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Burning the Constitution

September 19, 2002

President Bush’s apologists hail him for bringing “moral clarity” to the subject of terrorism. I hadn’t really noticed much moral ambiguity about 9/11; most people seemed to think it was pretty awful even before Bush said so. My own impression was that, in the time-honored fashion of political “leaders,” he condemned terrorism unequivocally only because there was virtually no dissent. We can all talk tough when everyone agrees with us.

Moreover, it sounds odd to use the words Bush and clarity in the same sentence. His normal manner is one of confusion. Gerald Ford can now enjoy his golden years in the assurance that his record for presidential befuddlement has been shattered.

Bush doesn’t speak much English. He relies heavily on the syntax-saving device of about. This isn’t “about” weapons inspection. It’s “about” disarmament. That’s what America is all “about.” And so on. About can spare you the mental effort of constructing precise sentences. It’s the next thing to a grunt. No wonder cartoonists tend to make Bush look simian.

Bush has sworn to uphold a Constitution he hasn’t taken the trouble to read. He has lawyers to read it for him and tell him what he wants it to mean. It always turns out to mean that he is entitled to have his way. Since Lincoln, many presidents have discovered that the Constitution is a charter for one-man rule. Bush stands in what is by now a long tradition.

Fortunately for him, few members of Congress read the Constitution either. Otherwise he might be facing impeachment for usurping Congress’s prerogative of committing the United States to war. Instead, we are hearing that Congress must “unite behind the president.” The Founding Fathers would choke at such talk.

All presidents, not just the really horny ones, should have to think about impeachment. It was meant to be a readily available method of removing public officials for misconduct, and not a rare and traumatic remedy akin to beheading a monarch. Considering how many criminal presidents we have had, the very infrequency of impeachment represents a grave failure of the American system. For one thing, it might have spared us a ghastly civil war. It might also have saved the Constitution.

[Breaker quote: It's about empire.]True, a few voices argue that Bush should get Congress’s “support” before launching his war; but this is only a feeble, vestigial gesture toward constitutionality. Everyone understands that it’s going to be his war; nobody suggests that he should be penalized for waging it without Congress’s approval, let alone that declaring war is properly a congressional, not a presidential, initiative.

Anyone who insists on observing the Constitution as written is apt to be accused of living in the past or trying to turn back the clock. But what is the alternative to keeping faith with America’s founding document? I can think of only one: honest repudiation.

Writing in The Guardian, a British newspaper, Jonathan Freedland draws remarkable parallels between the Roman Empire and the American Empire. Of course Americans think of their country as a democracy, and the term empire offends their self-image. But maybe it’s time to come to terms with reality and square language with practice. America does have an empire, complete with a Caesar.

Even some pro-war neoconservatives (if the phrase isn’t redundant) are starting to speak of empire approvingly. What about their claim that Israel “shares our democratic values”? That presents no real problem; it would be more accurate to say that Israel shares our imperialistic values.

Accordingly, Bush should make it official. He should formally declare that the United States is now an empire. This declaration should be accompanied by a ceremonial burning of the U.S. Constitution. It is no longer needed or observed, and its only provisions that are still honored are those that have to do with scheduling elections. Its limitations on the Federal Government are null and void.

Burning the Constitution would indeed restore clarity to our public life. Better an honest empire than a bogus democracy (or, in the quaint language of our ancestors, republic). It would relieve us of intolerable and confusing double-talk, and might even help Bush himself understand what he is doing. Empire, he might say, is what our country is all about.

Joseph Sobran

Joe Sobran's Biography.


When honest people who hold strong opinions come together, it is natural that they state their opinions, and that those opinions occasionally clash. The articles that you see on this website represent the opinion of the writers, and are not the official opinion of this party. To see the official party position on any question, the reader is referred to the Party Platform.

Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name of our site, the author,and our URL. All CP Texas reports, and all editorials are property of The Constitution Party of Texas 2002 (unless otherwise noted).

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