Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Piece of Paper?

A commenter discussing Doug Thomspson's recent article asked if I thought our president actually referred to the supreme law of the land as a "g-d piece of paper." My response was to simply consider administration actions over the last five years and draw a logical inference.

Well, in a recent speech discoursing on the December Iraqi elections, the president sailed to heights of rhetorical fancy, yanking out the same old univeralistic mumbo jumbo that has become typical of White House talking points. "The story of freedom has just begun in the Middle East," said Mr. Bush. "And when the history of these days is written, it will tell how America once again defended its own freedom by using liberty to transform nations from bitter foes to strong allies. And history will say that this generation, like generations before, laid the foundation of peace for generations to come."

Blah, blah, blah.

But then Mr. Bush said something interesting. "As President, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq." Really? But Article I, Section VII of the the Constitution says, "The Congress shall have power...To declare war."

Writing to Jefferson, James Madison, who presumably knew a thing or two about constitutional interpretation, said, "The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature."

So were the anti-Federalists right? Once you start writing these things down, perhaps they do merely become scraps of paper in the hands of the prince, manipulated to suit the whims of cultural, social and political elites. In short, perhaps the Constitution is little more than a dead letter.

4 Comments:

Anonymous mskee said...

That's exactly the kind of observation that makes so much sense, says so much about this administration's underlying philosophies and assumptions, and yet is totally lost on most people.

While I still don't know if he said it, this certainly shows a practical ignorance of the constitution.

Or are we just taking his remarks out of context?

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way Congress has repeatedly foregone its constitutional responsibility to debate and formally declare war, more or less formally ceding this power virtually wholly to the executive branch (after which they go on to rubberstamp every budget request needed to further the conflict), is very troubling.

I could hardly believe the recent report that Americans give Condoleezza Rice a favorable rating.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I would suggest that the mindset evident in the comments by the president are not ripped from context and represent his thinking vis a vis executive branch authority, which he views quite expansively.

Another big concern, I think, is that Republicans and conservatives have come to share that expansive view of the presidency in contravention to historic conservative principles. It's almost as though they no longer believe in original sin.

That Congress has been complicit in this arrangement is pointed out by the second commenter. That they have not the slightest predilection to be responsible for taking the country to war is a reckles disregard of congressional prerogatives and responsibilities.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Ron F. said...

Without a courageous citizenry that cares about what's a stake, the Constitution is just a piece of paper.

Ron F.

1:12 PM  

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