Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interesting Comment; Creeping Normalicy

I was watching the Daily Show, and they had on Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog. In addition to being a very intelligent person, and having a very interesting discussion with John Stewart regarding the Supreme Court and current events, he had another choice comment which struck me (you can watch the interview here if you want). The point that struck me was when John Stewart made the observation that it's the Supreme Court's job to uphold the Constitution, and Tom slightly corrected him, reminding him that it's the job of all branches of government to uphold the Constitution, and the Supreme Court just plays one role in that process.

Think about that for a moment. It's the President's job and responsibility to uphold and respect the Constitution; it's in the oath of office. It's also Congress' job and responsibility to uphold and respect the Constitution; it's in their oath of office too. Yet, it seems that often gets overlooked, of not ignored entirely. As a poignant example, just the previous day President Obama had given a speech where he pre-admonished the Supreme Court for performing their Constitutional duty. Moreover, I don't think most people (at least in his own party) even thought too much of it; it was a calculated political move to discredit the Supreme Court in case they strike Obamacare, but the fact that it was an implicit attack on the structure and powers of branches of government (and hence the Constitution) didn't really even register with people, even those who found it distasteful.

Of course, it certainly not the first time in recent memory that a President or Congress has openly defied the Constitution. You don't even need to focus solely on Obama's dismal record of staying within the bounds of power granted under the Constitution: Bush gave us CIA domestic operations and indefinite detainment. Obama has certainly pushed the boundaries with undeclared wars, sanctioned assassinations of Americans, warrant-less surveillance, the individual mandate, etc., but ignoring or subverting the Constitution has become standard practice in the executive branch.

There's a phrase "creeping normalcy". It means when something, usually objectionable, is brought about slowly or gradually, people are more likely to accept it as "normal". Government is full of examples of creeping normalcy, from the taxation, to debt, to government size, government power, police abuses, corruption, etc. You could be forgiven for thinking it's not the President's job to defend, or even respect, the boundaries of the Constitution, based on the creeping normalcy of expansive executive power in the US. That is, until you realize that that's not right at all!

All Presidents, and all members of Congress, swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Perhaps it's time we find some people for those positions who will actually do so, and hold the people who do not accountable for their abuses.