Thoughts on July 4th: Our Incredible Shrinking Constitution
Today is the anniversary of the day that the nation’s founders, gathered in Philadelphia a few miles from my house (which as it happens had already been standing for about 28 years old at the time), at great personal risk, signed the Declaration of Independence, with its ringing declaration that all men--Americans and everyone else, too--are born equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Five years ago at this time, I was just starting my road trip promoting my book, The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), which documents the wholesale assault, by then President George W. Bush, and his chief consigliere, Vice President Dick Cheney, on those bold concepts and on the subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights which those same founders set up as the guiding principles of this nation.
I never imagined as I wrote that book, and as I traveled the country making its case that these two wretched men were criminals and constitution-wreckers, that I would later be witness to a perhaps even more dangerous threat to what remains of our national heritage. But here we are, more than half-way through the first (and hopefully last) term of President Barack Obama, and we are witnessing not only a continuation of the crimes of those last two villains, not only a wholesale blocking of efforts to bring those two criminals and their accomplices to justice, but a continuation, by the man who succeeded them, of the destruction of our once relatively free society.
During the Bush/Cheney years, I was speaking once about the case for impeachment at a gathering in southern New Jersey. At the end of my presentation, an elderly woman with a walker stood up and asked what we could do to make impeachment happen. I told her people needed, en masse, to flood their Congressional representatives with phone calls and letters demanding that they file articles of impeachment and authorize the House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment hearings.
She then said, “I’m afraid to do that. Won’t my name end up on some list then and make me subject to harassment and investigation?”
At the time, I told her such talk was nonsense--especially if many like-minded citizens took the same kind of action. I told her that as bad as things were, we were not a totalitarian society, and that the best protection against such a thing was for us all to exercise our First Amendment rights.
While I still think it is important for us all to stand up for and to use those enumerated rights -- the rights of freedom of speech, of freedom of assembly, and of course the right to petition the government over grievances -- I could no longer honestly tell that woman that she had nothing to fear.