Saturday, December 17, 2005

“It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

This morning, I was visiting Poobah’s Omnipotent Blog and he had, once again, a well written post with links to good articles for my morning wake-up call. One article caught my attention specifically as I have been thinking about last Thursday’s mornings released information that the NSA was monitoring communications from Americans who contact folks internationally. I have also been afraid that the Patriot Act would be passed again without discussion or debate. The article by Doug Thompson titled “Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'” stated that several people, while in a meeting with Prez Bush, heard the president calling the constitution a “Goddamned piece of Paper,” when he was challenged on the constitutional legalness of his extension of presidential powers and the validness of the Patriot Act:
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
*silence* . . . *sigh* Thompson also quoted Justice Scalia as saying:
“'Oh, how I hate the phrase we have—a 'living document,’ Scalia says. ‘We now have a Constitution that means whatever we want it to mean. The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's sake. . . I don't have to prove that the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that it's better than anything else.’ Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the Constitution comes from a loss of rights. ‘We can take away rights just as we can grant new ones,” Scalia warns. “Don't think that it's a one-way street.’”
I want to be surprised by these declarations, I really do, because to be surprised would mean that I viewed these statements and actions as rare and unexpected. I am not surprised but the alarm has, once again, been raised. This “goddamn piece of paper,” as G.W. so aptly puts it, no longer, to Bush and several of his supporters, seems to hold as much weight as, let’s say, my grocery list. It has become nothing more than a loose outline that can be manipulated and reformed to represent whatever those in power wishes it to. Was that, I ask you dear reader, the intent and purpose of our Constitution? I agree that with time, all ruling documents must, to some degree, evolve with society. After all, we did not have the internet or cars or half the technology today that existed back when the Constitution was drafted. With these new forms of technology come new questions. The same can be said for changing social and cultural values. For example, widespread access to education did not exist then as it does now. Evolving interpretation becomes vital. But to look at this document as if it was a piece of playdo that can be reconstituted and reformed at our leisure and with a whim is dangerous. Almost as if he is deeming himself as a new prophet, G.W. Bush wishes to rewrite our American “Bible,” our Constitution, to reflect his own personal vision of America. Yes, we are at war. And yes we are in a new and dangerous era. But his insistence on reforming this “Goddamn piece of paper” not only deals with questions of war but also questions of privacy, personal life choices and basic American ideas which, I personally, had come to appreciate. So far, Bush has proposed seven constitutional amendments to the constitution. When you consider that the constitution has only be amended 27 times since it inception, this occurrence becomes alarming. Cass R. Sunstein from the Los Angeles Times in a February 26, 2004 commentary “President Versus Precedent Bush's reckless bid for an amendment defies an Oval Office tradition,” offers readers a nice and well written overview of the constitutional changes historically enacted. These changes have normally been enacted to expand freedoms and rights or to “fix structural problems.” What Bush has repeated proposed are changes that would limit rights and freedoms, using, if you will, that “goddamn piece of paper.” When all is said and done, I think we should just remind ourselves, and thereby re-warn ourselves, of G.W. Bush’s mindset—how much of “the joke,” one wonders, is really a joke: GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I told all four that there were going to be some times where we don't agree with each other. But that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator. – CNN Transcript 12/18, 2000

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