1. October 2002 this blogger observed that there seemed to be some confusion re what the President’s duty is (see the Quotes page – 3rd bullet from the bottom, reprinted below):
A Wall Street Journal article dated 11/26/2002 "Gonzales Rewrites Laws of War" discusses the role of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in the evolving legal strategy of the 'war on terrorism.' It argues he has "developed the underpinning for presidential orders creating military commissions, defining enemy combatants and dictating the status and rights of prisoners held from Afghanistan battles..." The WSJ has this passage: Mr. Gonzales readily admits the White House may lose some ground in court cases. While "being respectful" of constitutional rights, the administration's job ".. at the end of the day is to protect the country.", Gonzales is quoted as saying. This sentiment is often heard in our political discourse. However Gonzales, as a lawyer in a prominent role in the administration and as one whose name has been mooted as a possible Supreme Court nominee, certainly should know better.... the President of the United States does not take an oath to defend the United States, he takes an oath to defend the constitution of the United States. See the Presidential Oath of Office.
2. Another manifestation of this was noted in August 2003 (see the Quotes Page Update #1 entry on the Oped Updates page, reprinted below):
On the Quotes page (third quote from the bottom) I discuss how White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez seems mistakenly to believe that the President of the United States takes an oath to defend the United States (when in reality he takes an oath to defend the constitution of the United States). Well, apparently the President also does not seem to realize the difference. In an August interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service President Bush the following exchange took place:
AFRTS: "One final question, Mr. President. The families of America's fighting forces, they make huge sacrifices in the name of freedom, just like the service members. You touched on it earlier. You touched on it in your speech today. For months at a time, they give up their service members, they don't know where they are, they don't hear from them; they don't know if they're safe; they don't know if they're dead or alive. What message do you have for these families today?"
President Bush: "Well my messages is that what your loved one is doing is the right thing for the country. We are called upon to defend the United States of America. I take that oath, and every soldier takes that oath. And on 9/11 our world changed and we realized the country was vulnerable and we better do something about it. And the best way to secure the homeland is to get the enemy before he gets us. At least that's my attitude. And so I — first of all, the commitment that their loved ones have made, the families of the service members have made, is in line with this business about winning and fighting war. Every person is a volunteer in our military. They've chosen to defend the United States of America. And therefore they need to get the best — if that's their attitude, and they made up their mind that's what they want to do, then my job is to get them the best equipment, the best pay, the best training possible, so if we ever have to send them in, they'll be able to do the job."
3. Then in January 2005 this blogger contrasted the fuss made over President Bush’s “sixteen words” kept in his state of the union speech, as contrasted to the three words he seemed to always leave out (see the January 20th, 2005 entry on the Brief(er) Observations page, reprinted below):
Three small words.... - "My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats." - President George Bush at his Inaugural Address given Jan 20th, 2005. As previously observed on the Quotes page (third bullet from the bottom) and on the Oped Updates page (see Quotes page update) the President does not seem to make a distinction between an oath to 'defend the United States' and an oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States" (see the Presidential Oath of Office) This is not a small matter of words, it is a significant difference - and President Bush seems willing to do violence to the second in his efforts to achieve the first.. A lot of ink has been spilled about the "sixteen words" in the 2003 State of the Union (i.e. the yellowcake from Niger error..), but no one seems to worry about these "three words"..
4. May 2006 this blogger noted that the Cato Institute seemed finally to have come to the same realization (see the May 11th, 2006 entry on the Brief(er) Quotes page, reprinted below):
Three small words... (redux) In November 2002 this web site commented on a WSJ article that showed the White House Counsel saying that the administration's job ".. at the end of the day is to protect the country", a fundamental misunderstanding of the duty of the POTUS (see the Quotes page). Then in January 2005 this web site noted that the President seemed willing to do violence to the constitution to "preserve, protect, and defend" the country (see below). Now, sixteen months later, CATO Institute comes to a similar conclusion... May 1st, 2006 they came out with Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush (though they do go beyond the "war"-related issues) Quote from the Executive Summary - "President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers."
And now, lo and behold, the Republican nominee seems to have the same misunderstanding. In a speech this Wednesday, March 26th, 2008, Senator McCain said "Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House, for he or she does not take seriously enough the first and most basic duty a president has — to protect the lives of the American people," see McCain: Collaborate more with allies.