By Ken Krayeske • 9:45 AM EST
Go ahead, read the Oath of Office to a friend. "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." Now how do you feel? For a full size version of the ditto, click here.
Answer to Question 3: The president of the United States certainly should protect our clouds. It's called the Clean Air Act.
And why not our dogs, too? I've got good mind to write Weekly Reader and tell them that there are more than one correct answers to question three.
My friend Mike came by last night to discuss life, the universe and everything, and he showed me this civics lesson from his nephew in North Carolina. It's a reading comprehension tool for children from kindergarten through second grade.
I love stuff like this. It makes governance seem so simple, and clean. People do what they promise to do. It is not quite as sinister as teaching first graders that George Washington didn't chop down that cherry tree, that presidents never tell lies, they are constitutionally incapable of doing so.
No, as far as informing young people about self governance, and republican democracy, it translates pretty well. My teachers used Weekly Reader, and I remember one about the 1984 Reagan/Mondale contest from sixth grade.
While it made no mention of Reagan's secret wars in Central America, and everyone in the class voted Reagan in a landslide, I tend to trust Weekly Reader more than, say, Neil Bush's educational supplement company, Ignite Learning.
Weekly Reader seems to understand the importance of diversity as an educational goal, implying that one day a black woman may be able to take the oath of office. The little boy looks like James from One Big Happy.
It seems as positive a document for perpetuating our democratic culture as possible. And I can see the teacher discussing the importance of last week's election with her class, trying to help the children understand the significance not just of their first presidential election, but the ascension of a black man to the highest elected office in the land.
Yet I want a lesson like this to include the some aspect of the difficult things. "Boys and girls, when you make a promise, do you always keep it?" No, say twenty little voices.
"Neither do presidents," I want the teacher to say. "That is the job of citizens to make sure when the president promises to protect our laws, that we make sure he or she keeps those promises. Power comes from the people."
Perhaps I am optimistic for my expctations about education. I understand that there is nary a whiff of Gitmo. How do you explain torture to a six year old? It's not a trick question. When we opened Gitmo, we put a 15 year old in there.
But I know its probably not appropriate for an elementary school teacher to be talking with children about, but presidents break the law, and the sooner we understand that, the easier it is to fix the broken mess.
Yeah, I'm such a poop to spoil elementary school education like this. But yesterday featured the big news that Obama promised to close the concentration camp known as Guantanamo Bay.
On good authority, a friend of mine who worked for John Kerry said in 2004 that Kerry, had he not conceded the stolen Ohio on Election Night, would have promised the nation that he was closing the illegal detention center.
Obama gave us platitudes on election night, nothing concrete. Then when he comes out with his plan to close Guantanamo, the plan contains what seem to be more kangaroo courts. Spencer Ackerman on the AP and Obama:
President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice. (AP)
There are, of course, problems here. The AP's reporting suggests Obama is considering a "hybrid process" between the military commissions and the full process enjoyed by U.S. citizens. If there's anything the military commissions process should have taught, it's that reinventing the legal system doesn't work, as evidenced by the bevy of military lawyers who have resigned in protest of the commissions. The concern, stripped of euphemism, is that the evidentiary basis for many trials of Guantanamo detainees -- including, in many cases, torture -- would never be admissible in any court worthy of the name. That's the Bush administration's legacy. But it can't be the basis for cheapening our legal system. (Ackerman)
Ackerman visited Gitmo, and he relates the horror of seeing detnetnion and interrogation rooms. President Bush broke his promise to uphold the laws of this nation, almost too many to mention here.
As far as Gitmo goes, the laws violated include the rights to due process, a speedy trial and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. It has been said by me and others that if Obama fails to close Gitmo in his first month, he is a war criminal. But suppose he closes Gitmo, but maintains the kangaroo court system of "justice' engineered by the Bush junta?
I think he is still complicit. As much as I want to believe in his administration, I know he voted for the abrogation of my Fourth Amendment rights in FISA, the wiretapping act aka the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Reports today say he wants to hunt down Osama bin Laden, as he promised in the debates.
We must demand more from Obama than a cosmetic change in the war on terror. We must demand that he declare it over.