Friday, December 30, 2005

Oath of Office

The question for most of 2006 is this: Will Republicans wake up to the clear and present danger of a paranoid and power-hungry executive branch gone over the top, over the edge, and beyond the Constitution? Will Republicans in the Congress remember their oaths, as clearly the President, Vice President and scores of their underlings have not?

I,_____, Loyal Citizen of the Republic, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

The essense of this oath is not buried in murky rhetoric or passive constructions or in legal jargon. The demand on each oath-taker is that first and foremost he or she will both "support and defend" the Constitution of the United States against enemies both "foreign and domestic." It could not be clearer. The number one—the primary—focus of the oath is the Constitution.

The Constitution sets out the framework not only for the organization and conduct of the government, it sets out a point of view about government and its relationship to the governed. The Constitution also contains in the Bill of Rights, the essential liberties and freedoms to be enjoyed by citizens, and as such is self-referential: The Constitution tells itself how to think and what goals to keep and maintain.

The essential point of view concerning government set out by the Constitution is that expressed in the doctrine of separation of powers. Thus the framers of the Constitution understood only too well that the executive must be separated from the legislative and the judicial, and likewise the legislative from the others, and the judicial from the others. Unstated in the document is the reason for these separations, for these checks and balances that were designed into this revolutionary form of government.

One must go back a few years to 1776 to hear the reasons for separation of powers. Stated in the Declaration of Independence is the burden under which the framers worked—the fact that government by the English had become destructive of the colonists' rights and freedoms as Englishmen. Yet more can be learned about the philosophy of nationhood and government from the writings called the Federalist Papers, one of which, #10 by James Madison, describes in fair detail a number of the worries of the framers.

They understood that power tends to corrupt people ... any people, including themselves ...! They understood that factions develop and have a malevolence that only the very strong will of individuals committed to principles can defeat. Accordingly, they designed government to work against itself—deliberately against itself—to provide barriers to corruption, dishonesty, factionalism, enthusiasm, and the accretion of excessive power into few hands.

But, as regards factions, the framers, Madison included, did not fully understand ... (yes, they were imperfect) ... the nature of factions and parties. Theirs was an era of towering individuals in a small assemblage of small jurisdictions. Individualism as described later by Ralph Waldo Emerson was burgeoning; the frontier provided nourishment for it. Yet, the framers seem to have failed to grasp the idea that people will (and should be able to) "associate" and form pressure groups promoting their common ideas. Political parties emerged during the first years of the new republic and have been something of a problem ever since.

The oath of office says that those who take the oath do so "without any mental reservation of purpose of evasion," yet persons who are members of factions and political parties seem to have other purposes, if not actually "reservations," in mind when they run for office. The question is: can "another purpose or goal" be consistent with the duty to protect and defend the Constitution?

I say yes. It can be perfectly reasonable to hope with others, for instance, for new legislation to provide for the welfare of native populations dispossessed by the colonists. Such a goal might "expand" the meaning of the Constitution, but if it did not conflict with any provision of the Constitution, supporters of the goal would be "preserving and protecting" the Constitution. Likewise with many ideas that do not conflict with the Constitution.

On the other hand, though, if a faction's goals were to broadly inhibit the free expression of thought, immediately the First Amendment becomes injured, and proponents of such a measure would NOT be "preserving and defending" the Constitution. The so-called Alien and Sedition Acts were exactly this sort of problem. Those who supported them for their various reasons were acting against the Constitution, although I will grant you they did not understand it that way until much, much later.

Today Republicans, a coalition of factions, a political party, are now faced with the awesome task of preserving and protecting the Constitution under which they are organized. Members of their own party, although in a different branch of government, have violated their oaths of office and have (among other things) instituted tyrannical measures of spying on the broad citizenry of the United States, imparing freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and violating the separation of powers doctrine that is central to our constitutional form of government.

Can Republicans rise to this challenge? I think not. Republicans show few signs of continuing as a party of individuals; they are in an open conspiracy with those who have violated the Constitution. In every meaningful way Republicans resemble now that form of government foreshadowed by the fascists in Italy and Germany some sixty years ago. They are no longer capable of the governing under the United States Constitution, for they have neglected their oaths and their duties under the Constitution.

In case anyone is still confused and wondering what I am leading to, a Democratic President sitting opposite the Republican majorities in the houses of Congress would have already been impeached for violations of the First Amendment, separation of powers, lying to Congress and the American people, mass murder in Iraq and elsewhere, torture of human beings, illegal propaganda, cronyism, corruption, to name but a few of the egregious and treasonous acts, high crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by Georg Walker Bush and his administration. The fact that the Republicans in Congress have not impeached Bush and Cheney is a clear violation of their oaths of office and indicates that they have both mental reservations and purposes of evasion—doctrines that they hold dearer than the Constitution!

What is their purpose?

I know what it is, and so do you Ann Coulter, George Lincoln Rockwell, Sean Hannity, Joe McCarthy, Rush Limbaugh, Ehrlichman and Haldeman, Dick Cheney, Ollie North, Karl Rove, Barbara Bush, Ronald Reagan, Rick Santorum, Richard Nixon, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, William Kristol!


James Richard Brett