As things proceed, I want to post on a wide variety of topics on this blog, and not have it to devolve into just another third-rate political rant. However, I reserve the right to do so occasionally. Plenty of ink has been spilled over the past two weeks on the NSA surveillance of American Citizens, and for plenty of top rank writing on the topic, one can peruse the blogs linked to on the right.
President Bush has made a point of defending the phone spying as within his purvey, adamantly protecting his right as the chief executive to engage in such activities. Probably a smart political move, since if he gets nailed for getting his hand caught in the cookie jar, he will at least appeal to his supporters as a stand-up guy, comparable in stature to Winston Churchill. (Although can we at some point soon get past the Churchill analogies for ‘engaging’ political leaders? One would hope that at some point in our nation’s history we might be able to generate a few of our own greatest worthy of being used as a flip metaphor.)
Most of the talk on the left side of the blogosphere has been about the irony of the President’s supporters lapping up his defense of being the ‘protector in chief.’ Imagining all of those people cowering in desperate need of a father figure despite their professed ‘manly’ republican values has been the source of much guffawing recently. TBogg has an excellent typical post on the topic, but most of the others have been writing wonderfully delightful posts on the subject. Other issues have been raised, such as the rather obvious concern that if 3,000 to 4,000 people in the U.S. have been monitored, all of whom have been described as al Qaeda operatives, then why have no arrests been ordered? Also, would all of these rabid defenders of the program be just as eager as beavers about it if Hillary Clinton were president?
What has intrigued me, however, about the whole enterprise, given my recent manic reading on presidential history, is President Bush’s argument that he has a mandate to protect the American people. In his News Conference on December 19th, Bush used the word ‘protect’ 19 times regarding the American people and his job description.
“As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it.”
So suddenly Bush is a constitutional scholar. This is the first time in my memory that the President has actually mentioned the Constitution, and of course he is interested in Article II, naturally, as it is the outline of the powers of the executive branch, divided up into 4 sections. An issue is raised here, which I only saw briefly mentioned in a typically rude post by Rude Pundit. To begin with, the beginning of Article II, section II:
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
Not exactly a mandate for his actions. That is the only sentence of Article II covering the role of the executive branch in ‘protecting the American people.’ – the president is in charge of the armed forces.
And a more typical quote from his press conference:
“This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job.”
More to the point, as the president constantly regurgitates his talking points about his ‘oath to protect the American People,’ someone should remind him of his actual oath, also conveniently written in Article II, section I (actually the sentence before the previously mentioned one):
"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.”
Not 'the people' but the 'Constitution.' Quite a bit of difference. If he is so enamored of protecting the people, he should probably seek other employment. As an employer, if someone doesn’t perform his job description, let alone doesn’t even remember his job description, then I let him go. Perhaps someone should also remind the President of section IV of Article II.:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”