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Opening Arguments

One oath for all, all for one oath

The "progressives" of Madison, Wisc., are toying with the idea of letting public officials, when they take the oath of office, add exceptions for the parts of the state and federal constitutions they don't like:

That comes awfully close to letting officials pick which laws they want to enforce. And that doesn't seem like the most promising way to usher them into office. The oath sworn by public servants, starting with the President of the United States, is the closest thing to a sacred act of all our democratic traditions. Candidates may be partisan brawlers when they run for office; campaigning is a contact sport that you play to win or not at all. But once elected, they're born again as servants of all the people, and taking the oath is an act of both exaltation and submission; we're giving you this power, now promise to play by the rules we've laid down.

Well, yeah. I might like, when writing my check to the IRS, to tell the federal government not to spend any of my money on the things the government does of which I disapprove. But that's not the way it works.


Steve Towsley
Wed, 01/17/2007 - 2:40pm

>..."progressives of ... [Wiscconsin]
>...toying with the idea of letting public
>officials, when they take the oath of
>office, add exceptions for the parts of
>the state and federal constitutions they
>don't like...

I can't let this one slide with zero comments.

Maybe this suggestion seems so bizarre that we have trouble taking it seriously, but let me pretend for a moment that it has a snowflake's chance of passage.

Any elected government official favoring an oath of office edited by even a syllable should be barred from public service, regardless of the letter of the law. We have enough trouble with loose cannons even when our oaths are thoroughly sworn.

In the event that any state or local government should pass any such legislation for whatever politically experimental purpose, the law should clearly forbid any official who omits a sliver of his or her oath from ever being permitted to address, influence, take any action, or participate in any debate, or vote, upon matters relating to the portions of the oath which that individual politician denied in his or her oath of office.

If you don't want to deal with, surrender to or at least reluctantly swear to uphold some aspect of the relevant constitution in your oath of office, then keep your solemn promise and don't deal with the issue -- recuse your office, for your entire term of office. Do not participate, scrupulously.

Of course, if any government were to enact my fully baked version of this goofy concept, the effect would be to guarantee one less vote in any legislative body on every bill pertaining to the subject matter which the balky official declined to swear to.

I doubt anyone would support this notion with my fully rendered checks and balances in it.

And I don't have to tell you that that's why disqualifying the politician from participation in matters he or she disqualifies from the oath of office would be absolutely essential for the good of the relevant constitution.