to abide by any and all of our laws? this sounds fairly bleak doesn't , it? [laughter] but i was trying to figure out what barber would say. that leads me to the third dreadful trend that we are witnessing in this country that barbaro would have abhorred -- the lawlessness permeating our cities. funding for law enforcement is being reallocated, that is to say, reduced dramatically. and law enforcement officers are retiring or quitting in droves. increasingly, few senti and individuals -- few sentient individuals are reluctant to enter the profession.
recently district attorneys in , all parts of the country, including particularly san francisco, los angeles and chicago are refusing to enforce , laws or prosecute violators. arrests are not being made. the criminals who are unlucky enough to be arrested are promptly being released, in new york, for example, to offend again, which they routinely, regularly and frequently do. shoplifters, vagrants, and drug addicts -- although we can't call them that -- swarm streets and harass and intimidate businesses and vulnerable citizens. stores are closing in the centers of our major cities because businesses cannot stop hordes of thieves from walking brazenly and arrogantly in and out with trash bags or suitcases full of merchandise. homeless encampments, whose documents we are not told to refer to as the on housed -- as the unhoused, have sprung up
everywhere. if you went to union station last night, you saw it firsthand. in our streets, sidewalks, parks, underpasses, railroad terminals, near schools and even at airports. the streets of san francisco and other once livable and indeed beautiful cities are littered with needles, garbage, human waste, debris, and open-air drug markets. people are being assaulted, panhandled, attacked in the streets, coffee shops, sidewalk restaurants, subways, buses bicycles are being stolen, car , thefts are becoming epidemic, rates of burglaries, shootings, rapes and homicides are steadily increasing. we once used the term third world country to refer to some big city neighborhoods. that has become an insult to the impoverished nations that do not have a fraction of the resources we do.
today, substantial segments of philadelphia, baltimore, portland, san francisco, seattle, chicago, san francisco and washington dc merit that description, only worse. how many of you can identify areas in your communities where you would not dare to go after dark, or even in the daylight? and don't answer that question. i know the truth of it. and the same local officials who allowed this to happen with failed mindless feel-good policies are endlessly reelected to pursue the same policies. barbara spent much of her life in houston, san francisco, los angeles, new york, and washington d.c. she would, today be profoundly , depressed to see indicate taking hold and strangling these and other cities because of progressive policies of apathy, virtue signaling and disinterest
by elected -- for life it seems -- political individuals. they say they are not enforcing small crimes, but when did and opens against our laws or our people become too trivial to enforce? these public figures do not care about the victims of those crimes, which often can turn out to be very serious. how suddenly civility disappears when civil order disintegrates. fourth, barbara was a passionate believer in robust, even fierce debate. she would have been shocked at the cultural, societal shift that has occurred so rapidly in america, not only silencing, but oppressing ideas, terms, phrases, even holidays in the names of extinguishing triggers , micro-aggressions, sensitivities and imaginary acts of discrimination. not only must we watch what we say, but how and when we say it,
and to whom we are speaking. i am disregarding my own admonition, of course. failure to carefully, cautiously calibrate your speech can and will come as they say in the miranda warning, be used against you. and the banter or silly, immature jokes you exchange in high school surely will be deployed to condemn you 20 years later or 40 years later. , i recall barbara's response to a study and report critical of judges and lawyers at a d.c. circuit judge conference a few years ago, castigating acts and words deemed demeaning to women, such as interruptions, sufficiently -- insufficiently sensitive questions directed toward women lawyers. barbara rejected the notion that women could not or should not be interrupted during oral arguments, or subjected to
hostile or otherwise mean questions in court. she did not want nor did she think women should be treated like fragile flowers or delicate china who couldn't take it. not only did she feel women -- just like men -- could handle and prevail in a rough-and-tumble environment, but leaving that acting otherwise toward women was demeaning, discriminatory, and led to the view that women were inferior, not tough enough. she hated that. barbara olson would have been shocked to see that the woke movement had come so far that even a statue of thomas jefferson would be removed from city government in new york, that holidays like columbus day , and traditional halloween costumes were either banned or attacked as cultural appropriations. i read just four days ago that the newport news, virginia school board had designated the john marshall early learning center to be given a less odious
name. in response to a decree from virginia governor ralph northam, otherwise known only for admitting and denying that the picture of a person in blackface was him. john marshall, our first chief justice, too toxic for his name to be on public school. when a speaker it may be banned because his or her views are a popular, when street gangs are allowed to intimidate or shoot children on their way to school, when a person harboring a dog may not be considered and or owner, but only a custodian, one a mother has to be referred to as a birthing parent, when the new james webb telescope faces calls for a new name because nesn administrator webb had been
an undersecretary of state 70 years ago during the truman administration during a purge on gay persons, when pronouns such as he or she become not only offensive, but prohibited, if uttered without consent, when those pronouns must become they or them, or when the leader of a decades-old feast of lanterns celebrating the first chinese woman to be born on the monterey peninsula, must apologize for the parade and issue these words, "the harm that i have caused as an unconscious white woman filled with white fragility and my own perfectionism," and when the federal society itself could be castigated because of less than popular views of some of its members, what have we become? barber would've seen this as an assault on freedom, the stifling
of dissent and unfavored use, constitutionization of conformity, a step on the way to mind control, uniformity, and a step towards tyranny, everything this organization stands for. she would've seen the decisions and benefits and rights as based on race and gender as fundamentally un-american. she bristled when she told that texas females should refer to themselves as women, and not think of themselves as girls. the more someone tried to intimidate barbara because of what we now call woke speech, the more she would've used it. [applause] but i want to leave you on a little lighter note. i must inform you and i am happy to inform you that "the new york
times" is coming to your rescue. in last sunday's paper, apparently shocked by the november 2 elections the times , published a collection of pieces -- maybe some of you saw this -- with suggestions of how america, as they put it can snap , out of it and revitalize and renew the american spirit. among the suggestions -- and i am not making this up -- you would've been gratified to see were proposals to eliminate citizenship and all age limits on eligibility to vote -- all age limits on eligibility to vote. parents can vote for the newborns. to erase all student and medical debt, make international law part of the american law, replace the stars and stripes with a monochromal gray flag, and create multiple states from california, texas and florida.
there you have it, the simple answer to all of our problems. expand the franchise to include infants and anyone else who wants to vote, abolished debt, gray wash the american flag, and give california 12 senators. [laughter] if barbara were speaking to you this evening, she would have lamented it what we have done to our citizens here and abroad, lawlessness in our communities, the widespread surrender of our national respect and integrity. she would wait but also rage. ,she would not be silent. i am certain of that. she would be engage, organizing, demanding the return of our national integrity and domestic order and safety. she would not remain silent in the face of these developments. of course she would be , encouraged by the involvement of federalists and like-minded americans to stand up against these weaknesses, these trends, this disintegration.
she would not let us give in to apathy, malaise, helplessness, and craven this -- and cravenn ess, which we are seeing all around us. so, thank you for honoring barbara with this series and showing up in such robust numbers for every event every year. barbara cannot be here physically, but her spirit lurks in the hallways and rooms of every federalist society meeting. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] thank you. [applause]
>> thank you, ted. we continue to miss barbara, but that was a wonderful remembrance, and thank you so much. and once again thanks to both , you and her for all you have done to help build the federalist society. we really appreciate it. i went to close with a couple of very basic things. our reception, for those who have registered for it is across , the hall. i also went to announce, we have been doing these videos and we have our first federalist society film festival at 7:30 tonight and the chinese room, which is right down that way. so thank you all very much. , i appreciate it.
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