Monday, July 27, 2009

The Constitution Hanging By A Thread

Ever since Mitt Romney came onto the political scene as a serious (ahem) presidential candidate it seems like we've heard a lot more talk about the famous White Horse prophesy of Joseph Smith. There is no exact quote from the Prophet, but the jist of it is that one day the Constitution will hang by a thread, and the nation itself will be in peril, and will be saved by the elders of the church.

With Pres. Obama now in charge of the nation there has been no shortage of idle chatter that the Constitution will soon, if not already, be hanging by the thread and need saving by someone like brave Mitt Romney. I enjoy the mental picture of hero-esque Mitt Romney on a valiant white steed, hair perfectly coiffed, sword in hand, riding in from the East to save the Constitution.

But I don't want to make the impression that it is a silly prophesy, or that there is no need to be vigilant in protecting the Constitution. In fact, these last few years we've come closer than ever before. We just learned that in 2002 the Bush administration, at the urging of (surprise!) Dick Cheney, considered sending the military to Buffalo, New York to make domestic arrests of suspected terrorists.

The Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution, protects us from "unreasonable searches and seizures," which has been universally interpreted to ban the use of military for domestic purposes, like making arrests. There is also the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which prohibits the military from acting as law enforcement. There is also the very spirit of Democracy and Freedom itself which informs normal Americans' fear of tyranny and unrestrained executive power.

Now, I've been to Buffalo and I consider it to be part of America. I also think that if the military showed up in my neighborhood to arrest a neighbor I might have some serious doubts about the health of our Constitution and our nation. For once we can praise the good sense of Pres. Bush who nixed the idea and sent the FBI.

As far as recent Constitutional thread-hanging, lets not forget the holding of American citizens in Guantanamo without charges or trial (Fifth and Sixth Amendments), or Richard Cheney claiming that the vice president is not part of the executive branch (Article II) or really the legislative branch (Article I) with the implication that the Constitution does not apply to him (seriously, gasp), or warrantless wiretaps (Fourth Amendment), or any of a number of other offenses against our core document.

Bush's snippings of the proverbial fibers from which the Constitution is suspended are just the latest in a long line of anti-Constitutional laws passed in times of war from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the suspension of habeus corpus; from the oppression of freedom of speech to the internment of Japanese Americans.

Here is the difference I see, though. In the previous cases (we're talking the War of 1812, the Civil War, the World Wars) the wars were discrete engagements with clear goals and obvious starting and ending points. The war on terror, as defined by the Bush administration, was open-ended and poorly defined. Bush was not the political equivalent of the Anti-Christ, intent on destroying America, but he, and more overtly Cheney, laid the blueprint for how it could be done.

First, identify a legitimate threat of terror or some other nefarious non-state actor. Second, exploit Americans' fear of this threat. Third, declare a war against it with poorly defined boundaries, goals, and strategies. Fourth, enact tyrannical anti-Constitutional laws in the name of protecting Americans from this threat. Fifth, pour a martini, sit back, and enjoy the fruits of unfettered power.

We are still at a point where we see unconsitutionality and call it out and fix it. We are still vigilant. I have no doubt that the day will come when the Constitution and the nation are threatened from within, but we are nowhere near that point now, we are further away from that point than we were in the previous eight years, and Mitt Romney will not be riding in on a White Horse any time soon.


Josh said...

Is it the lawyer in you that keeps you hung up on the 4th Amendment? I agree, a lot of shady crap was done under the guise of fighting terrorism. However, I still contend that the Bush administration was a far cry from being the worst in history, and was much better suited for what happened, as a result of the prior administration, than any of his contenders would have been. Infinitely better than Mr Nobel Prize Gore!!!!

However, you apparently have no problem with threats to the 1st or, and I know you saw this coming, 2nd Amendments. How is that? In fact, I don't think, other than arguing your interpretation of the 2nd with me a while back, that I've ever seen you mention any part of the Bill of Rights, except the 4th Amendment. I also find it oddly funny that you are quick to point out the flaws in past administrations to defend your current administrocity's actions.

As far as anything prophetic about Mitt Romney saving the Constitution. It won't happen! He is a power hog, with a "king" complex nearly rivaling the President's. Anyone making reference to Mitt as a savior of the constitution is only thinking about his being religious, and not about his politics.

As for the rest, the Constitution has been hanging by a thread for a long time. It has been violated by more Presidential administrations (even those highly regarded Liberal administrations of Lincoln and FDR - gasp), and more Judicial blunders than you could count. However weakened it is currently though, it still stands as the standard of this Nation. I should hope that we all pray fervently to the God that inspired it's writing, that it always does!

Andrew said...

I think Joseph Smith's words have been fulfilled a number of times. Jack Anderson certainly did us all a favor during Watergate. Harry Reid in the Senate during the Bush years was a strong counterpoint to some of the grosser excesses of that Administration, although I think he could have been stronger. It's interesting how members end up on opposing sides (Jay Bybee writing the infamous Office of Legal Counsel memo "justifying" torture, for instance) with some of these issues.

As I posted previously I think the role Romney and his ilk can play is to moderate the Southern regional influence in the Republican party. There's definitely a rift there, just today George Voinovich said:

"We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It's the southerners. They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'" [sic, source]

Which is a good thing, because right now the Republican Party and Satan share a common goal -- they both want you to ignore reality.

Jacob S. said...

Funny, Josh, that despite our tussle over Amendment 2 I don't think I've heard you mention a lot about the Constitution, either.

I actually have mentioned the Constitution several times, and perhaps the reason the 4th Amendment comes up more than the others is because it seems to have been a target of the Bush Administration. It might also be the most litigated of the Amendments, but that is just a guess.

I'm not sure what you mean by me having no problem with threats to the 1st Amendment, you'll have to be more specific and back up accusations like that.

Anyway, I agree that past administrations (FDR, Wilson, Lincoln, Jefferson) did some damage to civil liberties. But I also made clear that the key difference was that they presided over discrete wars with clear definitions, whereas Bush's Constitutional offenses were perhaps not as egregious in some instances (in some they were just as bad), they were tied to an ill-defined war. The past presidents mended their Constitutional violations when their wars ended, the war on terror has no end in sight.

I don't think its hanging by a thread, I think the Constitution is still strong and revered by the American people, even liberals.

Josh said...

Hmmmm...You may be right, I probably have not commented on the Constitution, on this, your blog. Other than to defend what I hold dear to my life, I haven't found reason to. Tell me, what aspects of the document would you like to discuss?

I'll give you a couple first amendment threats. How about restricting the the line of communication about "stimulus" spending? How about controlling flags that can be flown, or stickers that can be placed on cars?

Jacob S. said...

I'm not sure what the stimulus thing is, so I can't comment on that. As far as controlling flags I can only assume you are talking about the confederate flag. I am not aware of nor would I support laws that say you can't fly one, but I can't imagine why you would want to espouse a flag which is a symbol of treason and slavery. You can if you want, but you also have to accept that people would be disgusted by it. Stickers on cars? I have no idea what this is in reference to. You said I have no problem with threats to the First Amendment, but you've provided no proof. Are you just generalizing by finding examples of the most egregious liberals? Do you think that you can cite examples of any liberal action from anywhere in the world and just apply it to me?

The line about you not talking about the Constitution was tongue in cheek. I just wasn't aware that there was a quota for Constitutional discussion for blogs, and I kind of thought it was silly. Sarcasm never translates well online.

peter said...

Hmm, that's interesting, I've always thought it was the liberals who ignored reality. Fascinating.


Josh said...

Wow, Kristy, are you saying that I am ignoring reality? I would love to hear that argument.

Jake, the debate over the Confederate flag is long, and heated. However, I was not speaking of it. I fly Ol' Glory, and my heart skips a beat every time I see her, anywhere! While I don't have a problem with the symbol of the confederacy, it would never fly at my home...but the Gadsden flag might!

There have been more cases than I care to go into about cities, counties, states, and even federal agencies restricing the 1st Amendment rights of folks. One old guy was told by his community to remove "Support the Troops" stickers from his vehicle, and this was upheld, so far, in court. A uniformed guard informed a group of veterans that they were not allowed to fly support the troops, pow/mia, and some other flags on federal property - a VA building where they were having a get-together. They were made to take down their flags, and the issue was silenced by the government agency.

These were random selections. I did not mean the level of offense that you seem to have taken. I was trying not to use blatant liberal examples. I was in agreement with you about the 4th Amendment, in many of the cases you described (though, the 4th was destroyed years ago by a very famous court case). All I meant is that many of our freedoms are "in the balance" right now. I am for reform of the political arena, and I should hope that we all are.

Javelin said...

The problem with this topic is we all become too subjective in our views. It's very hard to be objective. Republicans blame democrats for chipping away at our freedom, while democrats blame republicans for covertly and illegally abusing our freedom in the name of the greater good.

peter said...

Josh, Andrew indicated that Republicans were ignoring reality, I was just stating that I always thought it was liberals who ignored reality. Visions of utopia and all of that...


Josh said...

Oh, Kristy, I was in defense mode, sorry. I had assumed that I had finally touched Jake's red button, so I was reeling a bit. Anyway, I learned several months ago that this Andrew fellow is a bit asinine, so I don't read his responses. I just read the one you commented on, though, and remembered why I stopped...comaring me, by association to the Republican Party, to Satan? I dare say that may be going a bit far!

Jacob S. said...

You haven't found that red button yet. Only one person commenting on this site has so far, and it wasn't you. I was just pressing you to back up that assertion, which I understand now was a "you" as in liberals instead of a "you" as in Jake.

Andrew said...

"...I was just stating that I always thought it was liberals who ignored reality. Visions of utopia and all of that..."

Visions of utopia:

1.) Abstinence-only education prevents teen pregnancy.
2.) Climate change isn't real and we don't need to address the issue.
3.) Obama is foreign born.
4.) Trickle-down economics.
5.) Our health care system is the best in the world.
6.) We can ignore the Constitution when it comes to fighting bad guys.
7.) There will always be enough oil if we drill wherever possible.
8.) A flat tax will work and be better than our current tax system
9.) There is no racism in America.
10.) Contraception is evil.

And so forth. I understand that not every Republican holds these views, but the Southern half of the Republican Party does. Right now they're the "base" of the Party in terms of numbers and overall levels of support. Perhaps that will change as more moderate Republicans play their hands, in fact I tend to believe that the moderates will win out in the end. However, if we take the sum total of what the current Republican leadership is saying and doing, the gap between them and reality is a mile wide.

Kengo Biddles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The ignorance and sarcasm vented here is astounding. You people are Mormons? Is this how Mormons behave? I'll be sure to stay clear of you.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the "only known contemporary account of this well-known prophecy of Joseph Smith" - Constitution Hanging by a Thread.