All of the House members and one-third of the Senate took their oaths of office at noon.
I wonder if a Guiness Book of World Record category exists for most people simultaneously telling a lie in one place?
But I digress.
Americans often complain about a lack of bipartisanship in Congress. For example, check out the lead paragraph in this AP story.
Congress ushers in new and old Thursday, with dozens of eager freshmen determined to change Washington and the harsh reality of another stretch of bitterly divided government.
Well, today should make these folks pretty happy. Because on swearing in day, we saw Congress come together in virtual unanimity and agree that oaths don’t mean squat.
Here are the words those Congress-critters uttered.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Support and defend – more like twist and ignore.
Most of the men and women swearing this oath have already violated it hundreds of times. They’ve supported undeclared wars, voted for measures authorizing warrantless spying, put their seal of approval on indefinite detention without due process, and passed bills filled with spending and regulations that find no authorization in the Constitution. And most of the 66 new, fresh-faced members of that hallowed body will follow in their mentors’ footsteps within weeks, if not days.
Oh, sure, they will yank out their trusty pocket Constitutions when it suits them politically – in other words, when they believe they can dupe the people they were elected to serve. But with a few exceptions, they will completely ignore the restraints the Constitution places on them and do as they damn well please.
Americans need to wrap their heads around this basic truth – Congress lacks the authority to do the vast majority of the things it does. The government these House and Senate members form a part of was tasked with a few, specific, enumerated duties. “Delegated powers few and defined…exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which the last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” (James Madison)
But these days, constitutional fidelity hardly registers as a bump in the road. Oh sure, a few Congress-critters will feign principle, concocting some convoluted reasoning to justify their actions, but most will simply pretend the document doesn’t even exist.
They might as well have sworn an oath to protect and defend a herd of unicorns. It would have proven just as meaningful.