Quick Riff: Oath of Office

Note: This was written in 15 min, not edited and may or may not make sense. It’s much more opinion than some of the other pieces on this blog, but it seemed to fit here. Imagine this as being spoken by the guy nursing scotch in the back of your favorite bar.

I don’t have much time and have put off talking about the DOMA case (right now I need a break from talking about Supreme Court cases… the discussions last about two hours longer than needed and get very heated).

It seems worth reminding people what the Presidential Oath of Office is:

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.

More than enough has been said about the swearing vs. affirming so I don’t need to add to that.

The portion I would like to focus on is the last bit — “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”

Note: It does NOT say “Will protect the people of the United States” it also doesn’t say “make everyone’s lives better” or anything like that. It is specifically focused on one document.

One could argue (and many have) that certain portions of the Constitution are stupid/outdated (one should imagine Uncle Sam yelling “BLASPHEMY!!!”)

The oath is about the Constitution, what it says and how to interpret it.

A major impediment in many political discussions are people bringing in their moral/ethical beliefs. “Well, that’s just wrong — I don’t care what the Constitution says, they just need to do __________!”

That’s an opinion I have been hearing a lot of lately, especially with the Supreme Court cases. But, that’s not what they swore (or affirmed) that they were going to do.

If your point of view is that the Constitution is a woefully outdated document and that we should disregard it then you have to stop citing it in other arguments. IE: If you are strongly against the Second Amendment, please don’t cry out in favor of the First Amendment.

If you wish to change the Constitution to suit your political views, go for it — I seriously doubt that you will be successful, but have fun trying.

Unfortunately, we have reached a point where the Constitution is more than a document, it’s a symbol.

I really firmly dislike symbols in politics. You should be able to vote for or against a bill based on the merits and what it says/does, not based on the symbolism.

For example, voting against the Voting Rights Act (damn it, talking about this again?) was not about the content of the bill but about what it stood for (the Civil Rights Movement). Why else could an almost unanimous bill not be able to pass with a different name/symbol?

Running out of time and steam so let me say this: When politicians are running for election we should ask: What’s your idea of the role of government? How do you interpret the Constitution?

If these questions were more focused on the document and less on spin/folksy phrases/beliefs we would have a more informed electorate and (dare I say it?) politicians.

I realize that this isn’t particularly promising, as the boring guy who won’t stop yapping about the Constitution, generally, doesn’t win elections, but it would make our electoral process much more straight forward and easier to understand.


~ by realfactsandbeer on July 10, 2013.

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