Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cheney Ignored The Constitution, Again

Dick Cheney addressed the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, West Point, Friday and delivered a speech that was was largely forgettable but had some odious passages thrown in. The speech was front paged by BarbinMD on DailyKos Friday and received considerable attention. There was one thing that was not mentioned in the article but that picked up by several commenters that continues to churn inside me. Cheney forgot to mention the Constitution.

The Vice President's speech concluded with this passage.

On your first day of Army life, each one of you raised your right hand and took an oath. And you will swear again today to defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is your vow, that is the business you're in.

There is one huge problem with what he said. No member of the military or, for that matter, no civilian Federal employee swears an oath to protect the United States. Not Dick, not Bush, and certainly not these new Army officers. All military personnel take the following oath contained in 5 USC 3331.

“I 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 upon which I am about to enter.”

"Support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution. The critical word in the oath of office, the word that gives meaning to the oath, the entire focus of the oath was nowhere to be found in Cheney's speech. It is unlikely Cheney's omission was a mere oversight. However, before discussing that, the following background information regarding the oath will make clear why every Federal office holder swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and not the "Nation", the 'People" or the "President."

There are two provisions in the Constitution relating to the oath of office. Article II, which establishes the Office of the President, requires each President to swear an oath to -

"preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article VI contains the oath requirement that applies to all other government officials, whether in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches or the military. That provision states simply that each Federal official "shall be bound by oath of affirmation to support the Constitution." That Article VI requirement was implemented in the first law passed by the first Congress which contained the following simple oath: "I do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States." While that initial language has been amended over the years the language adopted in 1884 is the same as we have today.

It has been written on more than one occasion, including here, that Bush does not remember or maybe never knew that he swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. But most of his statements were off the cuff remarks or answers to questions, where his inarticulateness is legend. Such was not the case with Cheney. His misstatement was deliberate. We know that because it is contained in the written text of his remarks that are posted on the White House web site. It is possible that he is the victim of incompetent staff work or his own incompetence in failing to recognize the mistake in his text, but there is ample reason to believe otherwise.

Cheney's words seems to be another affirmation of his disdain for the Constitution. We have seen that disdain in his disregard for the basic liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Provisions such as the guarantees of due process, habeas corpus, freedom of speech and assembly, and prohibitions against warrantless searches and seizures are alien to him. Similarly the checks and balances in the Constitution, particularly those that subject the powers of the President to the will of the people as expressed through their Congressional representatives carry no weight in his mind, a mind that sees all power consolidated in a unitary executive.

His vision would be anathema to the Founders and is repugnant to any patriot today. The founders rebelled literally and figuratively from a country where we would owe allegiance to a ruler, or his party, or to the administration in power. Their feelings on this score were clear and unambiguous. They required that those who swear the oath, owe their allegiance to only one thing, the Constitution. That allegiance requires them to ensure that the rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution and the duties and responsibilities of the governmental institutions created by that document are protected from any person who would seek to deny those rights or subvert those institutions. It is a simple oath, but its significance cannot be overstated.

We do not serve the government or this Administration, we serve the Constitution. And only by doing so can we ever hope that the government will be true not only to the letter of the document, but also to the principles embodied in the Preamble.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

All of those principles are important. But in this era, three stand out - Establish Justice, Promote the General Welfare, and Ensure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity.

Dick doesn't agree with that and by deleting the Constitution from his speech he is hoping we will forget.

Crossposted at Never In Our Names.

No comments:

Post a Comment