Dang! It slipped my mind that yesterday was Constitution Day! I was hoping to plan some festivities and make a big thing out if it. Jim Bovard offered three great suggestions for how to celebrate such a day in “this Age of Bush” (I’ll try to remember these for next year):
- Wiretap your neighbor. If he discovers it and complains, ask him whose side he is on and what does he have to hide. Send the tapes of all conversations to the local FBI.
- Capture and torture an illegal immigrant. If he confesses, turn him in. If he doesn’t confess, try new methods to extract the truth.
- Notify your mortgage company that you appended a secret “signing statement” when you signed the mortgage. Thus, you are relieved of any duty to continue monthly payments.
After all, it’s “just a goddamned piece of paper“, right?
39 comments so far. Care to chime in?
#1 Rad Geek | September 19th, 2006 2:33 AM
Well, yes, it is, actually.
Which is why George W. Bush has no legitimate authority over anyone.
“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” — Lysander Spooner (1870)
And that’s why I celebrate every September 17th by ignoring the Constitution.
#2 steven | September 19th, 2006 4:02 PM
Connor, you live in the finest nation on the planet. For the most part you live a life that most people on earth can only dream about. Your standard of living is in the top 1% of all people who have ever lived. Now this nation is not perfect but it’s pretty damn good living here. I think you doth protest too much.
I am fully aware about the blessing I have of living in this country. That’s not what this issue is about. This is about upholding and protecting our constitution. We have been counseled to do so not only by prophets but God himself.
#4 Dustin Davis | September 19th, 2006 4:28 PM
Our standard of living may be in the top 1% of all the people who ever lived on the Earth, but are we the happiest to have ever lived on the Earth? I doubt it.
#5 fontor | September 19th, 2006 7:59 PM
Connor, you got it right. The Constitution is a document that has held this country together.
Bush, though sworn to uphold the Constitution, has done nothing but undermine it (and the rule of law) throughout his presidency.
Careful though — by criticising Bush, you seem to have attracted the ire of the very worst segment of the American population.
#6 Kelly Winterton | September 20th, 2006 2:31 PM
It might have been the best country at one time. Not any more. Let’s all repent and reverse the trend we have been on in this country. JS said the Constitution will hang by a thread. It is doing so now. If you want proof, just look at what Bush has done to it lately (and Gonzales, Cheney, Ashcroft, etc.)
#7 Dustin Davis | September 20th, 2006 3:45 PM
I’m still not convinced Bush is all that bad. Even if all your conspiracy theories are true, I look at him as more of a pawn for the secret combinations behind it all. I feel he is trying the best he knows how, but the situation is too big for him.
#8 Curtis | September 20th, 2006 4:31 PM
Dustin, I think you are on the right track. The President is usually just a figure-head I think, in order to put a pretty face on the policy of the powerful elite. Reagan was a great example of that.
I get the feeling that Bush is sort of kept in the dark about many things and that those who are really running the government are those affectionately referred to as the, “crazies,” by people in the CIA.
#9 Rad Geek | September 20th, 2006 11:57 PM
fontor: “The Constitution is a document that has held this country together.”
I seem to recall some minor unpleasantness in which the Constitution failed to hold the country together. And the reasons that the country came to be “held together” again at the end of it had a lot more to do with bayonet-points, cannon, and warships than it had to do with the paper Constitution.
In any case, I do not see why it should be presumed that holding the country together is a valuable service to begin with. If the compromises necessary to maintain the union under the terms of the Constitution result in complicity with overt wickedness — as they certainly did for the eight decades before the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, and as they arguably do now, given the federal government’s ever-growing ambition and abusiveness — then the Constitution and the union based on it are nothing more than a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell.
#10 Wade | September 21st, 2006 5:51 PM
Your citation to Bush’s alleged statement about the Constitution is bogus! It’s irresponsible to perpetrate unsubstantiated hearsay.
Also, I’m sick of people repeating the claim about the Constitution “hanging by a thread”. There is nothing outside of hearsay evidence to prove Joseph EVER made that comment. Yet, people love to quote him as having said it. It’s a sign of ignorance; similar to citations to other modern forms of hearsay.
Whether or not Bush actually said such a thing, his actions sure do show that he agrees with the statement…
For some background as to who said what re: the “hanging by a thread” quote, read this. Whether or not Joseph said it in those exact words is irrelavant. We should concern ourselves with the principle being conveyed, by him and successive prophets, regarding the future of the Constitution and this nation.
#12 Wade | September 22nd, 2006 12:36 AM
That you acknowledge Bush may or may not have said such a “thing” and yet affirmatively publish on your blog that he did say it is irresponsible and makes your argument against him appear weak and completely disingenuous. If you’re willing to cite double hearsay as fact, why should anyone listen to you?
For the record, I don’t like President Bush as an individual and I disagree with many of his positions. However, your claims about his “actions” revealing a wanton disregard for the Constitution are simply not true.
It may be that you don’t like Bush’s stance in many respects, but that is not to say he is violating the Constitution. It is very likely the only Constitution his actions violate is one that exists in your head and not the one ratified in 1789.
Finally, those who attribute the “hanging by a thread” quote to Joseph Smith and not to Brigham Young are propagating another falsehood. It isn’t irrelevant that Joseph did not say those exact words because words are all we have to convey what he may or may not have said. If he didn’t say it, he didn’t say it–Period. It is simply a logical fallacy to continue repeating that he said something he did not say; it’s a false appeal to authority. That is exactly what people are doing when they attribute those words to him. It undermines their credibility because they are willing to repeat something that is NOT true–similar to asserting double hearsay as fact! ;)
#13 fontor | September 22nd, 2006 8:01 AM
Wade’s got it right on the bogus ‘thread’ quote — it comes from the White Horse prophecy, IIRC.
Rather than ask if Bush has violated the Constitution, consider this: Bush is arguing that the President gets to break laws if he thinks he needs to. Not amend them — ignore them. If this is the case, then tear up the Constitution entirely. This is completely antithetical to the rule of law. It’s another imperial presidency.
Isn’t there something in the Book of Mormon about there being no more kings? Well, you’ve got one now.
(Unless the Book of Mormon took place in a few square kilometers in Guatemala, and the promise is specific to that area. But I digress.)
#14 Dustin Davis | September 22nd, 2006 10:19 AM
I doubt a modern prophet would quote Joseph Smith if he did not really say it. I believe Joseph Smith made that prophesy.
Hold up before these students the prophetic statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith–that if and when this inspired Constitution should hang as by a thread, that here well-qualified defenders of the faith of our fathers, elders of this Church, would be prepared to step forth and save the Constitution from destruction.
Reference: Preston Nibley, “What of Joseph Smith’s Prophecy That the Constitution Would Hang by a Thread?” Church News, published by Deseret News, December 15, 1948.
Please don’t presume to be wiser than a prophet.
#15 Wade | September 22nd, 2006 10:34 AM
Bush is arguing that the President gets to break laws if he thinks he needs to. Not amend them — ignore them. If this is the case, then tear up the Constitution entirely.
You need to cite an example here.
Also, by the extent of your logic the Constitution would have been destroyed (“torn up”) way back in 1861 when Abraham Lincoln ignored numerous laws during his presidency. Incidentally, his actions were Constitutional–and I suggest you do some reading about Presidential authority under Article II before suggesting we might as well “tear up” the Constitution because of Bush’s approach.
#16 fontor | September 22nd, 2006 11:10 PM
Bush ain’t Lincoln.
Lincoln had to choose between obeying the letter of the Constitution and losing the country it was intended to protect. In hindsight, his choice worked out well, but he pushed presidential power to the very limit, and it seems that he agonised over it.
(Really good article here.)
Compare that to Bush, who is doing something very different. This is a so-called ‘war on terror’ that has no definable end, where Mr Bush gets to do anything he wants and Congress be damned.
So, Wade, is it okay with you if Mr Bush breaks the law of the land for any reason he sees fit? Are you willing to give him that power when he’s been wrong so many times before and has shown so very little restraint or reflection?
#17 Wade | September 23rd, 2006 10:18 AM
when he’s been wrong so many times before and has shown so very little restraint or reflection?
You still haven’t given even one example of what you’re talking about! Give me some substance to work with and maybe I will be able to answer your question.
Also, I think you don’t understand the general construct of the Constitution in regard to what you call the “limit[s]” of presidential power! Your notions of “presidential power” are absurd (especially in a vacuum where you allege abstract abuses of it); absurd because the limits of the power are NOT defined! Article II states: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” That’s it!
Now, I suggest you read up on the separation of powers and then make a more informed judgment about the “limits” of presidential power. [Hint] look into something called “standing” and its relation to blurring of the lines between powers exercised by the separate branches.
Bush ain’t Lincoln.
Good point. But it sounds to me like you would have hated Lincoln in his day (half the country did, much like half hates Bush today). Lincoln was a maverick and disregarded the alleged limits of the Constitution to do what he (as an individual) thought best for the security and endurance of the country. The South hated him so much for it they sought to assasinate him numerous times–they thought they were on legitimate grounds and probably would have said: “Lincoln ain’t Washington”. So, I don’t think this discussion has very much at all to do with your personal beliefs about presidential power (indeed, you have refused to even define what that is). Rather, I think it’s about your personal dislike for the war on terrorism and Bush’s style in fighting it. I draw the analogy to Lincoln because it fits perfectly!
I can’t wait until the Democrats take over both Houses and the Presidency in the next couple of years because I’m extrememly interested to see their reactions to the problems we are finally waking up to in regard to Islamo-fascism. Moreover, I can hardly wait to see the reaction of people like you when either the Dems are called hypocrites for alleged “abuses” of power, or they become isolationsts and we get hit again. I suspect you will blame the powers that be for not doing “enough”.
Wade, regarding Article II, that’s not it. Section 2 states that the POTUS “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties”. So what, then, is he doing creating treaties without Congress knowing?
As Congressman Ron Paul said about the SPP, “Congressional oversight of what might be one of the most significant developments in recent history is non-existent. Congress has had no role at all in a ‘dialogue’ that many see as a plan for a North American union.”
…and let’s not forget Bush’s use of signing statements…
#19 Wade | September 24th, 2006 1:54 AM
It’s nice to see someone is reading the Constitution. However, I was speaking in terms of the limits of power; the treaty power is a grant of power and is shared with Congress, so I suppose there is a quasi-limit there. But this shared power does not define limits to the “Presidential Power” in general (which is what I was driving at before). We run into a problem with the treaty power anyway, i.e. the definition is elusive and not defined in the document. And sorry to burst your bubble, but according to current precedent, the SPP is NOT a treaty.
Your concern over signing statements originates in your view of the separation of powers. It seems to me that you think the branches “share” enforcement power, but I view the branches as separate and distinct powers serving as checks on each other. Congress can only make the law; it then must turn it over to the President who enforces it. Article II Section 3 states in part: the President “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed. . . .” Before he executes, he must first interpret (he can’t wait around for 8 years and be told what it means). This is where your concern about signing statements arises; but a clear understanding of originalist executive power would make it clear that he is only doing his job! Again, you may not like it, but it doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional. If his interpretation and enforcement violate the Supremacy Clause, then someone still has to challenge it (this is the doctrine of standing). If challenged, the Supreme Court settles the score.
If you had your way, the President would be a puppet for Congress! This is what current activists want, but it is fundamentally opposed to the original meaning of the Constitution!
I will quote from the Father of the Constitution himself, James Madison said:
“[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. . . . As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.” (Federalist No. 51, pp. 321-323.)
The fortification Madison spoke of was the President’s veto power and his power to enforce the laws according to his interpretation. On the other hand, the Legislature’s check on presidential power is veto override (with 2/3 vote) and impeachment. The Judiciary’s check is invalidation of the President’s interpretation and/or manner of enforcement. But overall, the biggest check on Presidential power is his accountability to the people every four years! Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the originalist nature and necessity of a unitary presidential power. Your mischaracterization of the SPP as a treaty and your concerns about signing statements reflect this misunderstanding.
I can’t wait for the Presidential power to shift parties in a couple years. I’m fairly confident one of two things will happen; it won’t be pretty either way. I wait with baited breath! :)
#20 Wade | September 24th, 2006 2:13 AM
One more thing: you might be interested to note that Alexander Hamilton (I’m sure you’re aware of his high regard for the Constitution) said the following about his concern that the Executive never become a puppet for the Legislature:
“The propensity of the legislative department to intrude upon the rights, and to absorb the powers, of the other departments, has been already suggested and repeated; the insufficiency of a mere parchment delineation of the boundaries of each, has also been remarked upon; and the necessity of furnishing each with constitutional arms for its own defense, has been inferred and proved.” (Federalist # 73)
Did you catch his reference to the INSUFFICIENCY OF MERE PARCHMENT? Wow, sounds like he was talking about the Constitution as being just a piece of paper too. :) Just thought you’d enjoy that.
I recommend reading Number 73 all the way through (but I also recommend all 85 of them)!
#21 Curtis | September 24th, 2006 4:22 PM
Here is a quote from Mosiah Hancock, recalling directly what Joseph Smith told him a few days before the martyrdom. Take it as you like:
There will be two great political parties in this country. One will be called the Republican, and the other the Democrat party. These two parties will go to war and out of these two parties will spring another party which will be the Independent American Party. The United States will spend her strength and means warring in foreign lands until other nations will say, “Let’s divide up the lands of the United States”, then the people of the U. S. will unite and swear by the blood of their fore-fathers, that the land shall not be divided. Then the country will go to war, and they will fight until one half of the U. S. army will give up, and the rest will continue to struggle. They will keep on until they are very ragged and discouraged, and almost ready to give up–when the boys from the mountains will rush forth in time to save the American Army from defeat and ruin. And they will say, ‘Brethren, we are glad you have come; give us men, henceforth, who can talk with God’. Then you will have friends, but you will save the country when it’s liberty hangs by a hair, as it were”.
#23 Wade | September 24th, 2006 10:39 PM
That’s an interesting quote, hadn’t heard it before. Is there any way to corroborate it, or vouch for its authenticity?
#24 Curtis | September 25th, 2006 12:31 AM
Well, it’s part of Mosiah Hancock’s official autobiography and it’s available on the internet. Hancock was quite a character. He heard Joseph Smith say this in his Father’s shop I believe it was, around June 18, just a few days before the martyrdom, when Mosiah was only 10 years old. He recalls the words of Joseph in his autobiography and writes them down in his old age. I don’t know if he had written them down at the time he heard them. It would lend a bit more credibility to their authenticity if I knew he had written them down at the time they were spoken. If, however, he had written them 50 years after hearing them as a child, there may be some errors there. He was called to the first quorum of the Seventy and served honorably as a general authority, so his word should be good for something
Like several other quotes by Joseph Smith, this was recorded in somebody’s journal who heard Joseph say it. In this case, it was Mosiah Hancock – his autobiography/journal is in BYU Collections and has been transcribed here.
#26 Wade | September 25th, 2006 9:48 AM
While it is an interesting quote, I wouldn’t ascribe it to the prophet. Hancock was 9 years old when he heard what he thought was Joseph saying that–I wonder when he actually wrote it down? Also, his journal talks about him chopping wood when he was Two-Years Old!!! That’s a stretch!
#27 Dustin Davis | September 25th, 2006 10:59 AM
You’re right Wade. 9 years old is much too young to remember anything important. I’m sure Mormon was a bit forgetful too when Ammaron gave him counsel at the age of 10 :P I don’t even know how that made it in the “most correct of any book.” ;)
#28 Wade | September 25th, 2006 11:51 AM
Nice try. But a general recollection of major events and the location of the hill Shim in Antum is a foolish thing to compare to precise language and wording of an alleged statement made by Joseph Smith concerning political parties and statements (within the quote) made by individuals during a civil war when boys from Utah will save the nation.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the quote and think it’s interesting. I’m only saying it is not objective, intelligent, or even honest to claim those exact words came from Joseph Smith. But I realize I’m fighting a losing battle; there are a ton of people like you who couldn’t care less that they are repeating hearsay. Unfortunatly, it makes the rest of what they say (which is true) appear disingenuous.
#29 Dustin Davis | September 25th, 2006 2:35 PM
there are a ton of people like you who couldn’t care less that they are repeating hearsay.
Nice Wade. Attack my character. You don’t find this quote on my blog. You are essentially attacking the character of everyone that has posted this quote on their blog. I’m not familiar with this stuff, but is that what they teach you to do in law school?
How do you define hearsay. Would you then say that any person that quotes another in a journal or autobiography is hearsay? That would lead one to argue that “it is not objective, intelligent, or even honest to claim those exact words” came from the Savior when he told Joseph Smith that none of the churches on the earth was true. After all, he was only 14 and he wrote his account much later in life.
So where do you take into account testimony?
#30 Wade | September 25th, 2006 4:08 PM
You are essentially attacking the character of everyone that has posted this quote on their blog.
If that’s the way you took it, I’m sorry. But making an observation about whether somone takes “care” to not publish hearsay is nothing close to an attack on that person’s character. That you construe my observations about the level of care possessed by certain people attributing quotes to others as an “attack on character” reveals your irrational stance toward argument. But again, I’m sorry you felt I was attacking you personally. True, you don’t repeat the quote, but you certainly were arguing for its authenticity (and if this was not your intention, you must have been arguing for the sake of argument).
As for what “they teach [me] in law school”: I don’t think you want to go there. If you’re really interested in my view of academics and so-called “higher learning” read this.
Would you then say that any person that quotes another in a journal or autobiography is hearsay?
Is a person hearsay? I’ll assume your question is whether the quote is hearsay. In a court of law, yes. But for our purposes, no; I wasn’t talking about legal hearsay and was just refering to unsubstantiated and unconfirmable second hand assertions. If someone quotes another person as saying something, and that statement can be verified in some kind of prior publication made by the person quoted (in any form), then it’s not hearsay because it can be corroborated. Except I’m not sure what you’re getting at here? I don’t know why it’s so hard to see that the quote from Mosiah Hancock should not be attributed to Joseph Smith (immediate transcriptions of lectures or speeches which are later self-verified are completely different than fifty-year old second hand recollections).
That would lead one to argue that “it is not objective, intelligent, or even honest to claim those exact words” came from the Savior when he told Joseph Smith that none of the churches on the earth was true.
Your logical sequence and rhetoric are unpersuasive at best. First, Joseph never offered his testimony with the intent that anyone automatically believe him. I’m sure you’re aware of this statement: “No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (HC 6:317). So, in a sense you’re right! It’s not objective, intelligent, or honest to outright believe anything Joseph said. Indeed, that is why it is so necessary to obtain a personal witness through the Holy Ghost. And this is why your comparisons don’t work; i.e. Hancock was not asserting anything concerning salvation through Christ. So to compare his assertions to those of Joseph who claimed (and rightly so in my estimation) to offer the words of life and salvation from Christ, is to mischaracterize the point. It’s a red herring, much like this whole thread-jack; which, incidentally has once again diverted the conversation away from my previous points that are now buried and to which no one is willing to respond.
#31 Dave | October 18th, 2006 12:09 PM
It doesn’t matter whether Bush really said that. His actions have already said it numerous times. I see very little difference between saying “The Constitution is just a Goddamn piece of paper” and signing the Military Commissions Act.
Amen, Dave! As John Locke once said, “I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts”.
#33 Curtis | January 5th, 2007 9:55 PM
Here’s some more fun for you Connor. Apparently Bush can open people’s mail now.
Be sure to check out the Pirates of the Constitution, starring George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condi Rice! :)
#35 Eddie | November 12th, 2008 10:56 PM
wade i agree with you on this. i had the email sent to me about
mosiah hancock’s autobiography making the statement of
“There will be two great political parties in this country. One will be called the Republican, and the other the Democrat party. These two parties will go to war and out of these two parties will spring another party which will be the Independent American Party.”
this statement isn’t in Andrew Ehat’s book, “the words of joseph smith” which book is considered one of the foremost authoritative books on joseph smith’s statements.
In addition people think about corroborative statements by other people. No one else recorded this statement. Period.
I’m not doubting what joseph smith said, however i seriously question that mosiah hancock heard this exact statement from the prophet
#36 justin martyr Jr | April 5th, 2009 8:01 AM
Documentary series worth watching, if your interested in freedom & threats to freedom!
Evidence that the Constitution is Hanging by A Thread
See also this link list page to numereous documentaries.
#38 JJL9 | June 1st, 2011 12:59 PM
“The statement has been made that the Prophet said the time would come when this Constitution would hang as by a thread, and this is true.” Joseph Fielding Smith (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:326.)
“Joseph Smith, the prophet,… predicted that the time would come, when the Constitution of our country would hang as it were by a thread, and that the Latter-day Saints, above all other people in the world, would come to the rescue of that great and glorious palladium of our liberty.” Joseph Fielding Smith (Gospel Doctrine, 403.)
“The idea that the Constitution would one day hang by a thread, first put forth by Joseph Smith, is one of the most interesting and controversial subjects related to LDS teachings about the U.S. Constitution….
“Our study shows that eight modern prophets have made statements about the Constitution’s hanging by a thread, and that all eight of them quoted Joseph Smith as well as adding ideas of their own. However, Joseph Smith and the other twelve prophets of this dispensation have all said that at some time in the future the Constitution would be in jeopardy, and it would be rescued by the Elders of Israel.” (Latter-day Prophets and the United States Constitution, Donald Q. Cannon, ed., Provo, BYU Religious Studies Center, 1991, xii-xiii.)
“Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: ‘Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction’ (19 July 1840, Church Historian’s Office).
“Brethren, if we had done our homework and were faithful, we could step forward at this time and help save this country. The fact that most of us are unprepared to do it is an indictment we will have to bear. The longer we wait, the heavier the chains, the deeper the blood, the more the persecution, and the less we can carry out our God-given mandate and world-wide mission.” – Ezra Taft Benson
#39 Eric | June 1st, 2011 2:20 PM
I would be curious to know if Wade still stands by his comments, RE: that Bush’s actions were in harmony with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
Can a reasonable and informed person believe that the PATRIOT Act, for example, passes Constitutional muster?
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- For the Strength of Youth—Honesty
- For the Strength of Youth—Music and Dance
- For the Strength of Youth—Entertainment and Media
- For the Strength of Youth—Family
- Inviting the Savior Into Our Home Through Worship
- Arresting the Decay of Society with the Holy Ghost
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