"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."
This is the oath of office that every US president has been required by the Constitution to take upon entering office. President Bush has sworn to it twice. I publish it here to remind us all that it does NOT say "preserve, protect and defend the United States". That's what Bush seems to think he swore, and he uses that as a justification to ride roughshod over our Constitutional protections. He just leaves out the phrase "the Constitution of".
So what's lost when he forgets his primary responsibility?
- His obligation to respect and protect the power of Congress to make "Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" - like every enemy combatant in Gitmo, those held in secret prisons, and those held in the US.
- His obligation to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed". That would include the law prohibiting the government from spying on citizen's without a warrant. The laws against torture.
- His obligation to ensure that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States". We can debate whether or not there's a religious qualification for judicial nominees, but I doubt anyone would debate that there's a requirement for those working in his Community and Faith-Based Programs offices.
And I haven't even gotten to the bill of rights. There, we find that he's neglected the public's right to "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." He's forgotten that "No person... shall be ... compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." (By the way, that's No person not No citizen.) He's ignored Amendment VIII, which deals solely with the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Whenever I hear the president or his cohorts justify his actions because of his first priority to defend the United States, I think "no, that's not right." Because his first priority, as set out in the Constitution, is to protect the Constitution itself. That takes precedence over everything - even our lives. The founding fathers could have written an oath binding presidents to protect the United States. They didn't. As a conservative nominating "originalists" to the Supreme Court, Bush might apply the same principles and commit himself to the original intent of the founders. And defend the Constitution above all.