It is a fascinating exercise to look at what a lot of politicians say about The Constitution and then examine what it actually says. The use of that founding document for political purposes is just one example of how facts are twisted and misinformation used to befuddle the public. For instance a president is given the power to nominate jurists, ambassadors, and cabinet members with the advice and consent of the Senate. Senator Frist likes to refer to a Senate rule change regarding filibusters as the “constitutional option” rather than the “nuclear option”, a phrase originated by former Senate leader Trent Lott. The Constitution, however, does not stipulate that the only standard to be used for nominees is an “up or down vote” as Republicans keep insisting.
People on the political right often object to Supreme Court opinions that include mention of a “right to privacy.” They say that no such right appears in The Constitution. Well, literally that is true, but interestingly, Amendment IX deals with the “Unenumerated Rights of the People” – – and states “The Federal Court exercises no power over the unlisted rights of the people. The enumeration in The Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”.Whether or not that amendment helped formulate opinion in either Roe v.Wade or the Texas sodomy case it is nonetheless clear that the Constitution is not so tightly constructed as to leave no wiggle room and, that where such openings exist, constitutional generalities tend to lean toward interpretations that support individual rights.
With respect to Vice President Cheney, on the other hand, he suggests there is something constitutional about those secret energy task-force meetings he chaired. Never mind that the Constitution doesn’t stipulate very specific powers for the vice president nor does it designate secret deliberations about domestic concerns as presidential powers either.
Of course the president can assign tasks to the vice president such as the study of terrorism. When he came into office he said he’d have Cheney take a look at the Hart-Rudman study on the subject “when he had time.” Apparently, though, the vice president was too busy to examine the year-long study since he was no doubt already deep into planning an invasion of Iraq even before the events of 9/11. Despite denials it seems obvious that many in the administration had already decided on a path that would eventually lead to war. Even during the previous administration some of these same people had written to President Clinton suggesting aggressive action in Iraq.
The 9/11 attacks provided the perfect opportunity to make the case for war even if facts had to be massaged to convince Congress and the country there was a real threat, a threat that was in fact not only not imminent but highly improbable. In his book Dick, The Man Who is President, John Nichols quotes Cheney from a March 2003 Meet The Press Show – – “We know he’s [Saddam Hussein] reconstituted these [chemical weapons] programs. We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons, and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Quaeda organization.”
Of course nothing of the sort was “known”, nothing of the sort was discovered after the invasion, and the 9/11 commission clearly stated that none of the above statements were valid. Nonetheless with Cheney at the head of the propaganda machine things fell neatly into place. And, even though the constitutional power to declare war resides with Congress, the president and others were able to so flummox the country that Congress ceded it war power to the president under certain conditions, conditions that, many would argue, were never met.
In any case, here we all are with an administration that has been far from truthful, as witness the recently-surfaced British memo about which neither the press nor the American people have received an adequate response. Perhaps some phony constitutional privilege will be invoked in this case as well.
But one thing is certain; we are entering a disturbing phase in our history. A foreign policy predicated upon empty phrases and war-mongering has led us along an uncertain course. Terrorism throughout the world is on the rise, and our economic control of Iraq in the name of democratic reform is, so far, mission unaccomplished. But, even if and when it is realized, it will be a corporate victory won at enormous human cost and the indebtedness of average America taxpayers.
What would the original framers of our Constitution make of the way that document is trampled upon by today’s politicians? Those early leaders knew all about compromises wrung from men of differing points of view and geographical constraints. But what would they think of the tortured legislation Congress produces today – – so laden with pork and favors for lobbyists that the needs of ordinary citizens are way down on the list of laws to promote the common good. They might wish that everyone in government would take the time to read the actual words over which they labored so long instead of trying to use the Constitution as a political vehicle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *