Hmm. Now where does this phrase come from? Oh yeah--it's the oath of enlistment for the U.S. Armed forces.
Now, what about the President himself? What does he swear? Oh yeah--that one is specified right there in the Constitution. Quoting from Article 2, Section 1:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Bush keeps on repeating that his primary duty is to defend the American people. BULLSHIT. Bush's primary duty is to defend THE CONSTITUTION--for it is the Constitution itself that serves as our bulwark against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
In fact, defending, preserving and protecting the Constitution is his only sworn obligation as President.
So what's the problem? Well, Bush has shown himself to be an avowed enemy of the U.S. Constitution--but the problem goes far beyond that. The larger part of the problem is that there are plenty of people in this country who are perfectly ready and willing to forego their constitutional guarantees in favor of what they view as a benevolent dictatorship. I submit as evidence the following graphic I received from my right-wing correspondent:
This is a chilling image. It suggests--no, in fact, it demands--that the system of American justice as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States no longer applies to certain individuals. But that in and of itself has a further implication--because someone has to decide who these people are. And who makes those decisions about who is still subject to our constitutional protections and who isn't?
Why, a unitary executive, of course. (By the way--when we see that in other countries, we call it dictatorship.)
It is the President's obligation to abide by, uphold and defend a process of governance. This process is larger than any one individual. Larger than any specific security threat. The right wing loves to talk about how "values" made this country what it is. Well, one of those values is a belief in a different methodology of governance--a process that guarantees basic freedoms and security. And the source of that different process of governance is the fucking Constitution. Now, when I was in DC in March I picked up a "pocket constitution" from the Supreme Court shop. I'm reading it right now, and it goes something like this:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
That, in a nutshell, is Amendment VI to the Constitution. You know what that means? It means that this shit is a fucking flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution, that's what.
After my cursory review of Article VI, I'll tell you what I didn't find. I didn't see it say anywhere that anyone the President describes as a "filthy terrorist" shall be summarily denied the protections of article VI. I didn't see that in there. I saw the phrase "in all criminal prosecutions." But maybe that's because I'm fucking blind.
Now, let's talk about the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case that spurred this "Nancy Pelosi supports terrorist rights" bullshit. I shall now quote from Jack Balkin's extraordinary piece on the decision:
What the Court has done is not so much countermajoritarian as democracy forcing. It has limited the President by forcing him to go back to Congress to ask for more authority than he already has, and if Congress gives it to him, then the Court will not stand in his way. It is possible, of course, that with a Congress controlled by the Republicans, the President might get everything he wants. However this might be quite unpopular given the negative publicity currently swirling around our detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. By forcing the President to ask for authorization, the Court does two things. First, it insists that both branches be on board with what the President wants to do. Second, it requires the President to ask for authority when passions have cooled somewhat, as opposed to right after 9/11, when Congress would likely have given him almost anything (except authorization for his NSA surveillance program, but let's not go there!). Third, by requiring the President to go to Congress for authorization, it gives Congress an opportunity and an excuse for oversight, something which it has heretofore been rather loathe to do on its own motion.
I repeat: nothing in Hamdan means that the President is constitutionally forbidden from doing what he wants to do. What the Court has done, rather is use the democratic process as a lever to discipline and constrain the President's possible overreaching. Given this Administration's history, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
You see, a majority of the Supreme Court still believes in a PROCESS OF GOVERNANCE as dictated by a set of checks and balances. The President was never told in the decision that he could not get what he wanted. He was merely told that he was required by the Constitution to go through the proper channels--namely, Congress--to get it done. Why does Congress have that authority? Well, it's right there in the Constitution! Permit me to pull out my pocket Constitution and qote from the relevant section--this time, it's Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have the Power To:
Declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
That seems pretty fucking clear as day to me. What do you think? It says in no uncertain terms that as passed by Congress, the U.S. military and any tribunals that it may conceive are subject to the protections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions--and if the President wants that to change, then he is fucking obligated to ask Congress to change the Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces, and to abide by the laws that Congress passes.
Let's talk about signing statements for a minute, shall we? In The Scotty Show with Tony Snow, karateexplosions quoted Snowjob on a question on how signing statements were used. This was part of Tony's response:
and also, to interpret specific holdings of the Supreme Court like the Chadha decision, which I just referred to before, with regard to the use of the legislative veto. So that's how he uses them.
Well, that's fascinating. Let me pull out my pocket Constitution one more time--damn, the pages on this thing are really getting ratty by now. Oh yes--here's Article I, section 7.
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.
Fucking fascinating, don't you think? I didn't see anywhere in that Article any text to the effect that the President shall have the power, upon signing a bill, to use a signing statement to re-interpret decisions of the Supreme Court concerning individual provisions of legislation passed by Congress. Didn't see that in there. Did you see that in there? Ok, good. I'm not as fucking blind as I thought.
For good measure, let me just quote one other Amendment from the Bill of rights--in this case, the Fourth:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I don't need to elaborate, do I?
You know what I say to all those fuckers who want to prosecute the New York Times; who advocate summary execution; who say that you're either with the American people or you're with the terrorists; you wanna know what I have to say to them?
I say: you're either with the United States and its Constitution, or you're with Bush.
When immigrants want to become citizens of the United States, they are required to say this as part of their oath:
that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
That means, a fortiori, that it is incumbent on all citizens--whether we were naturalized in the manner described above or whether it was our birthright according to Amendment XIV--to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
I would argue that domestic threats to our Consitution are far more serious at this point than are foreign threats. A foreign threat may seek to use overwhelming force to destroy our Constitution, but a domestic threat is far more sinister. A domestic threat to our Consitution requires no army. It requires no conquest. Instead, it requires a thirst for power that will stop at nothing to manipulate for its own advantage.
I call on my fellow citizens--and any other person or entity that has sworn fealty to the Constitution--to do everything they can to remove Bush and the Republican Party from power, as they are domestic enemies of the United States Constitution. Our Oaths and Affirmations demand of us nothing less.