I. Constitution & Liberty
For George W. Bush, Freedom and the Constitution are much like his view of the Scriptures, always spoken of with reverence and sanctity, but in action more prone to convenient selection. The founders saw liberty as a natural right, as the reason their forefathers had sacrificed so much, to achieve it and preserve it for their families and communities. They did not view the Constitution as sacred, but as the necessary sacrifice of a certain degree of local self-government in order to create and secure a new nation for the sake of sustaining personal freedoms that would, as much as possible, remain under local control. Except for Hamilton, these founders distrusted centralized power and did all they could to keep it from accruing in a few hands.
The founders viewed the Constitution as imperfect, the product of many difficult compromises. Without the promised addition of a citizens’ Bill of Rights, it would not have been ratified at all. It was because of their distrust that the founders constructed the government into three separate branches, each with specific powers and limitations, leaving all remaining powers to the people and the states. They made changing the Constitution extremely difficult---not because the Constitution was a sacred document, but because they wanted to keep it constrained and make any enlarging of federal powers contingent on matters of necessity.
Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:
"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."
GEORGE W. BUSH: "A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
---Governing Magazine, July, 1998
GEORGE W. BUSH: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
---During a photo-op with Congressional leaders, December 18, 2000
GEORGE W. BUSH: "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."
---George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001
GEORGE W. BUSH: "It’s hard work!”
---Presidential debate, September 30, 2004, on the difficulty of being president.
JOHN ADAMS: "Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."
--- “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Laws,” 1765
JAMES MADISON: “If we advert to the nature of republican government, we shall find that the censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people.”
---Speech in Congress, November 27, 1794
SAMUEL ADAMS: "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors; they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."
---”Letter from Candidus,” Boston Gazette, October 7, 1771
Importance of Union
GEORGE W. BUSH: “I'm a uniter, not a divider.”
---Interview with David Horowitz for Salon.com, May 6, 1999
GEORGE W. BUSH: “I care what 51 percent of the people think of me.”
---To Oprah Winfrey, September 20, 2000, quoted by Salon.com
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “In contemplating the causes which may disturb our union it occurs matters of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations---Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western---whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. . . . You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”
---Farewell Address, September 17, 1796
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”
---Address to the Members of the Volunteer Association and Other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland Who Have Lately Arrived in the City of New York, December 2, 1783
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter who have contributed anything, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabric of freedom and empire on the broad basis of Independence, who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions. “
---General Orders, April 18, 1783
JOHN ADAMS: "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution."
---Letter to Jonathan Jackson from Amsterdam, October 2, 1780
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The whole body of the nation is the sovereign legislative, judiciary, and executive power for itself. The inconvenience of meeting to exercise these powers in person, and their inaptitude to exercise them, induce them to appoint special organs to declare their legislative will, to judge and to execute it. It is the will of the nation which makes the law obligatory."
---Letter to Edmund Randolph, August 18, 1799
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union."
--1822; Writings, vol. 10, p. 232
JAMES MADISON: "The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world. Woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either!”
---September 1829; Works, vol. 4, p. 18
JAMES MADISON: "As the people of the United States enjoy the great merit of having established a system of Government on the basis of human rights, and of giving it a form without example, which, as they believe, unites the greatest national strength with the best security for public order and individual liberty, they owe to themselves, to their posterity and to the world, a preservation of the system in its purity, its symmetry, and its authenticity.”
---Supplement to the letter of November 27, 1830 to A. Stevenson
JAMES MADISON: “The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is, that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated.”
---Madison, a note opened after his death in 1836
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “There is something noble and magnificent in the perspective of a great Federal Republic, closely linked in the pursuit of a common interest, tranquil and prosperous at home, respectable abroad; but there is something proportionably diminutive and contemptible in the prospect of a number of petty states, with the appearance only of union, jarring, jealous, and perverse, without any determined direction, fluctuating and unhappy at home, weak and insignificant by their dissensions in the eyes of other nations.
---The Continentalist No. V, April 18, 1782
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “A Firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty Republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust … [at how] they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration, between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.
---Federalist No. 9, 1787
Presidential Signing Statements
“President Bush’s unprecedented use of ‘signing statements’ to quietly assert his right to ignore legislation passed by Congress – including its ban on torture – first came to light in January 2006 due to some aggressive reporting by Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage. In April 2006, Savage reportedhis astonishing discovery that Bush has claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws in all since he took office.
“Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill [prior to Stem Cell Research Bill in July 2006], giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.
“Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ‘signing statements’ -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register. . . .
“In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills---sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.”
---Dan Froomkin, Nieman Watchdog Project, February 27, 2006
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our constitutions that there shall always be a twelve-month between the engrossing a bill & passing it: that it should then be offered to it's passage without changing a word: and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both houses instead of a bare majority.”
--Letter to James Madison, from Paris, December 20, 1787
JAMES MADISON: “But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
---Federalist No. 51, February 6, 1788
Balance of Powers
GEORGE W. BUSH: "I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well."
---- January 29, 2001, Washington, D.C.
GEORGE W. BUSH: "You see, the Senate wants to take away some of the powers of the administrative branch."
---September 19, 2002, Washington, D.C.
GEORGE W. BUSH: “I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best.”
---News Conference, April 18, 2006
JOHN ADAMS: “The judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that.”
---“Thoughts on Government,” April, 1776
JOHN ADAMS: “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise lest the same monarch or senate . . . should enact tyrannical laws [or] execute them in a tyrannical manner.”
--- “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America,” first edition published in London in 1787-1788
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."
---Notes on the State of Virginia, Q. XIII, 1782
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands and not by a single one.”
---Notes on the State of Virginia, Q. XIII,1782
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The first principle of a good government is certainly a distribution of its powers into executive, judiciary, and legislative, and a subdivision of the latter into two or three branches."
--Letter to John Adams, September 28, 1787
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The constitution has divided the powers of government into three branches, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, lodging each with a distinct magistracy. The Legislative it has given completely to the Senate and House of Representatives. It has declared that the Executive powers shall be vested in the President, submitting special articles of it to a negative by the Senate, and it has vested the Judiciary power in the courts of justice, with certain exceptions also in favor of the Senate."
---Opinion on Executive Appointments, 1790
JAMES MADISON: [Quoting Montescieu]: “’The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. . . .
“‘When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body,'' says he, "there can be no liberty, because apprehensions may arise lest THE SAME monarch or senate should ENACT tyrannical laws to EXECUTE them in a tyrannical manner. . . .
“‘Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for THE JUDGE would then be THE LEGISLATOR. Were it joined to the executive power, THE JUDGE might behave with all the violence of AN OPPRESSOR.’
“Some of these reasons are more fully explained in other passages; but briefly stated as they are here, they sufficiently establish the meaning which we have put on this celebrated maxim of this celebrated author.”
---Federalist Paper No. 47, 1788
JAMES MADISON: “These departments [must] be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others.”
---Federalist Paper No. 48, 1788
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “There is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.''
---Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, 1788
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “And it proves, in the last place, that liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments (executive or legislature).”
---Federalist No. 78, 1788
GEORGE W. BUSH Memo:
“Your departments should adhere to the following procedures when providing briefings to the Congress relating to the information we have or the actions we plan to take:
(i) Only you or officers expressly designated by you may brief Members of Congress regarding classified or sensitive law enforcement information;
(ii) The only Members of Congress whom you or your expressly designated officers may brief regarding classified or sensitive law enforcement information are the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate.”
---October 5, 2001
GEORGE W. BUSH: "I have a duty to protect the executive branch from legislative encroachment."
---News Conference, March 2002
"The Bush administration has taken secrecy to a new level. They have greatly increased the numbers and types of classified documents. . . They have made it far more difficult and time-consuming to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act . And they have imposed 'gag rules' on an ever-widening group of government employees."
---Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, quoted by Inter Press Services, November 29, 2004
“The Bush administration’s fixation on secrecy is more than just ludicrous---it’s a serious threat to democracy and an insult to our nation’s history. . . . National security has become the excuse for efforts to crack down on whistle-blowers and journalists dealing in such vital disclosures as the illicit eavesdropping on Americans.”
---New York Times editorial, August 28, 2004
“The Bush administration’s commitment to secrecy has reached unprecedented levels. This time, it is blocking one of its agencies---the Justice Department---from finding out what’s happening in another one of its agencies---the National Security Agency (NSA). . . . President Bush prevented Justice’s internal affairs office, the Office of Professional Responsibility, from investigating the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program by refusing to grant security clearances to attorneys trying to investigate the program.”
---Washington Post editorial, July 19, 2006
ALBERTO GONZALES (Attorney General) : “The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons. Every additional security clearance that is granted for the [program] increases the risk that national security might be compromised.”
---Letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, quote in Washington Post article, July 19, 2006
“The Bush administration is still stubbornly clinging to its misguided desire to classify documents that have been public for decades.”
---Washington Post editorial, August 21, 2006
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “To the security of a free Constitution it [knowledge] contributes in various ways: by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights, to discern and provide against invasions of them, to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority, between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society.”
---First Annual Address, January 8, 1790
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
---Farewell Address, September 1796
JOHN ADAMS: “[The people] have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers.”
--- “A Dissertation On The Canon And Feudal Law,” 1765
JAMES MADISON: “The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of communication among the people thereon . . . has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”
---Virginia Resolutions, December 21, 1798
JAMES MADISON: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
---Letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “A fondness for power is implanted in most men, and it is natural to abuse it when acquired. This maxim, drawn from the experience of all ages, makes it the height of folly to entrust any set of men with power which is not under every possible control.”
---The Farmer Refuted, February 5, 1775
THOMAS PAINE: “A nation under a well regulated government should permit none to remain uninstructed. It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.”
---Rights of Man, 1792