Ahead of His Time

It's Ben Franklin's 300th birthday Tuesday. So here's a big triple centennial toast to the guy some people call the first American.

Ben Franklin was a printer, author, diplomat, inventor, scientist.

He was also a lover of food, wine and women. He evidently had a grand old time when he was the American ambassador to France, living in Paris for years at a time, maneuvering the French into supporting our Revolution against the hated Brits.

Franklin did a good job of it. The French came in on our side and the help was vital.

He's also a very familiar American. You probably don't realize how instantly recognizable he is. When I was in my twenties I was walking along a boulevard in Paris and I saw a figure through the oleanders in the backyard of a quite elegant building. And in an instant my thought was, "There's Ben Franklin."

Sure enough it was. It was a statue of Franklin sitting on a bench in the garden of what I think was the American Embassy.

Pete du Pont, the former governor of Delaware, writes about Franklin in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

Dupont says if Franklin were alive today he would have approved of the NSA wiretapping and keeping it secret from Congress. Why?

Du Pont says Franklin was on the Continental Congress' Foreign Affairs Committee, called the Committee for Secret Correspondence, in 1776 and he and his colleagues agreed that they could not tell the Congress about covert assistance from France during the Revolution because it would hurt the country if the information leaked and quote "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

So much for alerting Congress to the secret wiretapping program if Ben Franklin were alive today.

Du Pont also says it was clear that the Constitution's original intent was that the president had the authority to take undisclosed foreign actions to protect America.

So happy birthday, Ben Franklin. And by way of our ability to hear your voice from the grave, thanks for helping keep America safe from terrorists.

That's My Word.

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