Thursday, January 15, 2009

Honest Abe and "the letter and spirit of the Constitution"

Attorney General designate Eric Holder faced the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time today. He declared he would adhere to the rule of law and follow "the letter and spirit of the Constitution."

I doubt he will face much scrutiny on his previous efforts to explain away the Second Amendment.

The news is filled with coverage of President-elect Obama's Lincoln-themed inauguration. Obama will place his right hand on the same Holy Bible on which Lincoln's rested March 4, 1861, and swear:

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Even in the midst of a terrible war that makes the current one in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in this nation's transportation and financial hubs appear like a mild squabble, Abraham Lincoln never insisted the Second Amendment guaranteed only the right of states to form militias.

In fact he said on that day,

"I take the official oath to-day, with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws, by any hypercritical rules. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to, and abide by, all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional. ...

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it."

We do need change, a new birth of freedom, open government, and a renewal of America's promise. We've allowed presidents and senators, attorneys and lobbyists, corporations and other special interests, and Democrats and Republicans to render separation of powers provided for by the Constitution to be meaningless.

The failed economy, dwindling international stature, wars without end, mounting national debt, global trade imbalances, a weak currency--an imbalance of power between branches of government is behind all of it.

When servants of the people such as the president, attorney general or senators are impugn in misinterpreting or ignoring Constitutional safeguards, tyranny grows. Holder's nomination doesn't speak of change. It's still the imbalanced way executive appointments have been handled in Washington for at least the past century. Through the power of appointments, one man can cease being a servant to become a master.

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