Point of View: The president and the preamble


By Richard L. Gilbert

How proudly we remember and revere the words of the preamble: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Now, one must ask, does the president?

Or, does he read this treasured document as, "I, the President of the United States, in recognition of inherent privilege and God given power in order to form a more perfect Union and to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to posterity, do hereby ordain that I will enforce, interpret, and implement the words of the Constitution in a manner that I alone consider best to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general Welfare of the United States of America."

To some, this may appear as caricature. To George W. Bush, it is reality as he combines a messianic mindset with a near pathological fear of betraying weakness. Despite misrepresenting the truth, it is easy for him to proclaim, "The same folks (an incredible choice of words) that are bombing people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on Sept. 11. They're fighting us in Iraq and across the world and they're plotting to kill Americans here at home. To think otherwise is like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun and saying he's probably just there to cash a check." Forgetting the lame language, the president is well aware of the fact that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist until after the invasion of 2003 and all links to Osama bin Laden have been unproven and misleading. He concludes, "Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat."

In other words, as long as Al Qaeda is considered bound to Iraq and George Bush is president, there will be NO change in policy. Current administration doctrine loudly proclaims, "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq." Critics should finally recognize this as iron clad, irreversible Bush thinking and there are only three weapons left in the opposition's arsenal — impeachment, the ballot and disarming the veto. Democracy can be an agonizing process. Someone once said, "It's the worst form of government until you check all the others."

At present, impeachment is politically and logistically impossible, the second will come but it will take 15 months, leaving an override of the veto as the strongest option; however, it will take extraordinary senatorial courage to reach the required 60 votes.

Historians continue to tell us that the framers of the Constitution were especially forceful in wanting to protect the right of Congress to exercise control over military matters. The president, of course, is commander-in-chief, but the Congress is charged with responsibility for funding and appropriating money and for the conduct of war. When close to 70 percent of "We the people" oppose the war and the policies of the president, Congress should begin to enforce its true mandate and act for the people it was elected to represent.

The president can go before the cameras and claim that Congress, in its failing to fund the war, is letting down our brave and loyal troops. Congress can counter claim that our troops were never dispatched to Iraq to solve a civil war. We were there (remember?) to remove an evil dictator, get rid of weapons of mass destruction, and bring democracy to Iraq. Osama bin Laden (the true enemy) was cornered in Afghanistan, we were going to get him "dead or alive," and then in one of most costly and bizarre foreign policy blunders of all time, turned our backs on Al Qaeda and headed for Iraq. And now, with all subsequent actions and strategies wrapped in failure, it's back to Osama. This is not meant to minimize the enormous danger he and Islamic fundamentalism represent, but to finally recognize that this is a battle that must be joined and fought by all the major powers in the Western world.

The real tragedy for us and for George Bush is that the once esteemed office of the presidency has been compromised by dishonesty, incompetence, shallowness, avarice and deceit. When pre-war intelligence is mangled and manipulated, when torture is invoked and the rules of the Geneva Convention disregarded, when liberty is sacrificed to blinding fear, when illegal surveillance and warrant-free wiretapping is rampant, when government secrecy is widespread, when loyalty to political allies takes precedence over presidential integrity, when trust is a failed commodity, how can leadership be respected? If the attorney general now stands as being untruthful, specious, evasive, manipulative, incongruous and still commands the loyalty and support of the president, what does that say about justice in our preamble and that of the president?

Richard L. Gilbert is a longtime Riverdale resident and frequent contributor to Point of View. He is a former advertising agency owner, an advisor to the Board of Riverdale Senior Services, and author of a memoir, 'Marching Up Madison Avenue,' coming out in early 2008.

Point of View is an occasional column open to all readers.