It didn’t take long for the Obama presidency to fail to live up to its promise. As our writer Jim noted earlier this year, Barack Obama promised that if he were elected he would restore the constitutional rights that have been degraded under George W. Bush. Of course, that was early in 2008, before Barack Obama tacked to the right, before the Democratic Convention systematically censored comments about restoring constitutional rights, before Senator Obama voted for the FISA Amendments Act.
Oh, but that was all just to help get Obama elected President, said his supporters. Obama was a professor in constitutional law, they said. Surely, once he’s elected, he’ll get to work at restoring the Constitution.
Well, Barack Obama has now been elected. He doesn’t have to worry about voters not supporting him any more. So, what’s Obama doing about restoring our Constitution?
Obama isn’t doing jack.
The Obama team has already set up a special government web site for the transition leading up to Inauguration Day. Prominent on that web site is what’s called The Agenda:
“President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden have developed innovative approaches to challenge the status quo in Washington and to bring about the kind of change America needs.
The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed agenda to carry out its policies. The principal priorities of the Obama Administration include: a plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence, to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan, and to work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other domestic and foreign policy objectives.”
Comprehensive? Is this agenda comprehensive?
I don’t see thing one about protecting, upholding and restoring the Constitution in this agenda. That’s a glaring omission, given what the Constitution itself has to say about the role of the President. The Constitution establishes the Oath of Office for the President as follows: “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.”
There’s nothing about education, or Social Security, or fighting in Iraq in the Oath of Office. The Oath of Office establishes the protection and defense of the Constitution as the core of the President’s job.
Barack Obama isn’t preparing to do that job.
Now, Obama’s defenders may say that the time isn’t right yet. Just like they said before that the Constitution needed to be put on the back burner so that Obama could be elected, now they’re saying that Obama needs to consolidate his power, and make sure that he gets off to a strong start, and so the restoration of constitutional rights will need to be delayed for awhile, until Obama gets firmly established as President.
Firmly established as President? How long will that take? A year? Two years? By that time, it will already by time for Obama to start preparing his re-election campaign, and Obama’s defenders will have their new excuse: Barack Obama will restore our constitutional rights eventually, but first we need to get him a second term in office. They’ll say that Obama will need to make compromises to build a political coalition and to get re-elected, but once 2013 comes around, then we’ll see the reforms to the Constitution that were promised so long ago.
Whatever happened to the power of now? The fierce urgency of now?
We’ve been waiting for almost an entire decade for Democrats to stand up on the Constitution, and if President Barack Obama with his strongly Democratic Congress can’t get the job done now, they will never get the job done.
So, go to that Change.Gov web site, and tell them your story. Let the Obama transition team know what you think them shoving the restoration of Constitutional rights off to the side for the sake of political convenience. Tell them another story too – a story about what you’ll do as a citizen activist to keep the pressure on until President Obama fulfills the Oath of Office, and preserves, protects and defends the Constitution from the rot of Executive authoritarianism.