Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Nancy Pelosi forgets her oath of office

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has no idea what her oath of office is, nor does she understand her ostensible duties under the U.S. Constitution -- or so she implied in June 3rd remarks marking the unveiling of a statute honoring former President Ronald Reagan.
"President Eisenhower, President Reagan and all of us who take the oath of office know that our first responsibility is to protect and defend the American people, and that's why it's so appropriate that President Reagan's statue has contained within it chunks of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of his commitment to national security and his success."
This is wrong. Entirely wrong, actually. The president's oath of office says nothing about protecting and defending the American people, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald pointed out when a Brookings Institution "scholar" made that same erroneous claim while defending President Obama's support for indefinitely imprisoning those deemed threats to the United States.

Rather, the oath of office all U.S. heads of state are required to swear by asserts the president will, to the best of his or her ability, "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That is, rather than anointing the president as America's Great Protecter defending us proles from the evildoers abroad, the oath states the president must seek to uphold constitutional protections and the rule of law. Understanding that distinction is crucial to putting in context the Bush/Obama administration's efforts to indefinitely imprison terrorism suspects in the name of national security while shredding the bill of rights along the way.

Of course, politicians have rarely been much influenced by a piece of paper signed hundreds of years ago by a bunch of white dudes in wigs -- how many divisions does Thomas Jefferson have anyway? Still, it would be nice if those in government at least pretended to abide by the document that ostensibly binds U.S. citizens in perpetuity to the "social contract" it purportedly represents.

Like most of her fellow lawmakers, however, Pelosi -- who herself took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" (again, no talk of protecting the homeland) -- has no desire to speak of constraints upon her political power, rather having every incentive to portray herself and her cohorts as the last line of defense between the barbarians at the gate and our beloved children.

But whether Pelosi is actually acknowledges or is even aware it is her responsibility to defend the Constitution or not is really of no consequence, for that particular piece of paper American politicians swear to uphold certainly hasn't stopped those in power from regularly trampling its protections for individual rights. As Lysander Spooner observed, "whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist."

Meanwhile. In dedicating a statue to a man who funded death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, Pelosi had this to say about the ever-so inspiring example the Reagans provided to the American public:
President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan had one of the great love stories of all time, and the American people benefited from that. The support, the love that Mrs. Reagan gave the president were a source of joy to the American people, and, again, of strength to the president of the United States.
I was too young to remember the period, so a sincere question: Did anyone out there really find the marriage of Ronald and Nancy Reagan -- a modern day Anthony and Cleopatra, says Speaker Pelosi -- to be a "source of joy"?

1 comment:

  1. I think I can safely assume none of your readers found a source of joy the Reagan marriage. I can recall finding the constant trumpeting of it as a love story for the ages to be ridiculous and sad; an indictment of the hollowness and ghastly prurience of the trumpeters.