The President's Oath

A reader writes:

This president often mentions his oath but never talks about protecting the constitution. On the contrary, he regularly talks about his oath to protect the people, or to protect America. But it's possible to justify any number of tyrannies in the name of protecting the people.

The framers were aware of that danger and so wrote an oath of office that demands the constitution be protected, not the people. It would be much harder for a president to claim dictatorial powers in the name of protecting the constitution. "I had to destroy the constitution to save it" wouldn't fly. Or so you'd think. Yet Dubya has gotten away with it nearly unchallenged, as far as I can see. This slip by a functionary already has received much more attention than Dubya's frequent use of the same construction perhaps because any Senator or presidential candidate who dared say "The president's oath is not to protect the people, and in the name of a vow he never took he has deliberately violated the oath he did take, to protect the constitution" would be pilloried by the Bushies for "not understanding the threat" or having a "pre-9/11 mindset."

Maybe. But it needs to be said, loudly and often, by patriots of any political stripe.

I agree. It needs to be stated again and again that the fundamental job of the president is not to protect the people of America, but to protect their constitution. This president has gotten things exactly the wrong way round. In a terror war, we have to acclimatize ourselves to the fact that many Americans may have to die as a consequence of a collective decision not to become a police state or a presidential protectorate. A free country that remains free in the face of terror will necessarily have many casualties. A police state would have fewer casualties. Given a choice between a loss of life and retaining constitutional liberties, what would you pick? And what would the first Americans have picked?

We've slid a long way, haven't we?