Constitution Day 2008

On this day in 1787, our founding fathers signed the Constitution, making us a nation of laws, not of men. The basic concepts of justice, liberty, and inherent human rights outlined in that founding document, are at the very foundation of our strength as a nation.

But 221 years later, the United States is facing one of the darkest chapters in its Constitutional history. The Bush administration has treated the Constitution and rule of law with disrespect unparalleled in our nation's history. The list of this administration's assaults on the Constitution is breathtaking: it includes the warrantless wiretapping program, its interrogation policy and justifications for the use of torture, its extreme positions on the legal status of detainees that have been repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court, and its refusal to recognize and cooperate with Congress' constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight. This is a shameful legacy that must be undone in the years to come.

On Constitution Day, we should also recognize that supporting the rule of law here at home can help to strengthen democratic institutions around the world that are critical to peace and stability — and, in turn, to our own national security. Right now, countries like Pakistan and Zimbabwe are grappling with their own constitutional crises. But we cannot be a credible example for nations like these if we allow our own Constitution to erode. The disparity between our words and our actions undermines our ability to defend the rights and freedoms of peoples around the world.

Our next president will face a difficult challenge. He must repair the wreckage the current administration has left, which means renouncing some of the powers the current President tried to amass as he turned a blind eye to the rule of law and separation of powers. No president will want to limit his own power. But if we are to be the nation our founders envisioned when they gathered in Philadelphia more than two centuries ago, we must work together — across party lines and at all levels of government — to protect and defend our Constitution and restore the rule of law.

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Brett Bellmore

But if the ACLU really thought we were a nation of laws, not men, it would admit that sometimes the laws are not to it's liking, (Such as the Bill of Rights guaranteeing a civil liberty the ACLU disapproves of.) but still the law. Rather than abrogating to itself, per the Strossen doctrine, the right to declare what is and isn't a civil liberty, utterly disconnnected from what the Constitution might actually say.

"The ACLU Board of Directors" day might not have the same ring, but until you face reality on Heller, it's all you're really celebrating.


At least SOME people are still talking about this sort of stuff:
(podcast link)

"Re-balancing" the system is not going to be easy!


Um, we were a nation of laws before the Constitution -- ever heard of the Articles of Confederation?

And of course the Constitution did not take effect until it was ratified by the requisite number of state legislatures (June 21, 1788).

And while we're on the subject, the second to last person in America who has any standing to celebrate the Constitution is Russ Feingold, co-conspirator in Congress' war on the First Amendment. (The last person is of course his accomplice, Senator "so-called First Amendment rights" McCain.)

Keep selling your soul, ACLU. Keep selling your soul.


Thank you for your tireless service to the country, Senator. I really mean that.

Senator, there are currently approaching 40,000 persons under U.S. military direct or indirect control: 21,000 by the Pentagon's own estimates in Iraq, and between 10,000+ (ICRC) and 15,000 (human rights groups estimates) in Afghanistan. The conditions for many, especially in Afghanistan, are horrible, and the treatment abusive, amounting to torture in some places. It is still unclear whether the key Supreme Court decisions you cite apply to these people, since they were mostly narrowly focused on Guantanamo.

These people will continue to languish, damage will continue to occur to their psyches and their bodies, while the months go by until the next president comes in to fix everything. If he does. NO attention has been paid to their plight in any presidential campaign or debate, and the next president may very well wash his hands of everything after GITMO is closed.

As long as those prisons are in existence, as long as prisoners from the fragile democracies you named, Pakistan, for instance, are kept incommunicado in violation of international law, as long as we never see an Article 5 hearing or a whiff of due process anywhere beyond our borders for prisoners under our control,

No one is going to look to us as a model of the rule of law.

Please plead with your colleagues in the Senate to do something sooner than January.

Timothy Rieger

Dear Senator Feingold,

You are right to say that the "United States is facing one of the darkest chapters in its Constitutional history."

Yet given that this indeed very dark chapter in our Constitutional history, particularly with respect to the Fourth Amendment, has been ushered in by your duly elected congressional colleagues - including Senator Obama - should that not suggest that the status quo strategy to stem executive branch abuses has failed? And miserably so?

I believe the strategy has failed, and I believe it is time for the civil liberties community to stop playing defense on these attempts to establish a tyrannical executive branch, and start playing offense instead.

The only real way to stave off this descent into executive branch tyranny is to modernize and expand our checks on the mammoth executive branch, and to specifically expand the impeachment principle to encompass all unconfirmed employees of the executive branch who are in a position to act with malice toward the citizenry, or to otherwise improperly influence the political life of the nation.

The Fourth Amendment is in a state of crisis, and it is a crisis that must be remedied on the constitutional level -- not more meek legislative maneuvers of members of Congress who can't even admit to their constituents (not you, Senator) that the Fourth Amendment has been utterly slapped in the face.

I propose a constitutional amendment that would allow all U.S. citizens to petition for permanent removal of any unconfirmed executive branch employees engaging in malicious or politically motivated conduct. Congress should introduce this amendment that would place clear parameters on the definition of "civil officers of the United States" in Article II, Section Four. Under the amendment, only those who have been confirmed by the Senate would be conferred with the title of "civil officer," and therefore subject to the status quo impeachment process. All other unconfirmed government employees would henceforth be constitutionally designated as "civil servants." This amendment would allow Congress to establish a special court -- like the FISC albeit open and adversarial -- that would give this panel of federal judges removal authority over all unconfirmed government employees. Should this special court, operating under rules established by Congress and upon petition by the citizens themselves, determine that any unconfirmed government employee used their position for malicious or politically motivated purposes, it would have the authority to immediately yank that individual from service in the U.S. government.

This security versus civil liberties debate has grown stale. We all want good faith government officials to fight crime, espionage and terrorism within the bounds of the laws established by Congress. But we also know that we have a history in this country, including recent history, of government officials who do not operate in good faith, and who are not interested in fighting just fights, but solely interested in their own raw power and dominance over others -- and have a willingness to ruin people's lives in pursuit of that power and dominance. That's the issue at hand, and providing the citizenry with the constitutional means to remove such bad actors from government is the task at hand.

Senator, I have great respect for your dogged defense of our Constitution. But when your own candidate for president, Senator Obama, has shown his willingness to weaken the Fourth Amendment with no meaningful measures to offset the blow, it is time to face reality and to turn a new page on this discourse. It is time for the civil liberties community, and the citizenry as a whole, to stop playing victim to events beyond our control, and put the power back in the hands of the people.

We do indeed have a Bill of Rights in this country, and a fundamental right to be employed by the U.S. government is not one of them. Before we watch this nation descend further into executive branch tyranny, let us bear that fact in mind and respond accordingly.

If we don’t, I believe we will have even less to celebrate come next Constitution Day.

Timothy Rieger

Bob Soper

Thank you, Senator Feingold for being one of the last remaining fighters (in the US Senate) for what's left of our constitutional freedoms.
Those who heap scorn upon your efforts (and those of the ACLU) are blind to the tide of tyranny which is slowly drowning our republic.

Daniel Jacobs

Dear Hon. Senator Feingold,

When the smoke from the explosion of President Bush's Administration clears, this year, we will see the destruction of our basic rights, reputation, and worth. Has there ever been so many horrific events in one man's watch? That he has trampled the United States Constitution is now history. What is critical is what we are willing to DO now to stop, condem, and repair the damage. Why can't we act after 9-11, Enron, CIA Betrayal, Iraq, three hurricane missmanagements, and now the economic collapse? Will this be another fixed, Madison Avenue election, so the corporations can have time to hide their booty in international banks? I can't believe I'm writing this paranoid sounding letter, but the entire congress and legal system defies anything I could have dreamed of. I'm with the previous writer Tim Rieger, he's right on.


To KipEsquire:

Since when does financial wherewithal equate to the First Amendment? The ability to buy speech is not nor should it be any condition by which free speech should be predicated upon. If I had money to tell people through advertising that McCain is a liar and Obama is a neophyte would it be right to blitz the airwaves with such ads? Does it matter if money is a key factor in how political campaigns are distorted to the financial benefit of the broadcasters?

I would answer that the First Amendment should not be distorted by individuals or entities that have vast sums of money to "buy" an election.

It is time for those that have made untold billions off the public commons of the radio/television spectrum to come to a real understanding of their civic obligations in a democratic society of presenting accurate information in order to maintain an informed citizenry.

Democracy should not be distorted by those who are Midas.

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