The Oath of Office – Does it Really Count for Anything?

Again, Walter Williams hits the nail on the head. He may just be one of the most important conservative writers of my time, and I appreciate his style. This site is a primer for those interested in supporting a conservative platform. Not the Republican party platform, but a conservative platform. When it comes to the federal government, the oath taken by the president – as well as members of congress – defines in one sentence what they should be doing while inside the beltway.

That oath, in combination with the Constitution of the United States and amendments, provide detailed instructions for those in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. But when one takes an oath while witnesses wink and nod with the full understanding that it is a phony affirmation, how can anyone respect that leader?

In his newest piece, Political Loathsomeness, Williams reminds us about the president’s oath of office, and how it won’t mean a damn thing even though most of the population will think that he or she really means it.

Do any of the prospective nominees of either party deserve respect from the American people? The answer partially depends on your knowledge, values and respect for the U.S Constitution.

When either Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain take office, they are going to place their hand on the Bible and take the oath, “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.”

It will be a phony affirmation, but what’s worse is that the chief justice of the United States, who administers the oath, and the average American will believe the new president.

Stunningly simple observation. Have those who have taken the oath not enough integrity to abide by that oath or are they so ignorant that they don’t understand the Constitution? Williams continues…

Most of what Congress is constitutionally authorized to spend for is listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and includes: coining money, establish Post Offices, to support Armies and a few other activities. Today’s federal budget is over $3 trillion dollars. I challenge anyone to find specific constitutional authority for at least $2 trillion of it. That includes Social Security, Medicare, farm and business handouts, education, prescription drugs and a host of other federal expenditures. Americans who have become accustomed to living at the expense of another American would not want Congress to obey the Constitution, especially if it left out their favorite handout.

No kidding! The Cato Handbook for Congress for the 105th Congress provides the following guidelines in Chapter 16.

Congress should

  • before passing any law, ask whether the Constitution grants Congress the power to pass the law;
  • if so, ask further whether the proposed law violates the enumerated or unenumerated rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights or unreasonably intrudes into individual, family, and community decisionmaking; and
  • begin to repeal existing laws that infringe on the liberties of Americans.

How beautiful. Of course, Congress won’t agree to that since they are so high on power these days, but there is one congressman from Arizona, John Shadegg from the 3rd district, who has been bringing the Enumerated Powers Act up to congress year after year.

The Enumerated Powers Act would simply require that Congress define the authority they have to pass a law. Here’s the text of the bill in it’s current form and here’s some comments from Shadegg’s web site.

The Enumerated Powers Act, H.R. 2458, requires that all bills introduced in the U.S. Congress include a statement setting forth the specific constitutional authority under which the law is being enacted. This measure will force a continual re-examination of the role of the national government, and will fundamentally alter the ever-expanding reach of the federal government.

For too long, the federal government has operated without constitutional restraint. In doing so, it has created ineffective and costly programs, massive deficits year after year, and a national debt totaling nearly $7 trillion. The Enumerated Powers Act will help slow the flood of unconstitutional legislation and force Congress to reexamine the proper role of the federal government.

For these reasons, every Congress since the 104th Congress I have introduced the Enumerated Powers Act (H.R. 2270 – 104th, H.R. 292 – 105th, H.R. 1018 – 106th, H.R. 175 — 107th, H.R. 384 — 108th). At the beginning of the 105th Congress, the House of Representatives took an important first step by incorporating the substantive requirement of the Enumerated Powers Act into the House rules.

Today, the House must cite the constitutional authority for each bill in report language accompanying the legislation. However, the full effect of the Enumerated Powers Act will not be realized until it is incorporated into actual law. Our Founding Fathers believed that granting only specific legislative power to the national government would be a powerful mechanism for protecting our freedoms, while allowing us to achieve the objectives best accomplished through a national government.

Congress should honor and abide by the principles embodied in the Constitution – no more, no less. Respecting the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not granted to the national government to the states, or the people, will ensure that the Constitution continues to truly guide our nation.

If the oath these politicians take means anything to us, I would prefer we hold them accountable to it. But as William’s noted, if we’re not going to hold them to it, might as well ditch it and replace it with: I accept the office of president.