Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bearing this cause Heavily.

To move an amendment to the U.S. Constitution through all of its rigors occupies the nation's mind for many years. Even to raise the question and put it down as undesired could turn over the nation's mind with questions, debates and conflicts, drawing on energy that is much needed elsewhere. Beyond this, if the effort, small in its original chances of success, bears the fruit of a changed Constitution, it will change the nation, change its character, in subtle and eternal ways, not predestined to be better. To propose to alter the Constitution – to be serious and to work for its doing – is to shoulder a responsibility of unspeakable magnitude. Contemplation of this responsibility is profoundly humbling for me. An honest man, a man who respects the labors and investments of every other human being, someone who would not ask for attention without good cause, someone who does not repay that attention with some great performance, must tell why this is a cause worthy of the nation's attention, why the question itself deserves attention.

I have been moved in my anger and dismay at the criminal arrogance of the Bush-Cheney team, in such a way that no other presidency has – not Nixon, not Ford, not Carter, not Reagan, not Bush I, not Clinton – and the mood of many Americans is like mine – what things have upset other Americans about this Administration are essentially those that have upset me. I am not alone in my feelings. But is this, a constitutional amendment, the best answer to these feelings?

If I, like so many others, have disagreed with most Bush-Cheney policy, I have also, like others, protested the policies of other presidents, but even then did not find grievous flaws in the Constitution because of these differences. Law was generally followed in those previous administrations of the country, administrators upheld democratic traditions, and the Constitution was not spun to a vertiginous heights of absurdity. Where Bush-Cheney policy might have been comparable as policy to that of other administrations, I would not have begrudged them the right to make policy, and certainly would not advocate for a Constitutional amendment to tilt against our differences. Disagreement over policy is, of course, normal and necessary.

But this administration, in pursuit of its policies and its legacy, has deviated further -- into the realm of unaccountable, into the realms of anti-democratic and illegal behavior, such as bending science, or just overruling science, excuse making to justify actions, violating law and being unashamed and unrepentant about doing so, using incompetence, ignorance and cronyism to effect its goals, lying and stonewalling, demonizing its foes and dividing the country into hostile camps -- than any other I have witnessed, than any I ever imagined would take office. The flaw of this administration, which separates it from others, was not the foreign policy and domestic policy it promoted, but the secret meetings, the willful refusal to give testimony, the super-abundance of “top-secret” documents, the destruction of records, the willful failure to preserve email communication, and the current effort to install political appointees as permanent civil servants. More than simply legitimate policy actions, these were – are – crimes against democracy, crimes against our right to know and hold our Executive accountable for its actions. That unique characteristic of the Bush-Cheney administration which bespeaks a Constitutional flaw has been its ability and intent to undermine accountability, its effective escape from the system of checks and balances with which our government was conceived and has remained stable for over 200 years. It has simply declared itself immune, and has, in just so few words, simply sealed itself off from Congressional oversight. But is a Constitutional amendment the proper way to address these issues?

Just on the account of my own scholarship, I am not sure it does. And if I do not represent a mood and a will felt across the nation, then this paltry plea will mean nothing. But in my mind and my heart, this question rings true. “If they can ignore even the Constitution, which prohibits unwarranted search and seizure, if they can deny habeas corpus even to an American Citizen, what more can they do, what more have they done?” If in me alone these events are vile abrogations of the Presidents pledge of office, then mine is a vision to be discarded. But even if I I am not alone, who am I to ask the nation to pay the price of this debate and the passage of a twenty-eighth Amendment? .

I bear this cause heavily. I cannot be sure this is the best course for the nation. But if not this, then what? Does the Congress have the power or the right or the will to do any better? What measures can the Congress or the People take, when a President can use the power of that office to vault over laws, the Constitution, international treaties and even the weight of public opinion? A headstrong Executive can do anything it wants to when the Constitution fails to provide a check to the abusive use of its power. This is what I believe we need. A check on abuses. Can this really be done in any way other than an Amendment?

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